Finland’s public investment in healthcare research is significant and has been in line with spending by the other Nordic countries. The opportunities here are real and underexploited. This is the reason why we have significant R&D activities in Finland.
There is a strong life science ecosystem in Finland with good interplay between the various healthcare stakeholders, and it is possible to approach several potential co-operation partners. For example, once Finland’s new legislation on biobank activities was in place, Bayer was the first pharmaceutical company to sign a co-operation agreement with a Finnish biobank. The agreement was made between Bayer global functions and Turku's Biobank Auria.
Finland has made an excellent start with opening up its treasure trove of biobank data – there is data going back over 70 years on some diseases. Nowhere is everything perfect, but Finnish organizations are serious about engaging with industry when bottlenecks are identified.
Finns say they are open to foreign investment and they really mean it. And things can happen really quickly in Finland. As an example, a strategic review comparing the research priorities of pharmaceutical companies and those of academia in Finland took less than six months from idea to final recommendations. Normally, such a review might be expected to take a year or two, but in Finland one organization, SITRA, took responsibility for the review and ran with it.
And there is plenty of room for more players. These would add to the talent diversity in Finland, which would benefit all of us in the long run – patients, society and the healthcare industry.
Oliver Rittgen is CEO of Bayer Nordic SE, a Nordic country group in the international Bayer Group, until the end of August 2017, after which he becomes Head of Corporate Finance in Bayer AG. Bayer Nordic has developed into one of the most progressive country groups within the Bayer Group, headquartered in Espoo, Finland. Bayer has global production sites in Finland and Norway that export prescription medicine to over 100 countries and R&D centers that focus on the research and development of women’s healthcare and oncology.