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Senator Spilka Joins Senate President on Trade Mission to Finland

April 22, 2011

Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, was selected by Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) to join a recently-returned bipartisan trade mission to Finland. The mission was designed to open European business markets, expand opportunities for Massachusetts companies, and promote the Commonwealth as the portal for health care technology and life sciences in the United States.

The mission was also designed to improve avenues for Massachusetts companies to tap into European Union research and development funding, after a memorandum of understanding was signed between federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to open funding to US companies last year.

The Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council announced during the trip that it was preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Finnish Medical Device Association that would foster collaboration between Bay State and Finnish firms.

“I firmly believe that this partnership with Finland and Finnish companies represents a tremendous opportunity for job growth here, in Massachusetts’ life sciences, health care, and early-stage research companies,” stated Senator Spilka. “As so many of the companies in those industries are located in my district, I look forward to seeing the fruitful results of our collaboration. I applaud Senate President Murray for being proactive in developing these relationships with Finnish businesses and researchers. Through these partnerships, Massachusetts will be in a fantastic position to capitalize on the investments that the European Union wants to make in these areas.”

“This was a way to make connections and forge relationships on an international level,” President Murray said. “Massachusetts is seen as a worldwide leader in electronic health initiatives, life sciences and research. We need to keep ourselves out front, increase our profile, and tap into new markets and investment opportunities that will help our businesses and organizations grow and create jobs.”

The Massachusetts delegation also included Senator Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), the assistant minority leader, and representatives from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the University of Massachusetts, and various doctors, researches, industry leaders and locally established companies, such as Boston Scientific and Amgen.

Over a three-day period, Senator Spilka participated in all-day meetings on topics ranging from technical research and economic development opportunities to electronic health care systems and molecular medicine. Sessions and meetings included Finnish government officials, university representatives, scientists and companies such as Nokia.

The efforts compliment Senate-led initiatives last year that resulted in passage of two important pieces of legislation – the economic development bill, authored by Senator Spilka and the Senate President, and the small business health insurance relief bill – which will reduce health costs for Massachusetts small businesses, and consolidate and re-focus state agencies dedicated to helping local companies grow in the Commonwealth.

“This trade mission is the kind of effort we need to make in addition to what we’re doing on the ground in Massachusetts,” President Murray said. “If we are able to open a door to a different market for our companies, that makes the economic development and business foundation of Massachusetts even stronger. If we don’t act on these opportunities, someone else will.”

The trade mission is the result of Finland’s recent participation in NIMAC (Northern Ireland Massachusetts Connection), a group focused on promoting e-health, telehealth, and life sciences. NIMAC was formed with the mission of making Massachusetts the portal to the United States for European health care technology and life science companies.

NIMAC is also working on ways to promote international education and research opportunities that will benefit the development of new technologies and new practices which could help drive down the cost of health care and expand the cutting edge research in Massachusetts, Northern Ireland and beyond.

Senator Spilka does not use state money for travel.

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