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Column: Shift Happens!

Søren Bregenholt

Medicon Valley, the coalition of the willing and a renaissance for Nordic collaboration?

When tectonic plates shift, landscapes changes and mountain and valleys are created. Politically the tectonic plates in the Nordics are shifting dramatically with Finland and Sweden opting for NATO-membership as a direct consequence of the war in Ukraine and the fear of Russian aggression.

For Sweden it’s a historic goodbye to a tradition of more than 200 years of neutrality and non-alignment. When discussing defense and security in the Baltic Sea a few weeks ago the message from Tobias Billström, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, to his Danish counterpart, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, was that far more and more intense SE-DA collaboration is needed. In return the Danish Minster stated that “Nordic collaboration had moved to the very top of the political agenda and the way to handle a more aggressive Russia is a revitalized collaboration with among others Sweden”. Bertel Haarder, former Danish Minister and 2021 President of the Nordic Council, took it a bit further and recently called for a “Renaissance of Nordic collaboration”.

In a globalized world defense and security are traditionally at the top of the political agenda, whereas topics research, innovation, energy and business rank somewhat lower – however in a modern world these topics become increasingly interconnected. In an increasingly uncertain world making the economies and societies more robust has become even more important than before, thus, it would make perfect sense to have a closer look at life science as it has proved to be a strategic and crisis-robust industry as lately demonstrated during the COVID-pandemic.

“300 new life science companies have been founded over the past five years – that’s more than one new company per week. 12,000 new regional jobs were created in the past five years by Medicon Valley-based life science companies and the regional life science industry now employs more than 65,000.”

The facts on the ground – the quality, quantity and future potential of Danish and Swedish life science – has been documented recently in numerous reports. Life science companies are investing more than 45 billion DKK in expanding their production plants, research facilities, and/or offices and domiciles regionally. 300 new life science companies have been founded over the past five years – that’s more than one new company per week. 12,000 new regional jobs were created in the past five years by Medicon Valley-based life science companies and the regional life science industry now employs more than 65,000.

Although Medicon Valley is the largest life science region in the Nordics, with Stockholm-Uppsala as a strong second, a renaissance focusing on Nordic life science specifically should also preferably include the somewhat smaller but rapidly growing life science hot spots in both Norway and Finland. As Sweden and Denmark are the leading pack in the Nordics, the two countries should be in the driving seat and work together to strengthen, coordinate and collaborate to make life science a key element in any effort to consolidate our Nordic economies and societies in general to the benefit of patients and citizens alike. Both countries have recently implemented national life science strategies with a competitive as opposed to a more collaborative DA-SE or Nordic mindset, and neither even mention the existence of their joint life science cluster, which based on the number of industry employees is the largest in the EU. Perhaps this is because the cluster has historically been built bottom-up by universities, regional authorities and industry – the coalition of the willing – and not top down by national governments.

“This could be the dawn of a new DA-SE, and potentially Nordic, partnership covering both military and civilian aspects such as life science and reigniting the mutual curiosity among the Nordic countries and populations, which is already part of Medicon Valley’s DNA.”

As with the tectonic plates – shift happens – and new governments are now in place in both countries. This could be the dawn of a new DA-SE, and potentially Nordic, partnership covering both military and civilian aspects such as life science and reigniting the mutual curiosity among the Nordic countries and populations, which is already part of Medicon Valley’s DNA.

Text by Søren Bregenholt, Chairman, Medicon Valley Alliance

This column was originally written for NLS magazine No 01 2023, March 2023

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