Turku is known for its higher education institutions, Turku University Hospital, and as a hub for pharmaceutical companies. For a long time, the city has been a collaboration platform for several contributors in research and education and birthplace of new innovations. Health care competence in Turku is, in many respects, of the top quality in Finland.
Since 2016, the collaboration of health care contributors has been supported by Health Campus Turku network. The network is actively looking for new operating models in the national and international health care forums and is building a shared infrastructure in the Turku economic area.
– Life sciences and health care are developing rapidly as new technologies emerge. Therefore, the focus of our new collaboration projects is on health technology and its research, development, and education, says Development Director of Health Campus Turku Leena Setälä.
Research Group Leader, Principal Lecturer, Elina Kontio is leading a test environment for developing health technology, Health Tech Lab, in Turku University of Applied Sciences. The lab features a homelike interior and health technology products that have been developed or are being developed there. Health Tech Lab has a key position in Health Campus Turku network and the infrastructure of the research projects within it.
– The goal is to develop better quality health technology solutions for end-users, says Kontio, referring to the earlier projects she has been closely involved.
Kontio’s research group focuses on four top areas, the first of which is expertise in the regulatory affairs of health technology devices and management of the regulatory environment. The second top area is the utilisation of data analytics and the development work for knowledge-based management. The third area is Sport Tech, which utilises the advances of health technology to measure and manage people’s activity levels and sporting achievements. The fourth top area is care technology for the elderly.
Consumers are already somewhat familiar with health technology products, as different kinds of sensors and measuring instruments have been used for a long time to track walking, sitting, or physical activity. These devices have provided a fruitful and strong base for business collaboration. In addition to wearable devices, Viudetta’s smart toilet seats and Korpiforest’s virtual forest experiences and break rooms are another example of the outcomes of the product development, testing, and expertise in regulatory affairs.
Collaboration is coordinated through TERTTU collaboration service of Health Campus Turku. The service works through a portal and offers an easy and quick way for companies and research groups to find suitable testing and research infrastructure and funding. The system is a pillar for the networking activities and a central part of the Health Campus service offering.
AI processing data for research
The top areas mentioned by Kontio include Privasa project (Privacy Preserving AI for Synthetic and Anonymous Health Data), funded by Business Finland, which is a joint project of University of Turku, Turku University of Applied Sciences, and various companies to develop AI tools for synthesising health data.
Privasa project’s Research Leader, Principal Lecturer in Turku University of Applied Sciences, Mojtaba Jafaritadi explains why his project is at the forefront of the AI research:
– We started by researching AI algorithms that were designed to produce content for a learning model by using real brain scans. However, our focus quickly shifted to ensuring the privacy of patient records.
Elina Kontio and Mojtaba Jafaritadi.
A lot of patient records with strictly regulated access are generated in Finland. AI solutions enable mixing and combining the information randomly, so third parties can use it for research purposes without compromising individuals’ privacy. The processed patient records become a valuable source of information and speed up the research and development cycles.
Jafaritadi explains how AI can be used to combine fragmented information:
– Hospitals have huge data resources but combining them can be difficult or even impossible due to data security policies. The AI solutions that we have developed search information from several sources and compiles it into a useful, anonymous, and secure information package.
The possibility to use Finnish, large-scale and versatile health data without delays and limitations of strong privacy protection strengthens Turku’s profile as a major hub for medicine and health care research and development. The data is available for both private and public contributors for research, product development and innovation purposes.
To enjoy the outcomes of a top research project such as Privasa, it has been necessary to join the resources of hospitals and institutions of higher education to find the necessary funding and skilled researchers. This way the Health Campus Turku network is implemented on a practical and concrete level.
Institutions of higher education in Turku are home to thousands of experts and over 40,000 students. There is a strong tradition of collaboration in research, education and innovation, and the different institutions are located within a shared campus area. Together with city administration, local businesses, the hospital district, and other local operators, institutions of higher education play their part in creating a prosperous, attractive and competitive city for all. Let’s build Turku together!
Text: Misha Dellinger
Photos: Vesa-Matti Väärä