Thank you Denmark! Seriously, on behalf of the Swedish life science industry organization, I mean it. Thank you for continuously keeping us on our toes, showing us and our politicians that international competition is – indeed – tough. This “thank you” could easily be expanded to the rest of the Nordic countries, each with different areas of strength within life science.
In Sweden we have an election coming up this autumn, and a rather messy one, I would say. However, if there is something that we are fairly confident we can say about the next government – whoever will lead it – it is that life science is likely to continue to be high up on the agenda. This continuous commitment to further spur what is already a national area of strength is important, reducing risk averseness among companies and investors. The commitment is shown in heavy investments in public R&D and infrastructure, in testbeds and support mechanisms for innovation and by competitive framework conditions.
But we ask of our politicians not only to prove us right in our belief in their commitment. We ask also that they help us tap into the world and help us lead the world’s attention to our competitive advantages. We have a rich pool of smaller life science companies that have already come very far in terms of projects. This we have shown in our reports covering the Swedish drug discovery and development pipeline, as well as in the most recent mapping of precision medicine in Sweden. These companies are eager to grow. But for that, we need a flow of both capital and talent that can vitalize the life science industry.
Even a high quality product needs marketing. And that is where we fall short. A coherent approach to marketing the competitive advantages of doing life science business in Sweden is missing. We also need to “think big” from the start, in the sense of what do these small life science companies need to become big ones? Well, for one thing – ensure that the support systems help build competitive companies that can leave the nest and reach for the sky on their own one day. Make it attractive for private investors, both nationally and internationally, to invest in life science companies, so that there is long-lasting fuel for these companies to pick up speed. Make sure they have the high quality expertise they need, not least in how to lead a growing business and make it more attractive – not less – and to participate in board work.
Part of thinking big is about thinking international. This dimension needs to be at the top of decision-makers minds whenever investments in research infrastructures, such as SciLifeLab, CAMP and ESS, are being made. A systematic approach to accessibility for international researchers – be it academic or private sector ones – needs to be built in from the start.
Going back to Denmark and our Nordic neighbors – I believe we are pretty much in the same situation as far as marketing is concerned; struggling to be in the international spotlight. Here’s a thought – let’s join forces to make the Nordics an even brighter spot on the globe as far as life science is concerned – a place where investors gather for groundbreaking innovations. Whenever we do, and it is being done to some extent, we seem to be successful in our endeavors. So, let’s take the opportunity to market the Nordic USP and showcase the best the Nordic region has to offer.
Helena Strigård, Vice President and Policy Director, SwedenBio