Helsinki gains lessons and new solutions in the development of social services and health care
The recently completed Nordic Independent Living Challenge competition looked for Nordic innovations to support independent living at home by the elderly and the disabled. The competition received more than 400 proposals. The winner was AbleOn Medical from Norway. The five finalists included the communal service Nifty Neighbour from Finland.
The winner, selected by a jury representing all Nordic countries, was a modular and ergonomic shower support developed by AbleOn Medical. The shower support not only eases the movement of the elderly and the disabled, but it also improves ergonomics for family caregivers and others working with the elderly and the disabled. The first prize was one million Norwegian crowns (about 110,000 euros). In addition to the best innovation, the jury also named and awarded the best joint Nordic team and a student project. The prizes were presented to the winners in Oslo on 9 June.
The jury stated, “The winner managed to respond to a significant challenge in a new manner, and there is true demand for the solution. This is a product that very many of us will probably need at some point in our lives. The solution truly supports independent living.”
The winner was selected from 415 proposals. The jury also awarded the best joint Nordic team. That team was AssiStep, which has developed a mechanical walker that can move up and down steps. The prize was 200,000 Norwegian crowns (about 22,000 euros). The best student project was smart socks equipped with sensors, designed to prevent diabetic foot ulcers. The developer of the smart socks, Siren Smart Sock, was awarded with 100,000 Norwegian crowns (about 11,000 euros). The prize sums will support the commercialization of the solutions.
New cooperation models for cities
The two-year challenge competition was organized by Nordic Innovation in cooperation with the Nordic capitals. The competition was launched on the basis of the needs of both users and cities – the goal was to produce completely new, innovative solutions to support independent living.
Juha Jolkkonen, Director of the City of Helsinki Department of Social Services and Health Care, concludes, “The competition has opened whole new cooperation models for cities in the development of social services and health care. We have built partnerships and new operating models both with businesses and with cities. Cities have opened up for new solutions during the challenge competition, and the competition has also served as a joint learning process. It has been useful for us to reconsider our services, also on the Nordic level, as the Nordic countries share the same challenges, although there are local differences.”
The Nordic field of well-being services is in transition. At the same time, the role of cities is shifting from a conservative public services provider to an active agent. One of the key goals of the competition was to open new business opportunities for Nordic enterprises. Feedback from users and professionals is of crucial importance from the perspective of the further development of services – especially when seeking to enter the joint Nordic market.
The five finalists tested their solutions in Helsinki, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Reykjavik in the final phase of the competition. In Helsinki, the finalists were able to test their products with customers and professionals of the Department of Social Services and Health Care. The Finnish application Nifty Neighbour distinguished itself with a novel social media service that promotes collaboration in the community. Nifty Neighbour was tested with residents and active agents in the Kalasatama district and with City of Helsinki employees.
Nordic Independent Living Challenge: http://www.realchallenge.info/
The main organizer of the Nordic Independent Living Challenge competition was Nordic Innovation, which is an agency under the Nordic Council of Ministers. The agency’s main task is to launch and fund innovation. The Nordic capitals were also heavily involved in the project, providing the competition opportunities to test the proposed ideas in their cities. The Finnish segment of the competition was organized jointly by the City of Helsinki Department of Social Services and Health Care and Forum Virium Helsinki.