Nucu CEO Juha Hannula is a father, engineer and inventor. Like many great inventions, the Nucu Pad is the result of an unexpected adversity turned into an opportunity.
The journey towards the Nucu Pad began after Juha and his wife had twin babies in early 2013.
Helping hand at the NICU
The twins were born prematurely and admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Oulu University Hospital, one of the leading hospitals in Finland.
“There were four incubators in the room. The twins were relatively big compared to some of the other preemies,” Juha says. After a few weeks, the twins were ready to go home. By that time, the NICU environment had left a mark on Juha. It was a strange combination of human warmth and cold technology.
“I remember this one little one, weighing less than a kilogram (about 2 pounds) all wired up. The nurse had placed a leather hand mock-up in the incubator to give comfort to the baby.”
“As a father, it looked great – any comfort was better than none. But as an engineer I couldn’t help but think that it lacked the feeling of togetherness. That it was a prototype that could be made a lot better.”
Life with twins
After coming home from the hospital, the first six months were a blur. Then Juha’s previously happy and serene twin boy became moody and agitated.
“He would get cranky, and the only way to calm him was to hold him in your arms,” Juha says.
At that time, the baby started a habit that would go on for two more years: he would grab a hold of your wrist and hold on tight. Mom, dad, grandma… Whoever was holding him, he would calm down as long as he had that connection.
“That’s when I started wondering,” Juha says. “Could it be that he was looking for that familiar sense of human contact that he missed while in the incubator?”
Inspired by the calming effect of touch, Juha looked into the science behind multisensory stimulation, development and the importance of being present.
First prototypes in the garage
Convinced that he had stumbled upon something that could help millions of families all over the world, Juha started designing the first prototypes.
“I wanted it to be safe, portable and effective”, Juha says. “After some research and inspiration from others, I built a prototype of the Nucu Pad in the garage. The idea was to bring a little of the multisensory feelscape of the womb into the Nucu Pad.”
Around the same time, the Oulu University Hospital had kicked off a project, OYS Testlab, that connected local businesses with the hospital environment to foster new innovations.
The first-generation Nucu Pad.
Juha took the prototypes and approached the head of the NICU at Oulu University Hospital. He placed a hand on the pad, felt the sound, the vibrations and the heartbeat and was convinced that Juha should start developing a solution for the NICU.
Nucu now: from the NICU to families
It’s been almost a decade since the twins were born. They’ve grown but still sometimes ask their father to bring out the familiar pad.
The idea for the Nucu Pad has grown. With patents, research, design, engineering… Nucu Oy was founded in 2016 and has helped over a hundred preemies in multiple pilot projects with the Oulu University Hospital. Also the team has started to grow.
Early members of the Nucu team.
In the early 2020's, the Nucu Pad started the journey towards families outside the NICU environment. Designed for newborns, it helps soothe the baby to sleep with familiar womb-like feelscapes. The first-generation Nucu Pad is used mainly in scientific collaborations, studies and focus groups.
“The feedback we’ve got from families and nurses has been overwhelmingly positive. Every family we can help feel closer together, makes the journey worthwhile.”
Nucu in a nutshell
- A Finnish wellness company founded in 2016
- CEO: Juha Hannula
- The Nucu Pad: a multisensory sleep pad for babies
The Nucu Pad is not a medical device. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition.