Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes) and IBM announced a partnership that will enable Finland to utilize Watson cognitive computing to help doctors improve the health of its citizens, and strengthen and develop the Finnish innovation and business ecosystem in the fields of health and well-being. To facilitate the collaboration, IBM intends to establish a Watson Health Center of Excellence in Finland, the first Nordic Healthcare Competence Center, and the first National Imaging Center of Excellence outside the United States in Finland. These centers are expected to employ 150 people over the next few years.
Tekes anticipates this landmark collaboration with IBM will create data-driven cognitive computing applications and solutions and it will lead to an expansion and growth of Finland’s business and innovation ecosystem. Specifically, Tekes expects the partnership to accelerate creation of new start-up companies in Finland, gain new opportunities for Finland companies for global growth, and help to digitalize the country’s healthcare business sector for companies of all sizes.
“The combination of world-leading information and communications technology competences with health and well-being solutions are already creating world-leading health-tech innovations in Finland. In Finland, the close collaboration among health-tech companies, top-notch researchers and world-class hospitals has created a strong health eco-system, called the ‘Health Valley’,” said Pekka Soini, director general of Tekes. “I am positive that Watson cognitive computing capabilities will further boost innovation in Finland and put Finland at the forefront of game-changing health transformation, at the European level and in the global marketplace. Foremost, we believe the collaboration will benefit both IBM and Finland, and the development work conducted in Finland will further advance Watson’s capabilities.”
Finland has a unique health ecosystem characterized by full electronic health records and nation-wide access to healthcare, in addition to the close co-operation among public and private sector entities working in health and wellness. Finland is also a European forerunner in designing new legislation for secondary and secure use of data on well-being and health. Enabling regulation is believed to open new opportunities for research, development and innovations.
“Tekes estimates that investments by Finnish companies and Tekes to artificial intelligence in well-being and healthcare will reach hundreds of millions euros over the next five years,” said Director Anssi Pulkkinen, strategic head of well-being and health at Tekes. “Cognitive technologies, like IBMs Watson, will enable a new management design and systemic control of healthcare. Tekes’ vision is an open healthcare ecosystem based on compliant and efficient utilization of healthcare data, making our hospitals the world’s most advanced data-led IoT hospitals.”
Piloting Research and Small and Medium-Sized Companies
Finnish doctors and researchers will work with Watson Health data scientists, engineers, researchers and designers to develop a new generation of data-driven healthcare applications and solutions, advancing R&D and innovation in Finland.
For example, the University of Jyväskylä in Central Finland aims to use Finnish health and well-being data to develop applications on the Watson Health Cloud, with the aim of improving the healthcare of Finland’s citizens. The goal is to develop these applications in accordance with the healthcare regulatory landscape, while also supporting the regional economy in a fruitful manner. “University of Jyväskylä has been experimenting with IBM Watson collaboration and it has been very fruitful. Digitalization and digital services is one of the core fields in our strategy and we are happy to take the next step in cooperation with IBM,” says Rector Matti Manninen.
Central Finland’s Regional Governor Tapani Mattila remarked, “In Central Finland there are several health related competence centers that would benefit from deployment of IBM Watson cognitive computing. We see this as an excellent opportunity to contribute to the common good for the region and the nation.”
The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) is planning to work with Watson Health and employ cognitive computing to aid in the early identification of serious bacterial infections in prematurely born babies and to bolster imaging of cerebral hemorrhage patients. HUS is also evaluating Watson Health and employing cognitive computing to aid physicians in providing patients with personalized cancer care. “IBMs approach to AI, with its focus on augmenting human intelligence, may open up entirely new avenues for us to develop treatments. There is potentially globally groundbreaking research in these areas of application with Watson cognitive computing,” said Chief Medical Officer of HUS Markku Mäkijärvi.
IBM anticipates that its new Centers will use the Watson Health Cloud, a health-data enabled, platform-as-a-service, to provide the foundation for cognitive offerings designed to help enable individualized insights and provide a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people’s health. This will be done in compliance with any operational and security requirements for Finnish health data and data reservoirs.
“Finland was selected as a destination country to implement various Watson Health capabilities, including the Watson Health Cloud, based on the country’s vision to restructure and digitalize its healthcare system, its tech-savvy citizens and mobile capabilities, and a social environment that supports a culture of health,” said Deborah DiSanzo, general manager for IBM Watson Health. “The Tekes-IBM Watson Health partnership makes Finland a forerunner in health globally with Finnish citizens at the center as the ultimate beneficiaries. We are honored to work together to improve lives around the world.”
IBM has been operating in Finland since 1936, with multiple business divisions that are active in various industry sectors that are strategic for national development, from manufacturing to healthcare. With its headquarters in Helsinki, IBM Finland has become a cognitive and cloud platform company that digitally transforms companies and industries in Finland.
“The Tekes-IBM partnership places Finland globally on the front line of development and deployment of cognitive digital healthcare with Watson Health in an open ecosystem with local and international partners,” said Tuomo Haukkovaara, general manager for IBM Finland. “Our mutual target for the partnership is to improve quality and lower cost of our Finnish healthcare system, as well as create new jobs, develop globally exportable solutions, and increase investments in Finland.”
Tekes is the most important publicly funded expert organization for financing research, development and innovation in Finland. For international companies Tekes provides an easy access to the Finnish innovation ecosystem and helps companies to start research and development activities in Finland.
About IBM Watson Health
Watson is the first commercially available cognitive computing capability representing a new era in computing. The system, delivered through the cloud, analyzes high volumes of data, understands complex questions posed in natural language, and proposes evidence-based answers. Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions. In April 2015, the company launched IBM Watson Health and the Watson Health Cloud platform. The new unit will help improve the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to innovate by surfacing insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created and shared daily. The Watson Health Cloud can mask individual identities and allow this information to be shared and combined with a dynamic and constantly growing aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data.