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Knowing what you don’t know

In a world very unlike what we were used to only three to four years ago, the dynamics of developing new life science-based solutions for the markets has changed.

There is an increased understanding in society of the need to have control on value chains for both drug and food production, but the risk and complexity, including financial challenges, are no lower than before. It is therefore important for companies to include a strategy for risk analysis and mitigation. During the last two years, the investment landscape for life science companies has been very dry. After the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco in January we started seeing signs of change, but very often it takes six to nine months for results to start materializing for our European and Nordic biotechs.

Personally, when I was the CEO of biotech companies I liked mixing the large international conferences with smaller events like this one. The large ensures you reach many people at the same time, the smaller allows more room for conversations, informal updates, and lasting relationship building.”

On the Norwegian scene, The Life Science Cluster has prepared for the 5th version of its Norwegian Life Science Investor Partnering Day held in May – a small but significant milestone. The conference has grown into a highly appreciated “reverse pitch” day where we receive the investor’s reflections, as well as a meeting place for international and national investors and Norwegian life science companies. With its razor sharp focus on creating the most value for investors and life science companies, we see that this small and personal conference adds flavor to both discussions and the pace of the conversations. Personally, when I was the CEO of biotech companies I liked mixing the large international conferences with smaller events like this one. The large ensures you reach many people at the same time, the smaller allows more room for conversations, informal updates, and lasting relationship building.

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We are starting to see the result of decades of work – the Norwegian pipeline includes an increasing number of life science and health tech companies on the international scene.”

This year, we had two new additions to the day. First, we had Norway’s largest tech-transfer organization, Inven2, as this year’s conference partner. As a long-term key player with life science as a focus, a large share of the Norwegian pipeline has at some time been under their wings in earlier stages. Also, we had other national TTOs, incubators, and sister clusters as conference supporters, including VIS, Aleap, Eitri, Sharelab, Aggrator, Norway Health Tech, Oslo Cancer Cluster, Biotech North, and Norwegian Smart Care Cluster, in addition to The Life Science Cluster as organizers. This is a good way to showcase how the different players work together. TTOs are involved in transitioning projects to companies and early stage investment. Incubators support them in their earlier years, and the clusters support them throughout the entire value chain up to successful profit engines. We see that with better coordination, overall we are expanding the range of services and support we can give the companies, and it is easier for them to understand who has expertise within their business area. We are starting to see the result of decades of work – the Norwegian pipeline includes an increasing number of life science and health tech companies on the international scene.

We were also grateful for the continued support from Back Bay Life Science Advisors/DNB to the conference. Their reflections on the Nordics from the US perspective gives us the valuable “helicopter view” we sometimes forget when we are in the midst of it all.

“Knowing what you don’t know” is a slogan we often use, to describe this type of targeted and community-based learning experience, tailored to each company’s needs.”

This conference format also provides a “training ground” for earlier stage companies. Partnering conferences are very efficient tools once you get your head around them, but it is easy to forget: it requires some practice, and you need to know the specifics of the event you are attending at the moment. We often describe our role in supporting startup and growth companies as following a wanderer on a path (probably because Norwegians love hiking …). We don’t know all the specifics of where they are going, but we might know something about things to look out for, and the holes others have fallen into. Having worn the boots, we also know that at the times when you need advice and added competence the most, you do not always have time for courses, camps, and programs asking you to show up every Tuesday for 12 weeks. “Knowing what you don’t know” is a slogan we often use, to describe this type of targeted and community-based learning experience, tailored to each company’s needs.

When Nordic Innovation created the profile program “The Nordics” a few years ago, each of the Nordic countries were assigned a trait under this umbrella. The Norwegians were assigned “The pioneers of the Nordics.”

It is also maybe not a coincidence that the venue in Oslo Science Park is called Gaustatoppen, named after one of the highest peaks in Norway with the broadest views, where you can see one sixth of the country at the same time. When Nordic Innovation created the profile program “The Nordics” a few years ago, each of the Nordic countries were assigned a trait under this umbrella. The Norwegians were assigned “The pioneers of the Nordics”. This aligns well with the Norwegian history as explorers and should position us well for preparing for the unexpected as we develop the solutions we need tomorrow.

Hanne Mette Dyrlie Kristensen

About the author

This column was originally written by Hanne Mette Dyrlie Kristensen, CEO, The Life Science Cluster, for NLS magazine No 02 204, out May 2024.

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