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Sitra helped health technology company IST to get started

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Web Article 12 October 2004 The role of a capital investor usually stays in the background. But Sitra’s significance and support to a start-up company or to an existing company is often much more than mere funding, says Aage Moustgaard, CEO of health care technology company IST International Security Technology. “Sitra’s funding has, in practice, enabled the operation of our company,” says Moustgaard. “In addition, Sitra’s support lends credibility to a company like ours where municipalities form a large client group.” IST develops, sells, and markets automatic devices which monitor and analyse users’ activity levels. IST has developed the world’s first wireless 24-hour-security device, Vivago WristCare unit. The information gathered and transmitted by the device helps to monitor the situation of elderly and chronically ill users. Sitra has been involved with IST for several years now. It funded IST even before Moustgaard joined the company. The first funding round was in 1998, when the company’s founder and then-owner Matti Myllymäki applied for corporate funding. Sitra was also a partner in the issue of shares in the year 2000, and in the additional funding rounds. Director Kimmo Haahkola, Industry Ventures, represents Sitra on the IST board. But Moustgaard emphasises Sitra’s role in finding Finnish partners and creating contacts in other Sitra-funded companies and enterprises. ”The ties with Sitra also offer us the opportunity to participate in various research projects. And yet, Sitra is not involved in the daily operative management of the company. As a company, IST hasn’t needed Sitra’s advice in business management. This is because we have a very experienced board of directors and a network of experts, who know this field inside-out,” says Moustgaard. At the moment, IST has 5,000 private individuals and about a hundred institutions for elderly care as customers. The company is located in Lauttasaari, Helsinki, where it has a staff of 16. The Lauttasaari staff concentrates on sales, marketing, and R&D. Device manufacturing has been outsourced in Finland, and according to Moustgaard, production will stay in Finland in the future. Sitra to invest more in the health care sector Recently, Sitra launched a new Health Care Programme in accordance with its new strategy guidelines. The programme aims at improving the quality and productivity of Finnish health care services, especially by utilising new technology. According to Hannu Hanhijärvi, the Executive Director of the Health Care Programme, the programme endeavours to create positive effects in the whole Finnish health care system. ”The main goal is to serve customers better,” explains Hanhijärvi. “Sitra has no statutory role in this, and it is an outside actor in this field. Therefore, it is imperative for Sitra to have a close mutual co-operation with the actors who are responsible for health care services. These actors include municipalities and government offices. Sitra has a supporting role in all this.” At the time of this interview, Hanhijärvi had been the Health Care Programme’s executive director for only four days, so he says he can’t really boast about future results yet. “These projects are either in preparatory phases or ongoing, so it is premature to talk about results,” he says. Sitra’s Health Care Programme offers companies in the health care sector an opening to apply for funding for their business operations. ”Companies applying for funding could be, for example, participants in the FinnWell health care technology programme in Tekes, the National Technology Agency of Finland,” adds Hanhijärvi. “It is possible that some companies there could attract Sitra’s interest for their projects. We need genuine new co-operation.” One of the biggest goals of the health care programme is to ease the private citizen’s access to health care services. Hanhijärvi names an example from south-eastern Finland: MediNeuvo call centre is a telephone service for social and health services. ”MediNeuvo has improved the client’s opportunities to ask for advice and guidance, and has helped them get health care appointments faster,” Hanhijärvi explains. Sitra hopes to see more similar projects during this Health Care Programme.” The Health Care Programme will embrace new technologies, the role of which will continue to increase in the future in the health care sector. But Hanhijärvi is not overly optimistic; to him, technology is not the answer to all health problems. ”New technologies can be used to improve methods, but they don’t solve basic problems in the health care sector,” he reminds us