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Life sciences – the common denominator for Nordic industries

Helena Strigård

Recently, I was invited to speak at JP Morgan in San Francisco about the Swedish life science industry. It sort of makes sense to talk about that when you are representing this industry in Sweden. To the surprise of the organizers, I chose to talk about another topic: The Nordic Life Science Industry!

To me, it makes perfect sense though. If you want to catch the eye of investors and companies across the world, in sharp competition with life science hot spots globally, do you wave with one flashlight if you can use five? What we have in the Nordics is truly unique. Where else in the world do you have five neighboring countries, culturally connected for centuries, all excelling in the same field? Life sciences is the one common denominator for Nordic industries and we need to better make use of this phenomenon.

“Life sciences is the one common denominator for Nordic industries and we need to better make use of this phenomenon”

I spoke about Finland being the hidden gem of health data, with a 100% population penetration of electronic health records. I spoke about Norway emerging as a life science nation producing world leading research in oncology, amongst many other things, and urging investors to keep an eye on Norwegian clusters. I spoke about how Denmark is really speeding now and keeping the rest of us on our toes, with a remarkable commitment from their government. Iceland, apart from probably being the coolest country on earth, is also a front runner when it comes to combining sustainability and life sciences. And of course I spoke about Sweden, how we pride ourselves on being an innovative power engine within life sciences.

Spurred by the overwhelming response at JPM to this approach, I have decided to continue to pepper the world with some hard facts about the capacity of our region. For instance that we together form the 12th largest economy globally, that all five of us rank top 20 among the world economic forums list of most innovative countries worldwide and that our pharma market combined compares to half of the UK pharma market.

Whenever I do the Nordic pitch, I in turn get peppered with questions such as how the Nordic countries work together. Questions about the ease of collaborating with various industrial and academic partners across the Nordics. If we do a clinical trial in Sweden, does it apply in Norway? Etc.

To some of those questions, I can proudly point to the work of the Nordic Consortium for Life Sciences 1. However, whereas businesses and trade agencies across the five countries have already found a common ground to collaborate, the governments lags behind.

“The focus has been to produce national life science strategies, which is natural and necessary of course. But now that this is mostly done, let’s turn to what can be done in a Nordic life science strategy”

The focus has been to produce national life science strategies, which is natural and necessary of course. But now that this is mostly done, let’s turn to what can be done in a Nordic life science strategy. I would like to make an appeal to the governments in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland alike to use this mega opportunity better! There are concrete steps to be taken. Our capital markets should be seen as one. A joint agency for approving clinical trials should be created. Agencies responsible for analyzing the industry in the respective countries should be tasked to collaborate more.

SwedenBIO is soon to launch the Swedish drug discovery and development pipeline report, an outline of all the projects of Swedish companies, which therapy area they are in and what phase they are in. This functions as an effective tool to attract partnerships to the companies participating. How about doing that on a Nordic basis? Well, we tried, but as the process of attaining funding from the national agencies for a joint Nordic cause was beyond tricky, the project was postponed.

The Nordic ministerial council and agencies such as Nordic Innovation could be instrumental in supporting the pan-Nordic development arising within life sciences and addressing the hurdles we still encounter.

While we are waiting for the governments to catch up, SwedenBIOs crusade, together with collaborators, to show the rest of the world how the Nordic region is pushing the frontiers of science and innovation will continue. In my experience, the most compelling arguments for an internationally mixed audience about why to invest or do business in our corner of the world is not just about hard facts but also the soft values. Within the Nordic Consortium for Life Sciences, we have agreed on five words to describe why the Nordics are the perfect setting for partnerships and investments, and they are all value driven: Openness, Trust, Sustainability, Equality and Innovation.

Openness, Trust, Sustainability, Equality and Innovation

 

By Helena Strigård, Director General, SwedenBIO. Photo: Camille Sonally


1 The Nordic life science consortium is a platform for the Nordics to join forces to showcase our region to the world. It consists of Innovation Norway, The Life Science Cluster in Norway, Oslo Cancer Cluster, Healthcare Denmark, SwedenBIO, Business Sweden, Promote Iceland, Turku Science Park and Business Finland. Behind the joint Nordic pavilion is also Invest in Skåne, Business Region Göteborg and Invest Stockholm. The consortium is using the official brand “The Nordics” developed by the Nordic Ministerial Council.