ICT is one of the dominant industries in Värmland
The business sector in Värmland has built up a particular competence in testing and test strategies, based on a tradition of IT enterprise, stretching back to the success of Värmlandsdata. Värmlandsdata was established at the end of the 1960s, and had sales of SEK 400 million and 650 employees. The expertise of its employees has created spin-offs which laid the foundation for the Karlstad-based companies’ success. A large product development unit within the Ericsson Group was also based here, with 1100 employees, but it was sold and moved away in 2002. The cutting-edge expertise from these successful operations has largely remained in Värmland, and has been a major factor in the success of companies in the Region. The ICT cluster, Compare, was formed in 2002 by companies in IT, digital marketing and management. There are now around 100 cluster companies, jointly employing around 3000 people. The ICT sector has become one of the Region’s dominant industries, with strong growth and low staff turnover.
Nordic MedTest – an independent test centre for care IT
To take advantage of the local expertise in product development and testing, as described above, the idea grew for a centre for the IT sector in the Region. In 2007, Compare Testlab was established – an IT park and an independent test centre with nationwide appeal. Värmland County Council (LiV) and Compare launched a joint project to develop testing services for IT systems in the medical and healthcare sector, with the aim of increasing patient safety and improving the efficiency of the County Council’s operations. In 2012, the national centre of expertise, Nordic Medtest (NMT), grew from this test lab. With Compare, LiV, RISE Service Labs and Karlstad University (Kau) working closely together, NMT was established with the national remit of testing future IT services for county councils and municipalities. There was massive involvement from the business sector, and NMT signed framework agreements with a large number of companies for consultancy services relating to testing care IT.
NMT carries out testing and quality assurance of e-services and IT infrastructure in the health and care sectors, and provides test-related services throughout all phases of the life cycles of IT services and IT products. NMT is a player in Nordic Proof – a Nordic collaboration focusing on testbed/test environments. NMT specialises in four areas; interoperability, usability, information security and the legal and regulatory framework. At present, NMT is a subsidiary of Inera AB, and, through its corporate structure, it is publicly owned by SKL Företag AB and every county council and municipality in Sweden. Through this, it has a national quality assurance remit.
Leading-edge research at Karlstad University
At Karlstad University (Kau) there are two research groups with international reputations which have particularly high relevance. One is the services research unit, Service Research Center (CTF), which was set up in 1986 and currently carries on advanced research, with a team of 70 researchers. CTF concentrates on value-adding processes for users, perceptions of organisations’ offers, innovation and adoption of new offers, management (how the organisation administers and controls its offers) and service (eco) systems. A number of research projects involving transformative services are currently in progress at CTF, focusing on those services which lead to new value-adding experiences for individuals and organisations. The second research group is the data science unit, Computer Science (DV), which focuses on data communication, distributed systems, data security, personal privacy and software development. Kau also carries out research in caregiving, directed at experiences and interventions which aim to improve care quality, patient participation, patient satisfaction and patient safety.
The service testbed, Experio Lab
In close collaboration with CTF, RISE Service Labs was established in Karlstad, focusing on building service innovation infrastructures. Since 2012, RISE Service Labs and LiV have built an extensive operation and project portfolio in services innovation within care and health, with a wealth of experience and expertise in how R&D functions in the care and health sectors. LiV, CTF and RISE Service Labs jointly established the testbed and policy lab, Experio Lab, which is now a part of the County Council. Experio Lab executes projects and experiments with new ways of shaping care services jointly with staff, patients and relatives. In 2014, NMT and Experio Lab launched a joint project to test a new open communication channel between patients and caregivers.
Collaborating with Region Värmland on ”smart specialisation”
Working closely with Region Värmland and Compare over a number of years, Karlstad University has invested heavily in research into enabling the digitalisation of health services. In 2015/16, Compare executed the pilot project, Nordic Digital Health Center (NDHC) – ”a testbed in reality”, jointly with Värmland County Council, the Municipality of Karlstad and Kau. In total, eleven cases were run with the intention of verifying problem areas, as well as testing and designing methodologies in preparation for a major development project. NDHC proved to be an important source of knowledge of companies’ needs and the problems experienced. It formed the basis for DigitalWell, with SEK 45 million now invested in an initiative which will also lay the foundation for a future centre of expertise.
Ideal conditions for interlinking ICT, design and welfare
DigitalWell starts from established cooperation, which developed both from a long history of IT entrepreneurship and from dedicated specialisation in services innovation based on the work of CTF. This provides ideal conditions for success in interlinking ICT with services innovation in health through the particular expertise in product development, testing and test strategies within the IT sector in combination with world-leading research in services innovation and user experience, along with the public sector’s experience in working with services design and user involvement. Taken together, a bank of expertise has been created which includes in-depth research, the establishment of structures and practical experience of services design projects in realistic operational environments. The County Council’s long-term strategic plan provides an excellent seedbed for innovation created in partnership with ICT companies and researchers. In addition, working closely with Region Värmland over a number of years, Karlstad University has invested heavily in research into enabling the digitalisation of health services. These efforts have built up unique expertise in data security, software quality and mobile communications.