AbleOn Medical receiving the main price from Dagfinn Høybråten, Clara Lindblom, Marianne Borgen and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway.

Nordic Independent Living Challenge


The Nordic Independent Living Challenge was run by Nordic Innovation in a unique partnerships with the five Nordic capitals – Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Reykjavík and Stockholm – running in 2015 and 2016.

Through this challenge prize competition, we wanted to provide new solutions to the elderly and people with disabilities in order to make it possible for them to live independently in their own home.

The competition activated more than 400 innovators from the Nordic region. After a multi-stage development process, including matchmaking and business development programs, the competition were narrowed down to 25 talented semi-finalist teams. In the end, five finalists were competing for three prizes at an awards ceremony in Oslo in June 2016.

Through the Nordic Independent Living Challenge, Nordic Innovation and the five Nordic capital cities helped develop a large number of new solutions. Among the 25 semi-finalist teams, several of them have developed into highly successful companies with global operations, including:



Siren Care

Ilya Pharma



Award ceremony

We congratulate main prize winners AbleOn Medical, cross-Nordic collaboration prize winner AssiStep and student prize winner Siren Care, and everyone else who have participated in the Nordic Independent Living Challenge.

The prizes were awarded by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway at an award ceremony at Oslo City Hall in June 2016.

You can watch a video with highlights from the awards ceremony below:

Check out the highlights from the awards ceremony in Oslo.

Competition overview

The challenge

The Nordic population is ageing, and the demand for innovative solutions and technologies for the elderly and disabled is increasing.
Today, elderly people represent 25% of the entire Nordic adult population. This number will rise to more than 40% in 2030 and 45 % in 2050. At the same time, between 13 and 21% of the Nordic adult population report that they have some kind of disability.
This means there will soon be a dramatic increase of people in need of solutions that can increase their quality of life and help them be able to keep living independently.​ 
Through this competition, we wanted to provide new solutions to the elderly and people with disabilities in order to make it possible for them to live independently in their own home.
We wanted to enhance participation and social inclusion. We wanted to support the feeling of dignity and capability of individuals. We wanted to create flexible solutions for people with physical and cognitive challenges.
At the same time, we wanted to make the job easier and more efficient for care professionals, and to support and help relatives.

The competition

The five Nordic capitals created the Nordic Independent Living Challenge in collaboration with Nordic Innovation. By launching this competition together, we wanted to boost innovation and collaboration in the welfare technology industry – and help develop a common Nordic market for health and welfare solutions.
The Nordic Independent Living Challenge was open for everyone in the Nordic region – from established welfare solution providers to students and startups. We also encouraged elderly and disabled with an innovative spirit to sign up.
The main prize was NOK 1 million. In addition, there was a NOK 200.000 cross-Nordic collaboration award and a NOK 100.000 student award.
For teams to be eligible for the student award, they had to fulfill the following criteria:

  • The students must have a considerable role in the project
  • The students must have been part of a project from the beginning and/or must have been present at the matchmaking meeting in Copenhagen 4 and 5 May

 The competition was run in four stages:


The competition was launched 5 February 2015. Participants was invited to send in their solution or idea before 18 March 2015. Of the solutions received, 75 were chosen by the Nordic jury to proceed to stage two of the competition.


The teams behind the 75 solutions selected to proceed to stage two of the competition were invited to a matchmaking event in Copenhagen 4 and 5 May 2015. Here they were given tools to further develop their solution and dig deeper into specific user needs, design and usability. They also got the opportunity to interact and team up with other applicants from across the Nordic region.


After the Nordic matchmaking event, the 75 teams were invited to submit a new application. New people could be added to the team at this stage, but at least one partner that has been part of the competition from the start had to be included. Out of these applications, 25 proposals were invited to the next stage of the competition where they received mentoring and support to develop the concepts further, including business plans and preparation for testing on real users.


Five finalists proceeded to test their solution in the Nordic capitals. They were asked to make a plan for implementation and the estimated impact on end users. The finalists received financial support of NOK 300.000 to cover expenses. By the end of this stage, the winners of the three prizes were announced at an award ceremony at Oslo City Hall.

The jury

During the competition, an independent Nordic jury supported with administrative functions from Nordic Innovation was appointed to judge the teams throughout the competition. The jury had members with complementary knowledge, experience and expertise within the content area of the challenge, including technology and business development and consisted of the following persons:


Gunn Ovesen
Former director of Innovation Norway.

Gunn Ovesen graduated as civil engineer at Norges tekniske høgskole (NTH). In 2008 she was rated the 17th most powerful woman in Norway by financial paper Kapital. As the director of Innovation Norway, Ovesen has worked systematically to promote commercial and economically profitable development throughout the country. Her focus has been on triggering districts and regions' economies through contributing to innovation, internationalisation and promotion. She also put a considerable effort into restructuring the innovation agency during her time as director.

Onny Eikhaug
Programme leader at the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture.

Eikhaug is responsible for promoting the Centre's activities in the fields of people-centred design and Design for all. She works with introducing the Design for all programme as an effective business tool for innovation. She is committed to sustainable people-centred design, and aims to demonstrate the potential of this approach. Eikshaug writes, publishes, and lectures both in Norway and internationally, and works closely with designers, education institutions, industry and government using projects and other knowledge transfer mechanisms to achieve this.


Eva Frunk Lind
Former director of the elderly services administration in the City of Stockholm.

Lind has 30 years of experience as health and medical director in Stockholm County Council, and has worked as HR director in the City of Stockholm for 10 years. 1 April 2015 she will retire as director of the elderly services administration.

Johanna Ulfvarson
Programme manager in the Life Science Department, Health Division at Vinnova.

Ulfvarson is the national contact person for the EU program AAL in Sweden and works with welfare technology and healthcare issues for elderly. She has extensive experience as a clinically active nurse before joining Vinnova.Ulfvarson also har experience from research in nursing and clinical pharmacology. She has also worked as a clinical associate professor at Karolinska Institute.


Thor Thorarinsson
Senior Social Care Advisor in the Department of Welfare Services, Ministry of Welfare, Iceland.

Thorarinsson has extensive experience in the various fields of welfare services through 30 years of work. He and his team were twice commended by the state for outstanding work in the field of services for the disabled and has been awarded the Icelandic Quality Award. One of Thorarinsson's main tasks has been putting together Icelandic policies and strategies in a wide range of areas like family and welfare policies, strategies for people with disabilities, personal assistance services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, deaf people, as well as people with learning impairments and blindness. He is also an adjunct at the Faculty of Social Studies at the University of Iceland.


Nanna Skriver
Manager of the Center for Caring under the Health and Care Administration in Copenhagen municipality.

Skriver previously worked as area manager in the municipality of Copenhagen and was project manager in the municipality's ethical council.

Christian Bason
Chief Executive at Danish Design Centre (DDC).

Prior to joining DDC, Christian Bason has headed MindLab, a cross-governmental innovation lab, as well as the public organisation practice of Rambøll Management. Bason is also a university lecturer, and has held presentations for and advised governments around the world. He is a regular columnist and the author of five books on leadership, innovation and design. He holds a M.Sc. in political science from Aarhus University, has studied at Harvard Business School and the Wharton School, and is a doctoral fellow at Copenhagen Business School.


Arja Peiponen
Service district director in the Helsinki City Department of Social Services and Health Care.

Peiponen has extensive experience in the field of elderly care, and was previously the director of the Social Services Department of the City of Helsinki in the field of elderly care.  Peiponen is an active part of the European Network for Social Authorities (ENSA) where she has been a member a working group named "Elderly" since 1998.  She is also a member of the National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics (ETENE), and a specialist at the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (VALVIRA). Due to her vast experience in the field, Peiponen has also contributed to several research projects within elderly care.

Christian Lindholm
CEO of Korulab, Co-founder of the Vertical Health Accelerator.

Lindholm is co-founder of Korulab, a wearables startup. He is also head of Innovation at Vertical, the health accelerator, and one of the founders of HealthSPA, a cluster with more than 200 health, wellness and wearables startups. He is chairman at Aalto University's Service Factory's Business Advisory Board, and guest lecturer on innovation, service strategy and design. Lindholm has a background as an innovation officer for Fjord, helping the company grow into one of the global service innovation powerhouses, growing from 28 people in two offices to 200 in 8 offices. Accenture acquired Fjord in May 2013. Previously he headed Yahoo's mobile team and was responsible for User Experience at Nokia mobile phones.

Who were we helping?

The competition's challenge was characterised by a number of user needs that can be addressed through the development of products, technology and services. The design drivers for the primary target groups, the frail elderly and people with disabilities, can be summarised as:

  • Moving around
  • Staying in touch
  • Maintaining an active mind
  • Using technology
  • Finding the way
  • Staying in shape
  • Customising solutions

The caretakers and relatives were seen as secondary target groups. The design drivers are:

  • Handling information and communication
  • Building and maintaining relationships
  • Improving working environment

To inspire the participants, we did several etnographic interviews with frail elderly, disabled and care professionals in the five capitals to understand what independent living means for them. Based on their feedback, we singled out 10 different themes personalised into 10 different fictional personas. All the themes have a set of what we call “design drivers” – drivers that can help inspire your design for a new technology or solution. You can download a collection of the 10 personas in the Resources section below.

Watch some of the ethnographic interviews that formed the basis for the personas created in the competition. Video: Hellon