Oulu is a big Finnish city in the Northern Europe. With its 200 000 inhabitants, multidisciplinary university and many ICT companies Oulu is the home of many modern digital solutions. Three billion people worldwide utilize innovation that originates from Oulu. University of Oulu is the world´s leading 6G wireless research institutes and has digital health solutions as one of its profiling areas.
University of Oulu and its Medical Faculty aims to be the HUB of Digital Health in Europe. There are several justifications to this nomination. Oulu is the leading ICT Health university and has national responsibilities e.g. in digitizing and harmonizing medical teaching in five and dental teaching in four universities. Health and wellbeing sectors have become one of the most important ICT applications in Finland and in Oulu. Export of high technological health products has surpassed its import and has replaced the failing export of mobile technology.
Oulu is simultaneously small and big, and a city where challenges are faced together. A now ten year old agreement, Oulu Innovation Alliance, guidelines the collaboration between the city, two universities, university hospital, the Oulu Region and the business sector as well as several research institutes. In addition to this, citizens of Oulu are much in favor of innovations. They utilize digital health, school and city planning services more than in any other Finnish city.
Oulu is also an example on how the business sector transformation can be smooth. Some eight years backwards Nokia, one of the biggest employers in the region, released several thousand experts in a very short period of time. This challenged was managed by re-schooling and by assisting start-up companies to find financing and labor. At present the business sector of the city is versatile composing of some large companies but more and more of small firms. All of them utilize modern and sustainable technologies. The modern-day Oulu of a city utilizing digital solutions in practically every municipal services and beyond.
The whole Finland is a great testbed for research and medical innovations. There are several reasons to this. Finland is the only country that has all these properties: universal and well-functioning healthcare system, unique national identity number, engaged people, digital health data, government backing and genomics data and biobanks. Finland has always been an important research field of genetic diseases due to rather small and isolated population.
University of Oulu, a very strong stakeholder of the Region owns two birth cohorts. The older one is composed of citizen who were born in 1966 and lived in the two Northernmost Provinces in Finland. The younger birth cohort subjects were born in 1986. The participation rate in longitudinal examinations has been very high and this data is completed by non-health data. Information is received from examinations and interviews but also from excellent Finnish files.
Recently an Act was agreed upon the secondary use of health and social data. The purpose of the legislation is to facilitate the smooth and safe use and access of personal data for e.g. research, statistics and development purposes.
Finland has 10 registered biobanks which have samples and data of 2,6 million study participants. The task of biobanks is to collect biological samples and other data for future research needs. The biobank data originate e.g. from registries, research projects, clinical measurements or lifestyle data reported by the patients.
FinnGen study was initialized in 2017 and is a unique project that combines genome information with digital health data. The FinnGen is globally one of the largest studies of this type. It brings together universities, hospitals, research institutes, biobanks and pharmaceutical companies and most importantly hundreds of thousands of Finns. The aim is to genotype up to 500,000 individuals and to improve human health through genetic research. This allows to identify new therapeutic methods and diagnostics in the treatment of several diseases.