If you stroll through the University of Helsinki’s Meilahti campus, you will encounter a humbling three-story building with transparent glass walls that beckon passersby to look closer. And if your curiosity gets the better of you and you gaze through those glass walls, you will witness a bustling hive of activity. Many mistake it for the Meilahti campus library, but this building is also home to the biggest health and life science hub in the Nordics, Terkko Health Hub.
Previously, the Terkko building, which housed the Meilahti campus library on both the 1st and 2nd floors, underwent an extensive renovation in 2016. The result was the beginning of Terkko Health Hub. The Meilahti library continues its operations on the 2nd floor. However, the 1st and 3rd floors, part of Terkko Health Hub, now houses many startups, spacious co-working spaces, multiple meeting rooms, and a fully equipped event venue.
Also, you can find the office of the Health Incubator Helsinki’s management team and their startups on the 3rd floor. The Health Incubator Helsinki is an incubator program that supports research-based early-stage startups operating in the health sector.
Terkko Health Hub is, however, more than a startup space. Set in motion by the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Medicine and HUS University Hospital, Terkko Health Hub is a vibrant startup community.
Terkko Health Hub’s Growing Community
The Terkko Health Hub community has experienced exponential growth since its establishment in 2017. It started with 15 innovative health and life sciences startup companies and has now grown to over 60. Additionally, some members of the Terkko community are individuals striving to establish their own businesses.
Some startups like Uute Scientific, Adamant Health, Tepsivo, Remedy bytes, VEIL.AI, and HeiaHeia have offices in the Terkko Health Hub premises. Meanwhile, some other members utilize the numerous Flexi desks available in the Terkko member-exclusive working space known as Cortex. Office spaces at Terkko Health Hub are primarily reserved for startups working in the health and life sciences field.
The startups, part of Terkko Health Hub, are very diverse in their healthcare solutions. Uute Scientific is a spin-off company from Helsinki and Tampere universities. Uute Scientific’s focus is on developing microbial extracts that can be blended into everyday consumer products to promote the healthy microbial population of the skin.
On the other hand, VEIL.AI, another spin-off company from the University of Helsinki, works towards solving health data privacy problems by developing AI-based solutions for high-level data anonymization.
Terkko Health Hub requires startup teams or individuals who become members to undergo an onboarding process. During onboarding sessions, Liina Laukkanen, Terkko Health Hub’s Community Manager, can be seen touring around the 2000 m2 Terkko Health Hub premises with the new members.
Liina, who holds a master’s in Translational Medicine from the University of Helsinki, started working at Terkko Health Hub in 2021. As a Community Manager, Liina’s role is to develop Terkko Health Hub’s services catering to the community’s needs and arrange events.
At the end of the onboarding sessions, the new members are given their 24/7 access keys to the Terkko premises and are all set to begin their startup journey with Terkko.
Terkko Startup Community Exclusive Events
Learning and acquiring new skills is part of a startup journey. Terkko Health Hub hosts various networking events, delegation visits, workshops, and mentoring events to support the growth of its members.
Attendees networking during the Terkko 5 Year Anniversary event at Terkko Health Hub premises
“Sometimes, I reach out to people regarding hosting certain events. Other times, people come to us. For example, with How To Talk To Pharma? Workshop, the host reached out to me, and I said, why not let’s do it,” says Liina when asked about organising Terkko Workshops.
The themes of the workshops cover many topics, including marketing, protecting Intellectual Property rights, working with advisors, etc. The Terkko team is constantly seeking new experts to host workshops on topics useful for its community.
“Of course, there are a lot of webinars available on such topics. But with Terkko Workshops, our members can actively engage with experts from different fields and gain relevant information first-hand. These workshops have also been good networking opportunities for our members,” adds Liina.
One of the other exciting events hosted by Terkko Health Hub is the CxO Meetups. CxO Meetup is a C-level peer learning event series where C-level people from Terkko’s member companies are encouraged to share their experiences, networks, tips, or hurdles they have encountered with one another on various topics, including regulations, product development, etc.
“Such peer support has been especially crucial for startups’ complex and often challenging journey,” says Liina.
In addition, Terkko Health Hub hosts delegation visits from other countries. Through such delegation visits, Terkko Health Hub members are exposed to tech professionals, investors, trade officials, potential customers, etc., outside of Finland.
Terkko’s Strong Partnerships And Membership Perks
Over the years, Terkko Health Hub has partnered with many companies like Irdeto, TNW, Roche, Novartis, Labquality, Potter Clarkson, AstraZeneca, Grandaliro, Technia, Nordic Proof, Cenit Consulting, Quarto.legal etc.
“Benefits from partnerships are mutual. Partners benefit by gaining access to potential customers within the Terkko Health Hub community, as well as increasing their visibility within the ecosystem. When it comes to startups, they gain support in various disciplines of business development – IT, regulations, marketing, IP, etc. These partnerships also serve as a knowledge-sharing outlet,” says Rashad Ismayilzada, Head of Partnerships at Terkko Health Hub.
Rashad, who has previously studied Bioinformatics and Synthetic Biology at Aalto University, is also one of the founders of Terkko Health Hub. Rashad can often be seen at various startup events or in and out of meetings with potential Terkko Health Hub partners.
“After the first introduction, we check if the Terkko community and the potential partner have enough to offer to each other in terms of business, expertise, promotion, etc., and if we do, we strike a partnership,” says Rashad when asked about finding the right partner companies.
Some successful partnership examples between Terkko’s startup members and its partners include – HammTek with Grandaliro, NADMED with Potter Clarkson, Veil.AI with Roche and LS CancerDiag with Quarto.legal.
“Usually, it’s hard to get a committed partner. Suppose the potential partner lacks the proper awareness of the scene. In that case, it becomes somewhat challenging to relay the value, but that’s my job at the end of the day, and I do my best to establish those long-lasting relationships that would benefit both parties,” adds Rashad.
Over the years, these partnerships have provided startups with the opportunity to engage with these established companies, validating their ideas and gaining a deeper understanding of the market. Simultaneously, corporations benefit from collaborating with startups by gaining access to new ideas and explore new solutions.
The Long Journey Ahead
Currently run by a power team of four equally enthusiastic and ambitious individuals, Terkko Health Hub continues to grow and evolve to serve its startup members better. Additionally, over the years, by reacting to the needs of startup members in developing their services and resulting in positive recommendations has led to more relevant startups approaching Terkko Health Hub.
Usha Mohanraj, Rashad Ismayilzada, Iiro Uotila and Liina Laukkanen in the Terkko Health Hub premises
Terkko Health Hub was established with a mission to facilitate the development of ideas into new businesses. “Going forward, Terkko’s future is tightly knit with the overall University of Helsinki and HUS innovation strategies, of which the former is going through major changes post 2024,” says Iiro Uotila, Terkko Health Hub’s general manager.
Terkko Health Hub is also participating in an EU consortium seeking money to develop the ecosystem. With the help of outside funding, the team seeks to strengthen and widen their operations in the future.
“Terkko Health Hub aims to be the most known brand of health and life science startup entrepreneurship in Finland and be a positive change agent in the local ecosystem towards a more entrepreneurial and startup-minded grassroots level.”, adds Iiro.
Iiro, who has studied animal physiology and development biology at the University of Helsinki, started working at Terkko Health Hub in 2021. Besides overseeing crucial things like stakeholder management, membership sales, budgeting, invoicing, hosting delegations, etc, Iiro could sometimes be seen fixing tables or broken printers or unjamming a malfunctioning shredder in the Terkko premises.
The Terkko Health Hub team indeed provides extensive support to its startup members!
Text: Usha Mohanraj
Banner design: Usha Mohanraj
Photo: Sanna Kujala and Ralf Blomqvist