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Oulu – Traditional life science meets new technology

Oulu combines a long tradition in life science, ICT and innovative research, making use of the city’s long expertise in health technology and a health ecosystem that spurs new innovations.

The life science business and infrastructure are growing steadily in Oulu, as they have been doing for the past thirty years. Today there are 542 life science companies active in Oulu that are putting the Finnish city on the map. These companies are addressing international markets with an export turnover that has increased by 41% in the past five years. The Oulu life science sector not only stands for important economic growth, it also provides substantial job opportunities. The local life science industry employs a total number of 4 800 people. On the other hand, there is no problem in finding the right competence. Of Oulu’s 250 000 residents, one in three has a university degree.

“Each year a pool of skilled workforce graduates from the University of Oulu, home to a high level of research in biomedicine and biotechnology,” says Heidi Tikanmäki, Key Account Director, Life Science, at BusinessOulu.


New era for health technology

Oulu’s strongest life science sector is within medical technology, eHealth and biotechnology. The expertise also comes from Oulu’s long tradition of world-renowned strength in ICT that is more and more being incorporated into the life science sector. Even more so after the decrease in Nokia’s R&D investment. Oulu was once a key Nokia R&D site and the global firm and its network ventures at one point employed around 5 000 people in the city. When Microsoft bought Nokia’s mobile division some years ago, thousands of employees in Finland were laid off and the northern tech hub of Oulu was particularly hard hit. But what initially resulted in many jobs lost ended up providing life science and ICT sectors with new workforce and professional know-how in a rapidly growing health technology sector.

World’s first 5G hospital

Oulu is continuing its pioneering position in health technology by becoming the first city in the world to test the next generation network in a hospital environment. A huge current multi-partner project is set to make a fully 5G connected hospital a reality. Nokia is providing a 5G network used by the Oulu University Hospital test environment, where more than 90% of the hospital’s procedures can be tested. The test network is open for R&D projects to be tested and future business models to be created.

“The 5G network enables a whole range of huge possibilities in terms of health care, including tremendous advancement in imaging, diagnostics, data analytics and treatment. In the future we will be able to utilize 5G for surgery robotics, create safer systems and remote services and real time connection with patients, for example,” says Tikanmäki.

Other strong research areas are also Artificial Intelligence and cognitive information processing, as well as the understanding of materials and processes in relation to Printed Intelligence. The Oulu-based innovation environment PrintoCent, for example, focuses on creating novel components, products and solutions enabled by printed intelligence technologies.

OuluHealth ecosystem

One thing that differentiates Oulu, highlights Heidi Tikanmäki, is its unique ecosystem that gathers professionals from social, healthcare, research and business sectors. The OuluHealth ecosystem is set up by academia, public health providers and companies with the goals of creating an innovative health environment and delivering sustainable services to health companies in the region, to in the end provide better solutions for the citizens. The health ecosystem includes a test environment equipped with cutting edge pilot facilities and health test labs that enable companies to develop their products and services by testing them under authentic conditions.

“The future seems to be bright for Oulu. We are number 1 in R&D investment in Finland, right up there among the top in the EU. We take the lead in shaping the future by digitalizing the world, especially the healthcare sector and providing a unique environment for health tech business,” concludes Tikanmäki.


3 X life science companies


A new startup, partly founded by ex-Nokia employees, that has developed a smart shoe sole which measures its users’ mobility and gait with several sensors embedded within the insole.


Consumer-oriented firm that has brought practical printed self-diagnostics to the masses with the world’s first blood alcohol level measuring from saliva, commercially launched in June 2016.

Paras Biopharmaceuticals

A developer of biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies for biosimilars and long therapeutic peptides. The company has developed technology for the production of an osteoporosis drug and recently secured a multimillion-euro investment from a UK based ASAP Growth Ltd.