Oulu University in Finland is set to launch a one-of-a-kind postdoctoral program aimed at training experts in the field of healthcare-related big data. The initiative will train 25 internationally recruited postdoctoral researchers to become future specialists in the healthcare data sector. This ambitious project has secured a substantial €3.6 million funding from the European Union.

With the rapid technological advancements, there is a vast amount of healthcare data being produced. However, there's a glaring shortage of professionals skilled in handling, transferring, and applying this data. This deficit is felt across the board from healthcare systems and the private sector to academic research. "The aim of the program is to bridge these gaps in expertise," explained Professor Johannes Kettunen, the Scientific Director of Biocenter Oulu at Oulu University's Population Health Research Unit.

The training will span over three years, immersing participants in big data-utilizing research groups at Oulu University, spanning medicine, health, and biosciences. In addition, the program will foster collaboration with related businesses and organizations in the field. This approach aims to ensure that new knowledge and skills are put to optimal and rapid use.

"Experts trained in different environments will comprehensively fill expertise needs across various societal sectors," Kettunen added.

Scheduled to commence at the beginning of 2024, the program will run for five years. Alongside Oulu University, other participating entities include Pohde, the Institute for Health and Welfare, the city of Oulu, and various health sector companies.

Named the Data4Healthcare program, its funding comes from the highly competitive EU Horizon Europe Framework's Marie-Sklodowska-Curie-Action-COFUND. The EU will cover 51% of the costs, with Oulu University shouldering the remaining 49%. The program's coordination responsibilities lie with Biocenter Oulu.

Notably, this is the first such funding received by Oulu University for a postdoctoral program. Previously, doctoral training programs, I4Future and I4World, had been recipients of similar funding.

"This training program, designed for doctoral researchers, is unique in content and theme on a European scale. The program leverages Oulu's OuluHealth ecosystem and will now enrich it by producing more expertise for regional stakeholders," Kettunen emphasized.