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And the future looks even brighter!

Søren Bregenholt

Life science is booming in the Nordics, and although Denmark and Sweden are by far the leading life science nations of the region, the biotech sector in both Finland and Norway are accelerating and contributing to the idea of the Nordics as a life science powerhouse.

All the Nordic countries are among the top-20 over-all innovation leaders according to the Global Innovation Index 2021 with Sweden ranked 2nd, Finland ranked 7th, Denmark ranked 9th and Norway ranked 20th. Recognizing not only the growing importance of life science but also the potential for better healthcare, increased growth, innovation, and job creation, both Denmark and Sweden have recently developed and adopted ambitious national life science strategies.

This is a step in the right direction! Unfortunately, both strategies are distinctively national and lack both the coherent and coordinated common Nordic framework and a specific regional dimension, which could take them from good to great. The two strategies have been developed in parallel, but uncoordinated, and as such, no common vision about how to position and leverage the Nordics on the global life science map has been developed.

The bi-national Danish-Swedish life science cluster, Medicon Valley, consisting of Eastern Denmark and the Danish Capital Region and the Swedish Region Skåne, is barely mentioned in the national strategies, although it is not only the leading life science cluster of the Nordics, but also one of the absolutely top life science clusters within the EU. More than 50,000 are employed in the private life science companies in the region, that spans the entire value chain from technology development and drug discovery all the way to commercial manufacturing.

“With just a little help from the governments in Denmark and Sweden this region – along with the Stockholm-Uppsala region – could be the tip of the spear in a coherent regional, national, and Nordic life science strategy putting the Nordics on the global map and positioning the Nordics as an even more attractive life science destination.”

The life science companies benefit from the location of both the University of Copenhagen, Lund University, Malmö University and the Technical University of Denmark and top-notch research facilities such as the synchrotron radiation facility, MAX IV in Lund and the next-door neighbor, European Spallation, with the ESS Data Management and Software Centre (DMSC) is located in Copenhagen currently under construction. With just a little help from the governments in Denmark and Sweden this region – along with the Stockholm-Uppsala region – could be the tip of the spear in a coherent regional, national, and Nordic life science strategy putting the Nordics on the global map and positioning the Nordics as an even more attractive life science destination.

“The Danish-Swedish life science cluster organization, Medicon Valley Alliance, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.”

The Danish-Swedish life science cluster organization, Medicon Valley Alliance, which I chair with my Swedish vice chairman, Ulf G. Andersson, CEO of the Medeon Science Park in Malmö, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Looking back, the development in the region has been nothing less than extraordinary, and the future looks even brighter.

Currently billions are invested in new manufacturing plants, offices and research facilities and the foundation is laid for future growth. More than half of Medicon Valley’s 32 companies with 250+ employees are expanding. Novo Nordisk, Fujifilm, Novozymes, AGC Biologics, Genmab, Chr. Hansen, Ferring, Polypeptide and McNeil are just some of the companies that plan investments or have already invested substantially in new plants and facilities. This expansion is expected to lead to even more people commuting between Denmark and Sweden such as I do, living in Denmark and working for a Swedish biotech company in Lund.

Let’s not rest on our laurels but continue to invest in an even brighter future. Let’s put national differences aside, join forces and realize the full potential of Medicon Valley and Danish-Swedish life science. Let’s define a coherent and joint Nordic life science strategy positioning the Nordics on the global life science map and helping to attract the global talent needed to fuel the growth and innovation engine.

Then maybe, despite 25 booming years, the best is still to come!

By Søren Bregenholt, Chairman, Medicon Valley Alliance