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Nordic-Canada Health Solutions Initiative

June 12, 2019

This year’s collective of Nordic health tech companies was formed by 18 company executives, who traveled to the Greater Toronto Area in Canada from April 1-4, 2019. The Nordic delegation was made up of 16 companies, representing five countries: 3 from Iceland, 8 from Norway, 1 from Sweden, 2 from Finland, and 2 from Denmark.

Toronto, April 2019, Text Nordic Innovation

 

In the eyes of the Ontario healthcare ecosystem, April 2019 marked the beginning of a definitive “Nordic Health Collective”.

This year’s collective of Nordic health tech companies was formed by 18 company executives, who traveled to the Greater Toronto Area in Canada from April 1-4, 2019. The Nordic delegation was made up of 16 companies, representing five countries: 3 from Iceland, 8 from Norway, 1 from Sweden, 2 from Finland, and 2 from Denmark.

The overall aim of the four-day visit was to gain insight into how to enter the Canadian healthcare market. More specifically, the visit’s objectives were:

  • to provide insights on the Canadian healthcare system and the Ontario healthcare ecosystem;
  • to expand the companies’ networks of contacts and possible customers;
  • to have group meetings with relevant stakeholders;
  • to target company messaging to resonate with potential local receptors; and
  • to begin identifying a path to market.

The project team successfully piloted an efficient and productive collaboration model between all the Nordic trade promotion organizations (TPOs). Managed by Odd Arild Lehne, from Norway Health Tech, the project team included:

  • Lori Woloshyn, Market Manager, Innovation Norway Toronto;

    Johanna, Lori, Robby & Claudia
  • Claudia Hidou, Consultant, Health Care Industry Advisor, Business Sweden;
  • Robby Spring, Trade Advisor, Health & Life Sciences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark; and
  • Johanna Tarvainen-Lee, Sr. Consultant, Merenbridge Consulting (representing Business Finland).

The four TPOs additionally received support from Promote Iceland as well as the Embassy of Canada to Norway through the direct assistance of Trade Commissioner Roy Kristiansen. Integral to the formation and success of the project was the funding provided by Nordic Innovation, an institution that works to promote cross-border trade and innovation between the Nordic countries. Further financial assistance was received through Global Affairs Canada, whose support allowed the project team to send Jan Walker (CIO & VP of Strategy and Innovation at West Park Healthcare) and Shahira Bhimani (Director, Health Solutions at MaRS Partnerships) to five cities across the Nordic countries in order to promote the project and provide educational workshops on the Canadian healthcare market.

The timing of the visit was organized in conjunction with Health Innovation Week, Canada’s largest gathering of health start-ups, investors and the health ecosystem.  In addition to joining the first day of Health Innovation Week, the Nordic program was packed full of educational sessions and visits in and around Toronto, including innovation hubs (MaRS and VentureLab), community and specialty hospitals (Southlake, West Park, Baycrest/CABHI, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences), academic hospitals (Hamilton Health Sciences, Women’s College) and community care providers (Saint Elizabeth Health).

HealthKick Adopt event at MaRS

After a team meet-and-greet over breakfast, the first day of programming was part of “Healthkick Adopt” at MaRS Discovery District. There, the delegation learned about product adoption pathways in Canada, how health institutions make purchasing decisions, and keys to partnering with large multinational enterprises both in Canada and the USA. Another programming stream ran alongside Healthkick Adopt on the “Intersection of Innovation and Aging”, which was attended by the companies in the delegation that found these topics more relevant to their business. The Nordic delegation took advantage of the networking opportunities in the evening by attending the Opening day reception at MaRS.

The second day saw the delegation traveling outside of Toronto to Newmarket, to a visit to Southlake Regional Health Centre. The Mayor of Newmarket welcomed the group and shared his thoughts on the benefits of setting up a business in York Region. Southlake’s Director of Research and Innovation, Pat Clifford, shared his thoughts on hospital procurement and the changing healthcare landscape. Clifford also showcased the region’s healthcare ecosystem including Southlake’s geriatric outreach program and incubator services via CreateIT and VentureLab.

Southlake Regional Health Centre

Many more education sessions followed, held at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre in downtown Toronto. These sessions included one on the mental health landscape in Ontario by Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Services, a presentation on developments in home and community care by Mary Lou Ackerman of Saint Elizabeth Health, and a panel on how to work with distributors (attended by Cardinal Health and ATS). A concurrent educational stream focused on digital health through talks with Ted Scott, VP Innovation from Hamilton Health Sciences and Bailey Griffin, Program Manager for Virtual Care, WIHV & Provincial Centre of Excellence in Digital Health Evaluation.

The group had a lot to digest from all the new information they received in just the first couple of days. Marty Gurbin, an external consultant with more than 20 years of experience in working with SMEs and larger healthcare companies, came along for the majority of the week as another knowledgable point of contact for the questions that arose before and after the packed schedule of meetings, such as on the bus and during coffee breaks. The delegation got to hear first-hand experience from three Nordic company representatives (from BresoTEC, Ably Medical Inc. and Motitech Canada Ltd.) during an informal evening reception.

Day three covered educational sessions on the private insurance market and positioning needed to speak the language of the Canadian healthcare market. Following this, the Nordic group participated in a unique event at West Park Healthcare Centre, which saw many groups coming together to take part in a dialogue on concrete needs in the market with the hope of finding Nordic solutions. Led by Jan Walker and Tim Pauley, West Park invited a number of internal department heads, and several health community partners to attend the session, bringing together groups representing specialized rehabilitative and complex care, occupational health, IT, campus development, long-term care, research & innovation, home & community care, and family health teams. To this group, each Nordic delegate pitched his or her company solution and received feedback. This event was live tweeted and the most active ‘tweeter’ (in this case, Sigurjón from Medilync) was awarded some West Park “swag”. The day was topped off by an evening of networking as part of HealthTO, an event that brings together the Toronto healthcare community to discuss topics related to the future of innovation in health and wellness.

The final day featured a visit to the Centre for Ageing and Brain Health Institute (CABHI), housed at Baycrest Health Sciences. There, the group was welcomed by Mel Barsky, CABHI’s Director of Business Development and Simon Cheesman, Director of Baycrest@Home who showcased their work in accelerating innovative solutions supporting brain health and ageing.

Finally, the educational component of the visit concluded with a surprisingly enthusiastic workshop of Health Canada Regulations with David Boudreau, Executive Director of Health Canada, who came by the Nordic TPO office to explain how their organization is working to facilitate the approval of medical devices, particularly as it applies to software as a medical device.

The visit concluded with an informal networking afternoon where the group reflected on the key learnings of the visit and looked ahead to the up-coming visit in October 2019.

Over the next six months, the project team will be working with each company to prepare for the Fall visit and to ensure that their messaging and positioning for the Canadian market is optimized and effectively resonates with the relevant target groups. The goal of this work is to more concretely develop a market entry strategy for Canada for each of the Nordic companies.

 

Post-visit survey results

A post-visit survey was sent to the Nordic group. At the time of writing this report, more than 80% of the participants had responded to the survey. All respondents noted that the project team was extremely or very responsive to their questions and concerns. 12 out of these 13 people responded being satisfied with the first visit and reported that the objectives of their visit were met.

The only person who reported that the visit did not meet their objectives commented that meeting them was “probably not feasible considering the group dynamics (other companies in e-health and elderly care)”. The comment is a reflection of the fact that the companies that made up the delegation represented a broad spectrum of sectors, target customers and stages of growth. As such, it was inherently difficult to address all the objectives of each company on a visit that focused on providing general knowledge of the healthcare ecosystem. This particular company could be considered somewhat of an outlier with regard to the target sector as they focus on the niche area of genomics. This company’s objectives will be met during the second visit in October, which is designed to focus more on targeted 1-on-1 visits.

In the survey, the participants were asked to make a note of which components of the visit they found the most interesting and relevant. Of a possible 17 answers, all choices were selected multiple times, showing that each component was relevant to many of the participants. The highest number of votes (close to 70% of the respondents) highlighted three events in particular: the visit to CABHI, West Park and a general education session on selling into the Canadian healthcare market.

It is interesting to note that among the components that were ranked highly was internal networking among the people in the delegation (18 company representatives and 6 organizers). One participant commented that networking was an “add on effect” to the visit and that “the opportunity to meet with Nordic/Icelandic countries and reps at same time… also means partnership opportunities may be developed and nurtured”. This helps to validate the aims set forth by Nordic Innovation.

Direct outcomes of the visit

One direct outcome of the visit that can be reported at this time is the expectation that the Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV) is interested in providing a Digital Health Benefits Evaluation to one of the companies in the delegation.

Another two companies have started discussions with distributors who are interested in representing their products.

More outcomes of the visit are being tracked as the project team holds follow up calls with each company in May.

Testimonials:

“Nice meeting last week and THANK YOU VERY MUCH, for program and all the effort you have made for us having a GREAT WEEK in Toronto. I found much of the program relevant for me, and feel I got a better understanding and background for working in the Canadian market … Overall I’m happy and impressed by the work you and the team had put in to this.”

– Bjørn Olav Nygård, Imatis

“That word TEAM resonates … the team you have is great, highly complementary skills, backgrounds and mindsets that collectively, synergistically, serves the companies extremely well. They are lucky.”

– Marty Gurbin, Metamor Health

“I’ve participated in many initiatives and other activities but this one exceeded my expectations.”

– Sigurjón Lýðsson, Medilync

“Good agenda, met with relevant stakeholders in Canada, met with positive, helpful and competent staff. Add on effect was the opportunity to meet with Nordic/Icelandic countries and reps at same time… [which] also means partnership opportunities may be developed and nurtured.”

– Ole Christian Olssøn, Tellu IoT

“Thank you for a nice, and varied program throughout the week. A great job was done!! Also particularly nice that Martin joined and the recap’s he gave was very interesting.”

– Elena Skreosen, Asap

“Great team, great program, great networking and I am confident you will help many startups, Congratulations!”

– Pedro Nogueira, Nox Medical

 

Contact details for further details:

Odd Arild Lehne, Norway Health Tech , phone (+47) 958 33 1 44

oal@norwayhealthtech.com

Lori Woloshyn, Innovation Norway Toronto, phone: +1 416 920 0434 x124, cell: +1 416 271 7327

lori.woloshyn@innovationnorway.no