Companies in western Norway are developing technology that could improve the lives of patients, and help the elderly to stay in their own homes for longer. Photo © Jofrid Åsland, Norwegian Smart Care Cluster

Health tech sector sees international interest

International health companies are turning to western Norway as an excellent place for developing new services for patients.

The west coast of Norway is home to a thriving community of health tech companies, represented by the Norwegian Smart Care Cluster organization.

These companies are developing technology that could improve the lives of patients, and help the elderly to stay in their own homes for longer.

Tone Skår, NSCC’s Department Manager in Bergen, explains that there are several reasons why foreign companies are showing an interest in this growing sector. “Firstly, Norway is one of the most digitalized countries in the world, and our citizens are already used to accessing many public services online,” she says.

Secondly, the Norwegian government is committed to providing its elderly citizens with a better quality of life. “We are one of the countries that has come furthest in adapting our healthcare system so that care takes place in the home rather than in hospital,” notes Skår.

The country is exploring the use of new technologies such as sensors to monitor the health of elderly people, and video systems that allow physicians to meet with patients remotely.


The company Innocom is developing a robot assistant, Berntsen, that can help elderly patients to stay active. With the help of the Norwegian Smart Care Lab, the firm was recently able to test the robot at the Tasta care home in western Norway. 

These new developments are being supported by a range of high-quality testing centres, such as the Norwegian Smart Care Lab in Stavanger, or e-Health Arena HVL in Bergen.

“We have already come into contact with several foreign companies that would like to conduct tests in our region,” says Skår. “In some cases, they are also interested in starting up a local branch here.”

She adds that once foreign businesses have established a presence in Norway, they can also apply for funding through organizations such as Innovation Norway. This is especially the case if they are developing new products or services where there is a genuine market need.

Bergen’s new health innovation centre

In addition to its range of testing facilities, Bergen will soon be welcoming a brand new Health Innovation Centre that will boost the city’s health tech sector.

The centre will offer 2,500 m2 of laboratories and offices, including a dedicated incubator for innovative healthcare startups. 

What is digital health?
 

Digital health or “e-health” has been defined as “the use of information technology/electronic communication tools, services and processes to deliver health care services or to facilitate better health.”

As an example of this, some healthcare companies are developing video technology where doctors can meet with patients and monitor their health from a distance, helping to save time and resources.

Digital health could also involve developing new systems for prescribing medicines, for storing and sharing patient records, or for improving how hospitals and care homes work.

According to Marit Hagland, NSCC’s Project Leader for the Norwegian Smart Care Lab, this type of innovation will play a key role in the health care system in future.

“In a few years’ time we will be facing a situation where we won’t have enough doctors and nurses to take care of Norway’s ageing population,” Hagland explains.

“We need to respond with innovation, and this is something the public sector can’t do on its own. We need to work with entrepreneurs who have good ideas about how to meet these challenges.”


The Norwegian Smart Care Cluster (NSCC) in western Norway works to support health tech companies, helping them on the road from idea to market. The team at NSCC includes (L-R): Tor Åge Fjukstad, Department Manager in Agder; Arild Kristensen, CEO; Karoline Blikra Mokleiv, Business Developer; Marit B. Hagland, Head of the Norwegian Smart Care Lab; Tone Skår, Department Manager in Bergen; Therese Oppegaard, Project Leader; and Jofrid Åsland, Head of Communications.

One of the NSCC’s main goals is to support entrepreneurs on the road from idea to market. In the health sector, this journey can be fraught with difficulties.

“Companies will need to get to grips with a long list of tests and approvals before they can launch their products out in the market,” says Hagland. “The NSCC is working on new ways to simplify this journey for entrepreneurs.”

The organisation’s painstaking work with regulators, health authorities, and other partners is now beginning to bear fruit. A new generation of health startups are beginning to emerge in Greater Bergen along with other locations in western Norway. This includes exciting companies such as Motitech, Medzys and Grasp.

With the country’s digital population and wealth of testing centres, it’s only a matter of time before these startups are joined by some international players too. 

 



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