Minister Olli Rehn in Dubai 14. November 2016

17.11.2016 9.40

Team Finland – food from Finland & Finlandcare

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman

I am very pleased to be again here in Dubai to address such a diverse group of organizations interested in the Finnish expertise and offering for good, tasty and healthy life.

The collaboration between Finland and the United Arab Emirates has during the past years entered into a new level. In the area of healthcare, increasing number of companies, clinics and training institutes have started collaboration and several commercial deals have been signed. In the broader area of well-being, there is increasing activity in areas such as functional food, well-being and tourism.

This is no wonder. As advanced, modern nations we face similar challenges with aging population and are looking for the most effective solutions to provide world-class, cost-effective health and social care for our citizens. On the other hand, our citizens appreciate the healthy, modern lifestyles and look for products and services to support living a healthy and happy life.

On several global rankings, Finland scores among the best countries for quality of life. One of these is the recent Social Progress Index, where Finland ranked as first, when looking at areas such as healthcare, education, access to technology and life expectancy.

Finland is among the best performing OECD countries in quality of healthcare, including the treatment of various cancers. The mortality rate of patients admitted to the hospital due to a heart attack or stroke in Finland is among the lowest in the OECD.

There are several reasons for this. Finland has invested in health-related science, research and education as well as to extensive public healthcare system for decades. Close collaboration between companies, universities and research institutes together with the healthcare system has provided a fruitful development environment for new products, treatments and services.

As a result, helping to resolve the health challenges by providing new solutions for health and wellbeing has become one of Finland's strengths. Finland is a home of key centers of excellence for many globally operating corporations. Health technology, life sciences, digital health and wellbeing solutions as well as research services are estimated to generate at the moment some 5 billion Euros as economic output annually (2,5% of Finland´s GDP). Health technology accounts for about half of Finnish high-tech exports, having reached a new record level of 1.92 billion euros in 2015.

Digital health, personalized medicine and healthcare as well as scientific research and healthcare in areas such as cancer and brain diseases are among the areas where Finnish knowhow is world-class. Interestingly, these are corresponding to areas where need for new innovations and solutions is in high demand.  

As pharmaceutical industry and research institutes are looking for more effective ways to do research utilizing big data and advanced analytics, the combination of our world-class biobanks, relatively isolated gene pool, extensive healthcare registries and the innovation friendly biobank regulation creates a very competitive environment internationally. We recently announced a package of investments, totaling 17 million euros to make these unique assets even stronger.

Finland has adopted a broad eSocial and eHealth strategy to support the reform of our social welfare and healthcare sectors. The strategy calls for an active role of citizens in maintaining their own well-being. This can be achieved by digitalisation, including information management and increasing the availability of online and mobile services.

Thus, it is no wonder that numerous companies are developing wearables as well as digital health and well-being services, using Finland as testbed. In the recent years, Finland has seen the birth of a vibrant start-up scene and actually has the highest figure of digital health and well-being startups per capita in the world - currently around 500 companies and the amount is growing.

Finnish companies are known for user-friendly products and solutions aimed both for preventive healthcare as well as to support the home care for patients with diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases. Digital solutions for mental health monitoring, rehabilitation and security aids for the elderly have gained global interest.

In healthcare, Finland is recognized worldwide for cancer and neurological screening and therapies. The high quality in orthopedic, cardiovascular and neurosurgery is known world-wide. Many specialists come to Finland for further education and increasing number of foreign patients come for high-quality diagnostics, treatment and aftercare.

Boosting health sector growth is one of the key priorities for our government. So is bioeconomy. Thanks to the high quality of ingredients and innovations in our food and beverage industry, Finland has in the past years become one of the forerunners as provider for functional, health-enhancing and organic food products.

Food and beverages industry is today a significant industry in Finland, employing over 37 000 persons. The whole food chain employs almost 300 000 persons as the industry uses mainly domestic raw materials. We currently export to over 50 countries and approximately 40% of turnover of the sector is generated from abroad. The exports total about 1,5 billion euros on annual level. 

Healthy diet is increasingly understood as one of the key means to fight obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases. The market for health and wellness food and beverage products is growing globally.

We Finns have long had the appreciation for healthy, organic and pure food. The uniqueness of Finnish food rises from our arctic location and the four seasons. Long summer days, arctic air, clear waters and pure soil enhance the unique flavor of the Finnish ingredients.

Finland has world's largest organic forest picking area, full of delicious and healthy berries. In addition to the vast forest areas, Finland is known as land of thousands of lakes. Thus it is no wonder that our premium beverage offering is based on the pure spring waters and Finnish berries. Our natural berries, such as blueberry, lingonberry, cranberry and cloudberry are superfoods growing wild in the forest, full of vitamins and other healthy ingredients. Other type of so called wild food includes game, reindeer and fish.

Due to our genetics, we have high percentage of people who have special diets and allergies. This has forced the Finnish industry and scientists to innovate functional foods. Finnish gluten- and lactose-free products as well as wide variety of cholesterol-lowering products are today well established in the international markets. Xylitol, helping to combat tooth decay is also a Finnish innovation and used for example in sweets. Finnish grain and cereal products, especially oat and rye products, are known for their purity, quality and high nutrition value.

Finns put high emphasis on pure and healthy food. The Finnish food safety is among the highest in the world. Due to the voluntary animal health and welfare classification systems the animal disease burden in meat produced in Finland is extremely low.

The whole Finnish food production chain is transparent and consumers can find out where the food ingredients have been sourced and produced. Finland´s northern location and cold winters reduce the need for intensive use of pesticides.

Consumers don’t have to worry about any harmful effects related to use of antibiotics either. Since 2009 Finnish poultry production has not used antibiotics and generally the use of antibiotics in Finland is very low compared to the average use in the EU.

As we all know, major growth potential exists in the field of health and well-being. Today you will get a snapshot of the wide offering Finland has to offer.

In the end, it´s all about people and seeing it yourselves I warmly welcome you to Finland to find out what we have to offer. The whole Team Finland, including our Embassy here in Dubai as well as the FinlandCare and Food from Finland export programs will be happy to support you planning your next moves.

Thank you.

Olli Rehn Team Finland