In early 2019, Tuija Sairanen, a specialist in neurological rehabilitation, joined the ranks of Neurocenter Finland. Sairanen is a lecturer in physiotherapy at Savonia University of Applied Sciences (UAS), specializing in neurological physiotherapy. “This ERDF-funded project will hopefully bring with it lasting changes to the approach and models for neurological rehabilitation toward more individualized and multi-disciplinary therapy”, Sairanen sums up the goal. According to Sairanen, the key to multidisciplinary cooperation is closer involvement of patients and patient organizations in rehabilitation planning, and to provide rehabilitation at an earlier stage of the therapeutic process.
Together with Eeri Pihlajakari, Lecturer, Head of Dance and Head of Art Pedagogy at Savonia UAS, Sairanen is looking for good combinations of arts and rehabilitation in the North Savo region. “Scientific evidence of the importance of music and dance in the rehabilitation process is already available. In Finland, for example, the role of music in the rehabilitation process for strokes has been studied”, says Sairanen.
“In addition to spreading awareness, bringing art, dance and rehabilitation together can create new jobs in the field of neurological rehabilitation. At the same time, the job description of the dance teacher gets revamped”, Pihlajakari continues. According to Sairanen and Pihlajakari, there are many opportunities for multidisciplinary cooperation, with unprejudiced integration of diverse fields of expertise. In Savonia UAS, there is a long tradition of cooperation between physiotherapy and dance studies. “Among other things, we have conducted meetup events—that we jokingly call “holistic body meetups”— that brought together physiotherapy and dance students, and this collaboration resulted in thesis projects”, says Pihlajakari.
A boost from business experts
Jukka Kähkönen is an RDI expert who brings design and business experience in service design to the multidisciplinary development project of the North Savo Center of Expertise at Neurocenter Finland. Kähkönen’s diverse expertise is based not only in design but also in computer science, excersice and sports medicine, and architecture studies. He has also worked as a project researcher at the Department of Biomedicine at the Physiology Unit at the University of Kuopio (now UEF), developed and commercialized awarded smart clothing solutions, and run a design agency focusing on strategic product and service design.
“There are still untapped opportunities in North Savo for bringing together different business areas and people, and for commercializing research”, Kähkönen describes the area’s potential, and continues, “While technology and processes are often well-developed, the connection with the user remains slim.”
Juhamatti Huusko is Kähkönen’s partner in RDI expertise and has experience in health technology and ICT consulting. Huusko and Kähkönen are working together to identify players and companies whose associations would bring additional benefits to the industry. “We also try to find researchers with good ideas and support them in commercializing ideas,” Huusko says. According to Huusko, the North Savo area has great potential and opportunities, although there could be more investors and sources of funding. “On a positive note, the City of Kuopio is has set up its own seed fund, the North Savo Startup Fund, which will provide early-stage funding of EUR 10 million to support start-ups and boost the region’s vitality”, Huusko continues.
Huusko, M.Sc. (Econ.) and M.Sc. (Health and Human Services Informatics) has worked as a project researcher at the Department of Social and Health Management at the University of Eastern Finland. He is writing his dissertation, that deals with medical devices, based on his experience working in health technology companies. Huusko and Kähkönen are experienced and entrepreneurial business professionals who bring robust expertise to Neurocenter Finland.
Eeri Pihlajakari in the photograph (top left corner)