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Ticket to Ride: Nordics

Christmas is around the corner. At least that is what it feels like every year by the time I get around to look into gifts for my family. So, this year I started early and came across a special edition of a board game that 2/3 sons can play with each other without significant bloodshed.

It’s called “Ticket to ride” and has been a best seller for years. We have the North American edition, the European edition and the Asian edition, although there is no difference between the games apart from some new names of the cities that you are supposed to connect by building a railway. But there is one exception, the Nordic edition! According to the marketing, it is supposed to be more competitive than all the other versions of the game. With an emphasis on blocking each other from succeeding, playing it rough, compared to the other editions.

But there is one exception, the Nordic edition! According to the marketing, it is supposed to be more competitive than all the other versions of the game.”

This might not fully reflect the reality, but we certainly nurture a fair amount of competition within our Nordic family. Including the industry where all five countries happen to be excelling, life sciences! Healthy at times, but also destructive at times. Policy makers are also not really helping, as the roadblocks for Nordic life sciences to collaborate are still substantial. This concerns regulatory issues, as we are still far from functioning as one market for those wishing to establish themselves here. It concerns clinical trials and the need to facilitate cross-border access to patients. It also involves our financial markets and opportunities for private capital to co-finance projects with “soft money” from the various publicly funded innovation actors in all five countries.

The governments of the Nordics have some work to do for the “Ticket to ride – Nordics” to function smoothly.

Most importantly, in these times of economic turmoil, the obstacles hampering our labor markets to function as one must be addressed. Working for a company dealing with our industry’s greatest resource, human capital, on a daily basis, I have first row visibility to the multiplying effect that a good match between company and job seekers can have. I also have early access to changes occurring in the labor market, and right now the balance between job seekers and employers is shifting. At Haeger & Carlsson Executive Search and Interim, we see a growing number of qualified candidates looking for new opportunities – and these opportunities exist! We get new assignments for the recruitment or interim consultants of C-level staff and specialists in a constant flow. Job openings are available. However, one might need to venture a bit further outside the comfort zone than before and be open to a broader geographic job market.

In a post-COVID work life, where we’ve all gotten used to sitting in pajama pants in front of Teams screens part of the week, with physical presence at work only occasionally, it should be acceptable for employees to travel a bit further and for employers to have a more flexible approach to physical presence.”

It is in this situation that we should take advantage of the fact that our neighboring countries and we together can function as a much larger and more flexible job market within the life sciences than we can achieve individually. Not that it is easy to pack up and move where the jobs are, but maybe we don’t need to do it to the same extent anymore? In a post-COVID work life, where we’ve all gotten used to sitting in pajama pants in front of Teams screens part of the week, with physical presence at work only occasionally, it should be acceptable for employees to travel a bit further and for employers to have a more flexible approach to physical presence. It’s a way to expand the geographic zone for job seeking candidates and for companies looking to recruit to access more talent in their search. Medicon Valley is a great example of Swedish and Danish life science hot spots coming together as one, thus becoming the leading innovation region of the EU. In contrast, the obstacles to labor market mobility are piling up right at the moment in time when we need it the most to keep the wheels spinning in our industry.

Gothenburg and Oslo is another cross-border life science region with a potential to shine globally. The initiatives to connect these clusters taken by actors such as GoCo, Oslo Cancer Cluster and The Life Science Cluster are pushing development in the right direction, but more is needed to facilitate for professionals to live in one Nordic country and work in another, and to overcome hurdles caused by different labor market regulations, pensions systems and taxations.

As the railway is literally being built between life science hot spots of the Nordics, efforts to remove obstacles to labor market mobility should be a priority for policy makers, industry organizations and trade unions, so that individual companies and life science professionals can prosper. If we don’t, we are indeed blocking each other from succeeding. Although it might not appear as dramatic as the board game battle between my competitive sons …

 

This column was originally written by Helena Strigård, CEO and Partner, Haeger & Carlsson, for NLS magazine No 04 2023, out November 2023. 

Featured photo of train between Oslo and Bergen, Norway (iStock), and Helena Strigård (Photo: Kristian Pohl).

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