Helsinki Brain & Mind, a new neuroscience hub, awarded ERDF funding

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The European Regional Development Fund has awarded €500,000 to the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Helsinki University Hospital for the development of a research, competence and innovation hub in neuroscience.

The Helsinki Network Brain & Mind project aims to establish a network-like hub called Helsinki Brain & Mind (HB&M) in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area to promote cooperation between basic and clinical research in neuroscience, research and development focused on neurotechnology as well as relevant commercialisation efforts. The goal is to design platforms and tools for the increasingly effective utilisation of research findings and patient data.

The hub operates in collaboration with the Neurocenter Finland project coordinated by the University of Eastern Finland, with the Helsinki Metropolitan Area hub eventually serving as a regional node for the established centre.

For a long time, the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, the Helsinki University Hospital and government research institutes have been investing in the development of neuroscience research and related infrastructure.

“Research in neuroscience and neurotechnology conducted in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area is diverse and of a very high standard. Combined with the homogeneous Finnish population and the extensive data reservoir of the Helsinki University Hospital, there is enormous potential for scientific breakthroughs and innovations that can be turned into better patient care and new business activity,” says Jari Koistinaho, director of the Neuroscience Center, University of Helsinki.

“Helsinki Brain & Mind will open doors to the development of domestic medical and hospital technology, while attracting international investors to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area,” Koistinaho adds.

Increasing need to understand brain function

Project Manager Anne Patana from the University of Helsinki points out that neurological and psychiatric brain diseases cause expenditures of more than €10 billion in Finland each year.

“As the population ages, we need new preventative measures, earlier and increasingly accurate diagnostics as well as more effective treatments and rehabilitation methods. The accelerating pace of technological advances and the rapid transformation of professional life require the continuous improvement of knowledge pertaining to brain function,” Patana notes.

On the other hand, the development of neurotechnology also requires improved understanding and modelling of brain function, which is why cooperation between Aalto University, the University of Helsinki and the hospital is essential.

“Brain research has clear links to, among others, phenomenon-based learning, digitalisation, the aging of the population and mental health. Now more than ever, the field requires multidisciplinary cooperation and new kinds of approaches,” Patana explains.

ERDF funding was awarded to the Helsinki Network Brain & Mind project for the term 1 September 2019-31 December 2021. The funding is coordinated by the Neuroscience Center of the University of Helsinki as part of the Grand Challenge programme of the Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE).

The goal of the European Regional Development Fund is to promote employment, as well as improve the competitiveness and vitality of regions. In southern Finland, the funding is coordinated by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council.

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