An Insider’s View: Report on the Finnish Life Sciences Industry

Aalto University
University of Helsinki
Stanford University

Anne-Sisko Patana, Tamara Carleton, Kirsi Polvinen, Laura Kanto, Hanna Nordlund, Jussi Pihlajamaa, Pekka Berg

Introduction

This study provides several benefits to practitioners and researchers in the biotech field, as well as others looking for greater insight into Finnish biotech innovation. These benefits are explained below.

Current Perceptions. Many of the emerging trends and concerns reported in the report may not seem necessarily new or novel because they are familiar and long in the making. As an example, a lack of venture funding proved to be a common grievance among study participants. Nonetheless, a fresh capture of the industry’s inside views serves as a litmus test for revealing community perceptions and concerns. How people are really feeling and what they are worrying about is useful input to policy makers, who seek the latest opinion, and also to business managers, who regularly scan for competitor issues. This report summarises the current perceptions of the Finnish industry and contrasts these perceptions to those held in the world’s lead.

Insider View. A deeper discussion of the issues raised by the study proved fruitful in research workshops. Participants openly shared their reflections and questions, which are captured in this report. In particular, participants expressed a desire to see and hear more success stories within the Finnish biotech industry. They felt that the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, in contrast to Finland, fostered an optimistic culture that celebrated all types of success. This report brings this viewpoint to the forefront, and also aims to highlight various positive stories and examples for the Finnish market. By synthesising perspectives from those deep inside the Life Sciences industry, this report serves as a reminder of what matters to those who are building the industry’s future going forward.

A Focus on Action. This report relies on the action research methodology. Unlike traditional academic research that often remains at the theoretical level, action research relies on professional researchers who use new knowledge to diagnose, intervene and improve existing practice in direct collaboration with practitioners. Simply put, action is at the heart of action research. The goal of this report is to motivate change and inspire smarter questions about how Finnish biotech innovation operates.  An additional emphasis is on what Finnish biotech innovators can learn from other industries and regions around the world.

The study is part of the Bio-Inno project focused on the industrial context and innovation environment of the biotech field, especially in the life sciences sector. Companies whose business relates to functional foods, drug development, diagnostics, biomaterials, and bioinformatics as well as companies specialising in medical design and technology are included in the research purview.

 

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Table of contents

1. Executive Summary
2. Value to You
3. Introduction
4. Research Methodology
5. Finland as an innovation environment
5.1 Yes, we can – some evidence from the past
5.2 Where are we now?
5.3 Changes taking place
5.4 Challenges and opportunities
5.4.1 Funding – the main challenge in Finnish biotech industry
5.4.2 Partnering and networking
5.4.3 Other challenges
5.5 Strengths and unique capabilities
5.6 Customer
6. San Francisco Bay Area
6.1 As an innovation environment
7. Comparison of the views between Finland and San Francisco Bay Area
7.1 Regional Differences
7.1.1 Innovation environment for biotechnology
7.1.2 Finland’s appeal
7.1.3 Global Views
7.2 University-industry relationship
7.2.1 U.S.
7.2.2 Europe
7.2.3 Finland
7.3 Partnering across regions
7.3.1 How are the partners selected?
7.3.2 Timing
7.3.3 Challenges
7.4 Trends
8. Foresight
8.1 Foresight methods
8.2 Foresight workshop
9. Conclusions
About the Authors
Acknowledgements
References
Appendix
Participant profiles
Research questions