Nordic Life Science must not rest on its laurels

As illustrated by the all-time high international participation at this year´s Nordic Life Science Days conference in the Swedish city of Malmö this autumn, the Nordics has become a life science hotspot attracting investors, talent, and companies from all over the world.
Anette Steenberg, CEO of Medicon Valley Alliance

Nowhere, is this positive development more visible than in the Medicon Valley – the cross-border region covering eastern Denmark and southern Sweden. Medicon Valley has undergone a tremendous development over the last 25 years and has firmly established itself as not only the leading life science cluster of the Nordics but also the largest life science region in the European Union. 

There are many reasons for this positive development. Key foundations such as The Novo Nordisk Foundation, Mats Paulsson´s Foundations and Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation have invested heavily in Danish and Swedish life science. We have experienced an increasing political awareness and interest in the life science sector due to the positive contributions to patients and to society via good jobs and remarkable exports and tax revenues, all resulting in ambitious national life science strategies.  Moreover, there has been public investment in research facilities such as MAX IV and European Spallation Source in Region Skåne, which will also benefit the life science industry. Furthermore, there has been a boom in new innovative life science start-ups in both Lund, Malmö and Copenhagen spinning out from the successful incubators and accelerators such as the Danish BioInnovation Institute and Swedish SmiLe incubator in Lund. We have also seen massive private investments in life science manufacturing, DKK 45 bn over the past couple of years. 

At Medicon Valley, we have actively worked to strengthen the Danish-Swedish collaboration within strategic existing and future R&D stronghold projects within infertility, diabetes, and microbiome related R&D, strengthened our professional network and we have seen a growing awareness and interest in the life science cluster in Medicon Valley from international investors and talent. 

Today a total of around 65,500 people works in the more than 1,200 private life science companies in our bi-national region and in the last five years alone 12,000 news jobs have been created and about 300 new companies have been established. Finally, The Nordics are not just amongst the happiest nations in the world, we are also ranked in the very top as most Innovative countries in Europe (1. Sweden, 2. Finland, 3. Denmark (European Innovation Scoreboard). From my chair as CEO of the Danish-Swedish life science cluster organization, Medicon Valley Alliance, there is reason for considerable optimism when we officially celebrate our 25th anniversary this. But we must not rest on our laurels! 

When we dig a little deeper it becomes clear, however, that other European life science regions in for instance UK and Switzerland are ahead of us in key areas and that other European centres of academic excellence are continuously challenging our position. Furthermore, the “life science race” is not just a European race. The competition for talent, academic and regulatory excellence, innovation, manufacturing technology etc. is global and we need to secure attractive frame work conditions for research and development and actively position ourselves among the growing number of existing and emerging global life science hot spots in US and Asia.

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