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New analysis: Life sciences in Eastern Denmark

Novo Nordisk Kalundborg

The analysis shows how the life science cluster is continuing to grow and highlights challenges of finding expertise in STEM subjects and making health data available for the development of new, innovative solutions.

The analysis [prepared by Øresundsinstituttet as part of the Interregproject Greater Copenhagen Life Science Analysis Initiative] also shows that the cluster is larger than what was previously understood, and that new, record investments are being planned for plants, research facilities and headquarters in eastern Denmark, describes Johan Wessman, CEO, Øresundsinstituttet, in the analysis’ preface.

700 companies

The life science sector in eastern Denmark is comprised of around 700 companies, according to the analysis. Half of them can be categorized as micro-companies with nine employees or fewer, and around 75% of all employees in the sector work at large companies with more than 250 employees. Overall, most of the companies are in medtech, whilst the greatest number of employees are in pharma. Most of the startups founded in the past five years are in biotech.

“Overall, most of the companies are in medtech, whilst the greatest number of employees are in pharma.”

Gladsaxe is the municipality in eastern Denmark where the largest number of life science employees work locally. Around 10000 work in the life sciences in Gladsaxe Municipality, around 5000 of them at Novo Nordisk’s global headquarters in Bagsværd.

Around 200 new life science companies have been founded in eastern Denmark since 2017. They employ a total of around 2300 in the region. The majority of the new companies are in biotech and located in Copenhagen.

“Around 200 new life science companies have been founded in eastern Denmark since 2017. They employ a total of around 2300 in the region.”

The most recent Danish life science strategy, from 2021, increased efforts to e.g. attract more life science investments and companies to Denmark and Medicon Valley from abroad, for example via Invest in Denmark (IDK) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Example of non-Danish life science companies that have set up in eastern Denmark since 2017 are Moderna, Ceptur Therapeutics, Seagen, Curaizon, Cilcare, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, and Chiesi.

Pharmaceutical exports

In 2021, Danish pharmaceutical exports made up around 17.5% of total Danish goods exports. In total, Danish life science companies exported pharmaceuticals for 136 billion DKK. In 2020, pharmaceutical exports were 137 billion DKK, according to figures from the Danish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry (LIF) and Statistics Denmark.

“Total exports for 2021 are on the same level as in the pandemic year 2020, which must be seen as an exceptional year since healthcare systems around the globe were making their acquisitions in correlation with the pandemic.”

“There has been positive development in pharmaceutical exports for many years now. It’s also apparent in 2021; in the big picture it follows the same trend seen for many years: steep growth, surpassed only by the pandemic year 2020. Total exports for 2021 are on the same level as in the pandemic year 2020, which must be seen as an exceptional year since healthcare systems around the globe were making their acquisitions in correlation with the pandemic,” says Vice CEO of LIF Henrik Vestergaard in the analysis.

The trade organization expects the export of pharmaceuticals to increase in the coming years. “We expect pharmaceutical exports to follow the positive trend seen for many years now. When you look, there will always be a year or two that breaks with the curve, but the trend in the long run is unmistakable. Danish life science is growing, and that will only continue,” says Vestergaard.

Science Parks & Incubators

Science parks and incubators for life science companies in eastern Denmark are in an expansive phase as more subsectors in the life sciences, e.g. healthtech, are being included over the years, it is stated in the analysis.

“Players on the field – DTU Science Park, Symbion, COBIS and BioInnovation Institute – are building out their facilities with more office- and lab space to meet market demands.”

Players on the field – DTU Science Park, Symbion, COBIS and BioInnovation Institute – are building out their facilities with more office- and lab space to meet market demands. Around a third of the ca 700 life science companies in eastern Denmark are or have been located at these players, which employ a total of around 8000 people in the life science and in other sectors.

Investments for +32 billion DKK

Life science companies in eastern Denmark are investing more than 32 billion DKK in expanding their plants, offices, and R&D facilities, the analysis summarizes. The investments are expected to create another 3500 life science jobs in eastern Denmark.

“17 billion are being invested by Novo Nordisk in expanding its existing plants and constructing three new facilities, 6 billion are being invested by Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in expansion of a plant in Hillerød, and 1.5 billion is what Chr. Hansen is investing in building out a plant in Kalundborg.”

17 billion DKK are being invested by Novo Nordisk in expanding its existing plants and constructing three new facilities, 6 billion are being invested by Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in expansion of a plant in Hillerød, and 1.5 billion is what Chr. Hansen is investing in building out a plant in Kalundborg. These are three examples of life science companies investing and constructing in eastern Denmark.

 

Novo Nordisk employees working in the haemophilia API* production. *API = Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient Biopharm production, Kalundborg, Denmark

“Private investments in company expansions in eastern Denmark are a definite trend shaping current and future development in Medicon Valley. The extensions are taking place in numerous geographic locations, but primarily in the Copenhagen area, in northern Zealand, and in the city of Kalundborg. These are precisely the places where the majority of the life science companies identified in eastern Denmark are located. The investments are thus in close proximity to other life science companies in the cluster,” writes the authors.

“We’re running out of space. We have three different locations in Copenhagen, and we expect to expand even more in the coming years, and we’d like to have all our staff in Denmark under the same roof.”

“We’re running out of space. We have three different locations in Copenhagen, and we expect to expand even more in the coming years, and we’d like to have all our staff in Denmark under the same roof,” says Birgitte Stephensen, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer at Genmab, which will move to its newly constructed global headquarters in Valby/ Copenhagen in 2023, which can accommodate 700 employees.

 

Genmab R&D center. Photo: Stijn Doors

Foundations and the government support

Whilst life science companies are investing in and expanding their own business activities, in this year and in the years to come, major investments and efforts for the future are also being made in shared infrastructure that is already benefitting the entire life science sector in eastern Denmark and in Medicon Valley – and society on the whole – in a variety of ways, describe the authors. Private foundations often give financial support to life science undertakings to supplement public funding.

Read the full analysis for examples of investments and efforts in shared infrastructure for research, education, and transportation in eastern Denmark.

Challenge: Finding expertise in STEM subjects

The life science industry employs 58 000 people in eastern Denmark, writes the authors of the analysis. In 2017, around 47 700 people worked in life science companies in eastern Denmark, according to the most recent company data available. Employment has grown in all subsectors, i.e. pharma, biotech, medtech, CRO, CMO, ICT/healthtech and foodtech.

“Since 2017, around 10 500 new jobs have been created regionally in the sector.”

Since 2017, around 10 500 new jobs have been created regionally in the sector – primarily in the Copenhagen area, where the vast majority of those employed in the sector work.

However, more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-expertise is a must if the positive growth in the sector is to continue, the interviewed companies in the analysis say. “Regardless of their subsector, most life science companies in eastern Denmark cite R&D as the most relevant expertise to recruit if they can augment their staff in the coming years. Commercial, regulatory, IT and tech expertise are also in demand in the sector. On the whole, expertise needs and shortages are related to the STEM subjects. These are some of the results drawn from a questionnaire to which around 50 life science companies responded for this report,” the authors of the analysis state.

“We don’t see it getting easier to recruit highly skilled labourers in the future. In that sense, we see it increasingly becoming a problem,” says Elise Hauge, Executive Vice President for People and Communication Lundbeck, when interviewed for the analysis.

 

Elise Hauge

Elise Hauge, Executive Vice President for People and Communication Lundbeck

 

To be able to help confront those challenges, Hauge participated in a work group within the framework of the so-called ‘Reformkommission’. In early April of this year, the commission presented its first recommendations for higher education, adult education, continuing education, and industry. The commission was established by the Danish government in October, 2020, and when 2022 draws to a close it will offer solutions for issues such as e.g. how to better secure educational efforts for the future. According to Hauge, this is extremely important for maintaining and further developing Medicon Valley’s leading position as an international life science hub.

“I’m concerned about whether we are educating enough people and whether we’re educating them right.”

“Personally, I’m concerned about whether we are educating enough people and whether we’re educating them right. That’s one part we can do better in Denmark,” she says in the analysis.

The other structural challenge in Medicon Valley is the shortage of skilled labourers, she says. “We have to accept that we need to recruit from abroad. There just aren’t enough neurological researchers in Denmark, so we must bring them from abroad. And that isn’t always easy.”

“There just aren’t enough neurological researchers in Denmark, so we must bring them from abroad. And that isn’t always easy.”

She mentions that it sometimes takes months for the authorities to process work- and residence permits for workers coming to Denmark from abroad, and she sees that as an ”uncertainty factor”.

The authors also took a closer look upon if the education offered in the region correspond to life science companies’ expertise needs. On the whole, the educational programmes on offer in the region correspond to the industry’s actual expertise needs, they stated. Of the around 50 life science companies of various sizes and from various subsectors in eastern Denmark questioned, around three out of four report general satisfaction with the programmes offered, whilst about one-fourth maintain there is room for improvement, for example via more transdisciplinary educational paths, e.g. pharma engineer training.

Improving framework conditions

The Danish government established a new national Life Science Council in 2021. The council will continue discuss improvements of the framework conditions for the life science sector in Denmark, as well as how collaboration between actors in the sector may be boosted. The council comprises 20 high-level members who represent life science companies, trade organizations, ministries, universities, foundations, the healthcare sector, wage earners’ organizations and patient associations.

Also, in 2018, a new life science division of the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs was established. The division works with growth conditions and industry-political measures that may benefit the life science sector in Denmark.

In 2021, the new cluster organization Danish Life Science Cluster was instated. Headquartered in Copenhagen, it has regional hubs around the country. Among other things, the organization works with more developed collaborations between Danish life science actors.

Brian Mikkelsen, CEO of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, which represents around 18 000 Danish businesses, believes that the life science strategy includes many good measures, and that the focus on the area of health data is vital.

“Quite simply, we need to be better at making our health data available for the development of new, innovative solutions.”

“The challenges faced by our members from all over the life science sector are all different, but access and utilization of health data is a fairly constant issue. Quite simply, we need to be better at making our health data available for the development of new, innovative solutions,” he stated in the analysis.

 

Brian Mikkelsen, CEO, the Danish Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Steen Brogaard

 

There are challenges to using Danish health data optimally in the current situation, according to an analysis prepared on behalf of the cluster organization Danish Life Science Cluster in January 2022. New, advanced data analysis methods, new types of data and growing data volumes create new opportunities to make even better use of Danish health data. Unfortunately, the healthcare sector, research environments and companies experience various barriers when it comes to realizing potential of those opportunities.

It also states that technological development has caught up with legislation, and that approval for applications to use health data lasts a long time. “It is necessary to find solutions to legal- and administrative challenges however, because health data also has the potential to strengthen collaboration between the life science industry, authorities, and public actors,” says Mikkelsen.

For more conclusions, interviews and statistics, read the full analysis!

Featured image: Novo Nordisk Kalundborg site