Laying the final brick in the neuroecosystem foundation of Northern Savo

Laying the final brick in the neuroecosystem foundation of Northern Savo

In the Kuopio region, neuroscience co-operation has intensified, commercialisation models for innovations have been created and there has been a lot of deliberation in what the best ways are utilize neurodata impactfully.

The Kuopio region has laid a solid foundation for a regional neuroecosystem, which will become part of Neurocenter Finland. The University of Eastern Finland (UEF), Kuopio University Hospital (KYS) and the Savonia University of Applied Sciences have all been involved in the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project funded by the Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo (Northern Savo) in 2019-2020.

‘The project has been deemed so important that they decided to extend its implementation by another year, until the end of 2021,’ says Merja Jaronen, Program Manager at Neurocenter Finland.

Commercialising innovations more efficiently

The Savonia University of Applied Sciences has been responsible for mapping paths to innovation. This was done by systematically identifying the various innovators in Northern Savo.

‘There are innovations in neuroscience research with commercial potential but commercialising them has been a bit of a mess, even though there are various innovation services around here,’ Jaronen explains.

The key challenge was that the services are simply scattered and hard to find, and different organizations work in overlapping areas.

‘We did not want to reinvent the wheel. We merely wanted to inform people and companies about the various innovation services that exist and point the way there,’ Jaronen sums up.

Innovators and people working with innovations have been introduced to each other and there have been workshops, which have clarified what people actually do: what their roles are and what they are working on. At the same time, people get acquainted with one another.

‘In the future, the commercialisation of innovations will be easier, when everyone knows who to contact regarding the different issues,’ says Jaronen.

Getting businesses to join in also requires introductions

Developing researchers and businesses to co-operate was one of the core objectives of the project. The University of Eastern Finland has uncovered what kind of issues Neurocenter Finland could assist in. There has also been piloting of different operating models aiming to get researchers and companies, ranging from startups to international giants, acquainted and working together.

‘We organized seminars where researchers could present their research while the companies were able to tell what kind of expertise they need. On the business side, there is a clear need for clinical research expertise, for example,’ says Jaronen.

The successful operating models will also be implemented at the national level for the use of other regional neuroscience centres.

‘The importance of human encounters cannot be underestimated here either,’ Jaronen emphasises.

Data lake for data recovery

In Northern Savo, perhaps the most important neuroscience infrastructure is the data lake at Kuopio University Hospital. Genuine patient data is worth its weight in gold for both researchers and companies such as pharmaceutical companies or device manufacturers.

‘We have paid a lot of attention and listened to both researchers and company representatives and discovered what kinds of data needs they might have in the future. It’s imperative to consider the conditions under which companies can be granted access to anonymised, cohort-level data in the data lake,’ Jaronen explains.

In order to make better use of the data in practice, the usability of the data lake and the quality of the data has been improved as part of the ERDF project. This work will continue at KYS also after the end of the project: a full-time person has been hired for the development of the data lake.