The social welfare and health care sector and related research, development and innovation (RDI) activities are undergoing a momentous shift. Alongside the national social welfare and health care reform, the Tampere Region is updating the operations of the higher education sector and the hospital district. The changes increase the need for RDI activities and information on the innovation ecosystem, for which the preparation of a situation picture on innovation is a wonderful tool.
The report on the current state of research, development and innovation activities in the social welfare and health care sector in the Tampere region – from competence to differentiation (in Finnish)– presents the results of the survey carried out as part of the Six Cities’ Open Innovation Platforms project (ERDF) in the spring of 2018. The aim of the survey was to describe the current state of social welfare and health care RDI and form an outlook on future developments. The results presented are based on interviews with 42 experts, numerous supplementary discussions, a review of extensive background material and quantitative information on external RDI funding. The starting point for the current state survey is to study the Tampere3 universities, but the perspective is not limited to this alone – half of the interviewees represent other regional and national bodies.
The survey indicated that the social welfare and health care sector is a diverse entity within which numerous fields come together. As a result, its scope presents a challenge in terms of development and cooperation in the field.
This is why forging a shared understanding of everything involved and the related phenomena is extremely important. Understanding is also needed on RDI activities and innovation concepts so that the promotion of regional RDI activities in the social welfare and health care sector are sure to take into account all three letters – R, D and I – and their various contents, alongside formalised project activities. In part, this involves training and the development of competence, in which the Tampere Region has a strong foundation.
The pool of RDI actors in the Tampere Region’s social welfare and health care sector is abundant and varied. The concentration of institutes of higher education, university hospital operations, varied businesses and organisations, and other educational and research organisations in the Tampere Region ensures an exceptionally broad scope of competence. From the perspective of the innovation ecosystem, it is important for actors and their competence to be recognised and acknowledged. Although there is plenty of cooperation in the region and the general atmosphere is favourable to it, the mechanisms and structures of cooperation require further scrutiny. Similarly, development efforts related to innovation platforms must be continued with regard to development environments related to the social welfare and health care sector. The functionality of the RDI chain and the promotion of competence towards innovations must be bolstered.
The Tampere Region boasts strong areas of competence in the social welfare and health care sector, some of which are narrow and sharp spearheads while others span broader areas or entire fields.
There are also a number of potential and promising areas for creating new opportunities. In fact, the diversity of fields and the general scope can be seen as both the strength and possible downfall of the Tampere Region. Efforts should be made to more clearly specify the wide-ranging expertise and highlight it as a distinguishing factor. The RDI activities of the future are expected to be more borderless, multidisciplinary and global than ever before, while staying true to the long traditions and expertise of the fields involved.
The Tampere Region has a wealth of external RDI funding. The number of projects is highest in medicine and biosciences. International funding is used, but there is a need for more applications and related cooperation. It is difficult to obtain quantitative information that describes the volume of RDI activities in the social welfare and health care sector on a regional level, and the information is not uniform in all respects. From the perspective of information-based management, we must begin to store and collect project information differently, which requires limiting the social welfare and health care sector using mutually agreed upon criteria.
All in all, the Tampere Region is very well positioned to assume an even more visible position as a hub of social welfare and health care RDI. This requires strategic level commitment and activities at all levels: both the external visibility of the region and the internal functionality of the innovation ecosystem must be strengthened. The region can serve to offer opportunities for RDI operations and consolidate expertise in the field. In terms of the promotion of RDI activities, there is a general need for interactive and open-minded management that can help drive the operations towards a common goal through joint efforts.