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Photograph of AbbVie Bioresearch Center. (Photo By: Greg M. Cooper / AbbVie)

“Suomi mainittu! Torilla Tavataan.”

This common Finnish joke meaning “Finland mentioned – we’ll meet at the marketplace!” pokes fun at the rarity of occasions when Finland celebrates a mention by global media outlets. We Finns have the tendency to dwell on what people abroad think of us.

And while this phrase is meant to be laughed at, there’s no denying Finland’s ability to attract international investment in the healthcare sector. Finland has the qualifications to rise as a world-renowned location for the health industry. We have an extremely capable healthcare system supported by doctors and other healthcare professionals who conduct exceptional research alongside their work.

Comprehensive healthcare information can be found from various registries, and many records exist in digital format. We also have a promising start-up ecosystem, which has already given rise to exciting innovations.

Many factors are considered by large multinational pharmaceutical and health industry companies when considering their next investment and R&D targets. But why should such factors interest the average Finn?

These investments have the potential to bring new healthcare technology to Finland faster than before, and they can increase the nation’s standard of wellbeing. Furthermore, strong investment quickens the pace at which healthcare workers and researchers access the latest technology, while bringing more jobs to Finland.

However, for us to become the life science hub of the Nordics, we need political determination and vigilance in our own decision-making. Finnish life science professionals want to know how our healthcare operating environment can get even better.

Now is not the time to wait

Finnish policy-makers understand the importance of the health industry, and according to the government’s Health Industry Growth Strategy report, their target is to make Finland a unique healthcare and genome science pioneer. The Growth Strategy primarily concentrates on developing the conditions needed for pioneering R&D.

Keeping health industry growth and relevant legislation reforms on the new government’s agenda should be a priority. This government term has put forward numerous critical legislative bills related to biobanks, data for research purposes, and the usage of genome data.

Unfortunately, it looks like the current Parliament will have trouble processing all bills before elections in April. Finland will soon be left in the dust – at that point there is little hope in becoming a leading investment target.

It’s also clear that continual yet ineffectual efforts put towards social and health care service reform are not enhancing Finland’s reputation as an impressive and predictable investment ecosystem, especially in the eyes of foreign countries.

Concrete examples of Finnish potential already exist

Becoming a forerunner for progressive change requires concrete action, and the FinnGen project is an excellent example of this. FinnGen is a combined public and private sector research venture, which includes Finnish universities, hospital districts, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the blood service (Veripalvelu), biobanks, as well as multiple international pharmaceutical companies.

FinnGen strives for a breakthrough in disease diagnosis and prevention. The venture’s size is unique in Finland and greatly indicates a progressive mindset. Thanks to this, FinnGen has succeeded in putting Finland on the world map as a pioneer in genetics research. We need similar success stories like FinnGen, and quickly. Health industry investment and skilled workforce employment bring us tremendous economic benefit.

But at the end of the day, the biggest beneficiaries of healthcare research are us, the nation’s people.


Kati Nyman, External Affairs Director for the biomedical company AbbVie.