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The awakening of Norwegian Life Science

Eclipsed by the oil and gas industry, Norwegian life science has nonetheless grown to become an important export industry.

Successes have been built on the pioneers of pharmaceutical innovations in the 1950s and 60s, such as Nycomed which is part of GE Healthcare today – a sole contributor of 2 percent of the Norwegian mainland exports. Company and innovation stories like this one have been unfolding every decade and today this continues with Nykode Therapeutics – a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. Common to these stories is a single company making it on its own. This has changed. Norwegian life science is now a bustling eco-system with clusters, incubators and TTOs. Oslo is at the forefront , but the other regions and cities such as Trondheim, Bergen and Tromsø are strong as well.

Being a broader life science cluster is a strength that can take full advantage of the competitive position Norway holds in the primary industries.”

The Life Science Cluster helps transform ideas and life science solutions into sustainable products that increase exports and that positively impact quality of life for individuals globally. The cluster has over 120 members, reaching from the pharmaceutical industry to the marine and agricultural sector, including academia and research institutions. Being a broader life science cluster is a strength that can take full advantage of the competitive position Norway holds in the primary industries. Life science has unique prerequisite for sustainability, such as the innovative fish vaccines, developed and manufactured in Norway by PHARMAQ, part of Zoetis, which made Norwegian salmon farming world-leading.

Our responsibility as a cluster is to support companies in all steps of development, from the start-ups founded last week to Norway’s largest life science companies. All our members have different and complex needs that require specialized expertise. The Life Science Cluster’s goal is to make the road from idea to market easier and faster for our members. We help them in their work to achieve quality, meet the right investors and prepare for an international market.

So where will the next success story occur? Looking at the Norwegian life science history there were few, if any, predictions about which companies would succeed. Norway now undoubtedly possesses areas of strength, and we must continue to facilitate growth in these areas. At the same time, we should prepare for innovation within other spheres to succeed. The Life Science Cluster works to help our early-stage companies, with a broad spectrum of different inventions and technologies, meet their full potential and develop into the next Norwegian life science rising star company. The Life Science Cluster now has a promising pipeline of over 50 companies at an investable stage, and in May we held a successful 4th Norwegian Life Science Investor Partnering Day in Oslo, matching Norwegian companies with national and international investors.

Lacking the advantages of a national strategy, which is to be found both in Denmark and Sweden, Norway is nonetheless now looking forward to what we hope will be the first step toward a similar strategy.”

A growing political awareness of Norwegian life science is nurtured by the success of the eco-system. The players are working towards the common goal to create growth in the life science industry. Lacking the advantages of a national strategy, which is to be found both in Denmark and Sweden, Norway is nonetheless now looking forward to what we hope will be the first step toward a similar strategy. The Minister of Trade and Industry, Jan Christian Vestre, is to present a roadmap for the health industry, and after a joint approach from the eco-system, a recommendation from the National Export Council indicates that the government will also include life science as one of Norway’s prioritized export industries. Denmark has ten times higher export than Norway from life science. Initiating a new strategy, Denmark is anticipating a doubling of the export income from the life science sector. In comparison, Norway may see a tripled income, provided there will be political investments and support.

The Nordic strength

Together the Nordic region comprises 27 million people, and is both an interesting market and a joint area for innovation. The new era of industry requires sustainability to be a central factor.

Together we are stronger and all successes, whether Norwegian or Nordic, will contribute to a sustainable world.”

The Nordics are well positioned for this shift and can take a strategic position. From the cluster’s side, we have had a focus on Nordic collaboration over many years. One example is the joint Nordic efforts at the BIO International Convention. The goal is both to encourage more intra-Nordic collaboration, and to lift and showcase Nordic innovation internationally. Together we are stronger and all successes, whether Norwegian or Nordic, will contribute to a sustainable world.

This column was originally written by Hanne Mette Dyrlie Kristensen, CEO, The Life Science Cluster, for NLS magazine No 02 2023, out May 2023

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