An old train station area just north of the Stockholm city center is being developed into a unique ecosystem for life science researchers and businesses.
The new city neighborhood of Hagastaden, due to be finalized 2030, extends the inner city of Stockholm and integrates Stockholm with Solna. The 96 hectare-large area spans all the way from Vasastan and Norra Stationsgatan to Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet.
The area encompasses several historical industrial buildings, witness to a bygone era, including the Apotekarnes mineral water factory from the 1930s, Volvo Personvagnar’s previous PV-building facilities and classical customs houses from 1733. Haga Park, part of the Royal National City Park that was Swedish songwriter, composer, musician, poet and entertainer Carl Michael Bellman’s favorite park, is also located here. Among these historical landmarks, from 2010 onwards, a new modern district has developed, with a distinct life science focus as one of its greatest features.
Realizing Vision 2025
Hagastaden has a unique location with proximity to several world-renowned universities and institutions including Karolinska Institutet, the Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm (KTH) and Stockholm University. Approximately 25 years ago, this gave rise to the idea that this area could be used in a way that promoted the universities, bound them closer together, and increased their cross-disciplinary collaboration.
The former Vice Chancellor of Karolinska Institutet, Hans Wigzell was one of the brains behind the initiative, according to Filippa Kull, Business Development Director at Stockholm Science City Foundation.
“In 2007 “Vision 2025” was launched, which stated that this area should become a world-leading site for life science and also a living city district with housing, shops and restaurants. The vision was signed by the vice chancellors of the three universities, politicians from both the region and municipalities and representatives from industry,” she says.
“Inspiration has been taken from different parts of the world. Kull and her colleagues have done both desk research and have been on benchmarking and study trips, for example to Boston, Toronto, Silicon Valley, Israel, London, and Barcelona.”
It was not a defined project, with one project manager appointed, Kull explains, “Instead all stakeholders were responsible for their part. Stockholm Science City got the mission to work with the “soft infrastructure”, that is working with the content of the buildings and building the ecosystem,” she says.
Inspiration has been taken from different parts of the world. Kull and her colleagues have done both desk research and have been on benchmarking and study trips, for example to Boston, Toronto, Silicon Valley, Israel, London, and Barcelona.
“The development of Hagastaden is not a copy and paste from something else but is rather cherry picking from many different initiatives and places,” Kull explains. “In addition, we have had many delegations from around the world come to Hagastaden whom we have had inspiring discussions with.”
“Making places for budget alternative premises is always a challenge. A working lab at KI campus is a good example of solving this.”
Being many actors orchestrating the development of Hagastaden has of course also meant challenges along the way. “This is an expensive area to develop and sometimes it was a challenge to convince the landowners to stick to the “Vision 2025” ethos and not develop the area with housing only, which is more profitable, and instead ensure commercial real estate as well,” notes Kull. “Now Hagastaden is attractive and with that the prices have risen, which is of course can be challenging for the SMEs. Making places for budget alternative premises is always a challenge. A working lab at KI campus is a good example of solving this.”
A lively urban environment
The first tenants moved into Hagastaden in 2017. Today, more than halfway through the project, Hagastaden offers a mixture of businesses, research, meeting places, restaurants and housing. The residential district has a dense and diverse urban structure, with buildings that are higher than has previously been the norm in the Stockholm cityscape. The ground floors of the buildings will be used for preschools, service establishments, restaurants and cafés.
“Another landmark will be the 18,000 square meter-large park, Norra Station Park, located in the center of Hagastaden. This park will offer a green space, recreation and calm in the middle of the urban surroundings.”
Two significant buildings, the Northern Towers, stand as a landmark, and a doorway between the old and new buildings. The two towers, 120 meters and 104 meters high, respectively, are located at Torsplan. Designed by architects Rem Koolhaas and Reinier de Graaf, they host around 330 apartments. Another landmark will be the 18,000 square meter-large park, Norra Station Park, located in the center of Hagastaden. This park will offer a green space, recreation and calm in the middle of the urban surroundings.
A prerequisite for the building of Hagastaden was that parts of the E4/E20 and the Värtabanan railway line had to be enclosed in tunnels. On top of the tunnels, which stretch 800 meters between Norrtull and west of Solnavägen, houses, offices and parts of the Norra Station Park have been constructed. In addition, providing necessary space for cars, the city has also planned for good access by foot, bicycle and public transport. Construction of the new subway line between Odenplan and Hagastaden is also underway, with an estimated completion in 2028.
A leading life science area
Clear focus areas of the new district are life, health and innovation, and the ambition is to become one of the world’s leading areas for life sciences. The new streets and blocks in Hagastaden have names inspired by science and scientific research, with many streets named after pioneering women in the fields of research, education and healthcare.
In and around Hagastaden there is a large concentration of scientific research and entrepreneurship within the field of life sciences. The amount of companies has increased with over 100 percent since 2010, from 67 companies to 139.
“Life City is strategically the completely right position for our new headquarters. Here we will be operating in a relevant and knowledge-intensive area with proximity to both healthcare, science and other actors within life science.”
The 27,500 square meter-large Life City building, which was completed and ready for tenants at the beginning of 2022, has also attracted many life science companies to locate in Hagastaden. The building is spectacularly situated on top of the E4 in the middle of Hagastaden and tenants include Astra Zeneca, 10X Genomics, Immedica Pharma, GHP, Sirona and Polarium. In May, pharma giant Pfizer also decided to relocate its headquarters from Sollentuna to Hagstaden. The company will move into Life City in February 2023.
“Life City is strategically the completely right position for our new headquarters. Here we will be operating in a relevant and knowledge-intensive area with proximity to both healthcare, science and other actors within life science,” said Malin Parkler, CEO, Pfizer Sweden, after the announcement.
Another life science hot spot being established in Hagastaden is Forskaren, Hagaplan 1. It is being developed into a meeting place for 1,700 employees and offers 24,000 square meters of offices, co-working, common areas, space for events, lectures, exhibitions and art. The building will for example host Elekta’s new head office.
“The area reflects the way in which we work to provide caregivers and their patients the best treatment options available and to advance precision-driven radiation-based medicine,” said CEO of Elekta Instrument AB Jonas Karlström after the announcement.
The street level in Forskaren will be open to the public and offer events, lectures and exhibitions that challenge our ingrained ideas. Tekniska museet will also open a new space to visualize Swedish research.
A unique proximity
One strength of the life science environment in Hagastaden is that you are walking distance away from both global competitive universities and the Stockholm city center. “Being in a capital, Hagastaden is also close to other business areas such as finance, ICT, gaming etc., and to decision makers and authorities. This is of great advantage for the different actors located in Hagastaden, regardless of if you are a SME, global company or researcher,” says Filippa Kull. “In addition, as stated in the vision, the proximity to global competitive universities and the knowledge and talents created there is also important.”
“Being in Hagastaden facilitates both planned meetings as well as spontaneous and unplanned meetings. Another perspective is the recruitment. It is easier to recruit the right people if you’re located in an attractive environment such as Hagastaden.”
This is also what different actors located in Hagastaden emphasized at a seminar held by Stockholm Science City Foundation on June 16th. “We had two SMEs and one global company attend the panel discussion. Everybody agreed that the advantages of being in Hagastaden are the proximity to the research, the health care providers, authorities, and other companies, both SMEs and global enterprises. Everybody sees themselves as part of the ecosystem and said it is easy to make new contacts, attend seminars and meetings,” says Kull. “Being in Hagastaden facilitates both planned meetings as well as spontaneous and unplanned meetings. Another perspective is the recruitment. It is easier to recruit the right people if you’re located in an attractive environment such as Hagastaden.”
Competitive in the global arena
Filippa Kull and her colleagues at Stockholm Science City Foundation are involved in work with the ecosystem to ensure a healthy environment for all stakeholders active in Hagastaden. They arrange seminars, workshops, round table and panel discussions to create meeting places and to ensure knowledge transfer and networking between the different stakeholders.
“To become a world-leading site for life science you must keep track of what is happening in the rest of the world, what are the trends and challenges? This is something we do as well.”
“We also do the need assessment to identify the gaps in the system. If there is a gap identified we can, together with our network, address it. To become a world-leading site for life science you must keep track of what is happening in the rest of the world, what are the trends and challenges? This is something we do as well,” she says.
Besides upcoming seminars, events and meetings this fall, next spring, Sweden will have the EU Chairmanship and because of this there will be a life science meeting in Hagastaden, and Stockholm Science City is involved in the planning process of the site visit to Hagastaden.
“I am also a little extra excited that we are part of the national initiative Health Data Sweden, a European Digital Innovation Hub, EDIH, which was recently granted funding. KTH is the coordinator and we will be responsible to nurture the ecosystem around health data and support collaboration starting this fall,” adds Kull.
She emphasizes that it is important to constantly ensure the viability of the life science ecosystem in Hagastaden and that it is competitive on the global arena. “This is a moving target that always needs attention. You can never relax and think that you’ve reached the goal. This is a responsibility not only for us, but for all stakeholders in Hagastaden.”
Featured illustration of Forskaren: 3XN architects/Vectura