Redhot sports innovations pioneered in Oulu

Blogikirjoitus  •  2012-02-14 11:46 EET

By Eeva Kiuru, Oulu Wellness Institute

Trainer4You, FAM Sports, Polar, Viherio, Liikku, Valkee …. Oulu-based companies have been steadily building wellness and sports related business success for years. The sports fanatic northern city has inspired many innovators.

The trail-blazer in many ways has been Polar Electro, whose world-leading heart rate measurement technology has been used already for over 30 years for improving sports performance and fitness all over the world. Polar is a role model for many other aspiring sports innovators in the north.

Some examples of the new breed of sports innovations include FAM Sports, whose product helps you optimize training effect and recovery and avoid overtraining. There’s also Ball-IT’s Blobo game, which improves children’s health with an activity game concept.

Viherio transforms and tracks your golfing experience. What about Valkee, whose bright light headset is claimed not only to combat mood swings during dark winter but also improve motoric reaction performance of the National League hockey team Oulun Kärpät.

Oulu is also a homebase for many fascinating service innovations for sports and wellness. Trainer4You has pioneered and transformed the way personal trainers are trained. Hukka is among the world’s top 10 group fitness facilities. HealthEx has revolutionized the health club concept around 30 minutes time slot. Liikku is a unique health club innovation offering affordable, high quality exercise experience.

All these businesses are great examples of making it easy for people to make exercise an important part of a healthy daily life. All these innovations have a major impact on improving the health and wellness of people.

But what is the secret sauce for creating sports innovations in such high volumes in our northern community?

There are several ingredients involved. 

First of all you need to have a committed, stubborn, individual person, the entrepreneur who has the passion with her team to take the idea forward, execute all the way to the global marketplace.

Second, you need a business idea, which really addresses a burning need or solves a real problem in a totally unique way.

All this grows from a strong community of like-minded innovative and little bit crazy people who truly enjoy creating new stuff and most importantly come from different fields of life.

Who are the people in this community?

They are the scientists who provide you with ground-breaking, double-blinded, scientific evidence. They are the people with money to get your development funded. They are behavior experts who tell you the tricks how to change people’s habits. They are also the potential customers, people who do sports for so many different reasons, or the local coaches who are building their teams to win the series. They are also partners who design, test, productize, manufacture, market and sell your sports and wellness products.

All in all, to create a successful sports innovation, what you need is a sports innovation ecosystem. I believe Oulu has managed to create such an ecosystem. You don’t have to have all the capabilities within your own company anymore. You can instead network to the vast local and worldwide community of service providers to boost your research and accelerate your product development and commercialization efforts. Today it is truly possible even for a small startup in a far-away Northern city, to build a successful global business.

Oulu Wellness Institute (OWI) has been building the community around health, wellness and sports business for five years. OWI is a non-profit foundation aiming to promote and develop the health and wellbeing cluster. We support companies and other actors in the field by creating networks and partnerships, promoting research and education, evaluating business ideas and helping with commercializing the world-class competence. During the five past years, we have arranged several events on health and wellness entrepreneurship, coached over 250 companies and built an active health, wellness and sports industry community in the Oulu area.

OWI is part of OSKE Health and Well-being Cluster Programme which is funded by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the city of Oulu.

Are you building a revolutionary sports or wellness product? Are you looking for partners, developers, marketers, clients, international contacts, funding? Welcome to the OWI community on Facebook and join others in our events. 

This article was first published in FootCoop 2012 Sports Business Seminar magazine in Oulu, Boden (Sweden) and Alta (Norway).

FootCoop sports business conference in Oulu 17 Feb, 2012. http://www.eventilla.com/footcoop2012

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