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Bridge over troubled waters …

Oresund bridge

Recently, my organization was given the neat task to identify what needs to be done to increase the attractiveness and visibility of the Swedish Life Science sector. Consequently, I spent the first couple of months this year diving into the topic. A core theme being access to finance and how this sector can attract more foreign investments. Accompanied by my CEO, I started interviewing various capital market actors in Sweden.

We learnt a lot of things that I will not go into in this chronicle, but a recurring theme was how the Danes have the upper hand in this. Their big pharma companies with associated foundations and significant VC actors together form a stronger critical mass of local lead funding. This means that they can more easily attract the international VC to syndicate with. In addition, they seem to have understood the value of not only being aware of the strengths of their life science industry but also broadcasting them in a strategic way. This is something that does not seem to come as naturally to the Swedes for some reason (doesn’t everyone know already..?).

To cheer things up, we got on a train to Copenhagen, the aim being to learn some tricks from the Danes and get their perspective. Can we copy paste their success in some clever way?

Well in Denmark we got on with interviewing some Danish investors and companies, only the message was not the one we anticipated. Instead, we learnt about how the Danes enviously look across the waters to the Swedish side of Øresund and our growing public equity market, the Stockholm Stock Exchange, and the other smaller stock trading lists (“smålistorna”). We also learnt how Swedish success is being used to put pressure on decision-makers in the Danish government to facilitate the same kind of development with regard to access to finance as Sweden has, and how wealthy, high network individuals are not as prominent in the Danish capital market as in the Swedish one.

The grass is indisputably greener on the other side of the troubled waters of Øresund, no matter what shore you are on …

Luckily, there is a bridge. We just need to remember to use it. The uniquely strong Swedish public equity market is open for Danish life science companies as well as local ones, obviously. The Danish VC funds are not prohibited in any way from investing in Swedish life science companies. Still, Danish VC investors and Swedish private investors tend to stop their scouting at the border.

The extent to which the Danish and Swedish capital markets are complementary is quite remarkable, with various historical reasons lying behind the state of things. Together, they would provide for an even more solid access to funding for life science companies in both countries. The same line of reasoning expands to the Nordics, as a region. The Finns, the Norwegians and the Icelanders all push above their weight in various, complementary aspects of a vibrant life science scene.

In every endeavor, we at SwedenBIO – the Swedish life science industry organization – are reminded of the importance of acting together as one with our Nordic neighbors.

This goes for marketing internationally, as well as how to build attractiveness, an insight we share with our counterparts in the other Nordic countries. This is demonstrated among many other things by the presence of Sweden, Norway, Denmark Finland and Iceland in a joint Nordic pavilion at BIO, the world’s largest partnering event, in Philadelphia this summer, as well as the growing platform of Nordic Life Science Days.

Personally, I am looking forward to increasingly shifting my focus to work for the Nordic life science sector’s international attractivity and visibility.

As for the troubled waters of Øresund, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea – surrounding the Nordic countries – I believe we could calm them all with some (slightly altered) lyrics by Paul Simon;

Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
We are sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
We will ease your mind


Helena Strigård

Helena Strigård, Deputy Director General and VP Policy PA, SwedenBIO