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A Nordic and neighbor-friendly life science strategy

Life science innovation is dynamic by definition. This is the reason why any national life science strategy needs to be updated on a regular basis. When some challenges have been addressed, new challenges emerge, and priorities shift as circumstances change and new lessons are learned.

In April the new Danish coalition government formally kicked-off the update of the national Danish life Science strategy from 2021, which was an update of the first ever national Danish life science strategy from 2018. The fact that both the Minister of Health, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Higher Education and Science and the Minister or Industry, Business and Financial Affairs are involved testifies to the strategic significance of life science in Denmark. So does the figure of 175.000.000.000 DKK, which is the 2022 export earnings, which can be attributed to Danish life science.

To me a key element of the coming life science strategy is to focus on a strong ecosystem for innovation and thereby growth – and to strengthen Denmark and Sweden from a competitive perspective.”

Focus is on among other things health data, talent attraction and development, and substantial investments in more proactive healthcare/life science diplomacy. A key element is to make sure that public and private stakeholders – for instance diplomats and life science industry representatives – work coordinately and hand- in-hand when promoting life science abroad. To me a key element of the coming life science strategy is to focus on a strong ecosystem for innovation and thereby growth – and to strengthen Denmark and Sweden from a competitive perspective. MVA would like to contribute with examples of innovation and growth by cross-border interactions in the Medicon Valley.

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I hope that this time will be different, and that a more collaborative and holistic Nordic approach will be adopted, when and where we can work together and present our two countries’ life science selling-points in a way where the result would be greater than the sum of its national parts.”

Previously the national life science strategies in Denmark and Sweden – the two leading life science nations in the Nordics – have developed in parallel and with no visible coordination. I hope that this time will be different, and that a more collaborative and holistic Nordic approach will be adopted, when and where we can work together and present our two countries’ life science selling-points in a way where the result would be greater than the sum of its national parts.

Speaking about life science diplomacy, are there for instance international events and conferences, where it would make more sense to have a Danish-Swedish or even Nordic pavilion than two, three or more national pavilions? Would it make sense to investigate and coordinate if joint delegations would make a bigger and better impact than individual national delegations? All to position the Nordics as an attractive geography to place innovative companies based on availability of competencies and a strong research environment that attracts the best talents in Europe and globally.

Would it for instance make sense to join forces nationally and help promote initiatives such as the HALRIC-project, which aims to engage industrial and clinical researchers in the unique life science research infrastructures in our regions?”

Would it for instance make sense to join forces nationally and help promote initiatives such as the HALRIC-project, which aims to engage industrial and clinical researchers in the unique life science research infrastructures in our regions? Just looking at the Swedish and Danish project partners Lund University (project lead), MAX IV, ESS, Malmö University, Skåne University Hospital, Region Skåne, Medicon Village, University of Copenhagen, Technical University of Denmark, Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark, Rigshospitalet, Region Hovedstaden, Medicon Valley Alliance (project facilitation) indicates to me that this might be the case, but such joint projects often fly under the radar in national strategies.

Hopefully the next update of the life science strategy will reflect a more open-minded, Nordic and neighbor-friendly national Danish mindset.”

Similarly, the upcoming Nordic Life Science Days – the largest life science partnering conference in the Nordics – traditionally located in Stockholm or Malmø, but this year trying out Bella Center in Copenhagen, presents itself as a low-hanging fruit and an obvious opportunity to showcase Danish, Swedish and Nordic life science innovation to the outside world. Yet, no such coordination has apparently taken place and a forum such as this, although quite unique and obvious from our bottom-up perspective, does not yet seem to have attracted the attention of the decisions-makers drafting either the Danish or the Swedish life science strategies.

Fortunately, there is still time, and hopefully the next update of the life science strategy will reflect a more open-minded, Nordic and neighbor-friendly national Danish mindset.

This column was originally written by Niels Abel Bonde, Chairman, Medicon Valley Alliance, for NLS magazine No 02 2023, out May 2023

Photo of Niels Abel Bonde: Ida Wang

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