The life science cluster in Greater Copenhagen, Medicon Valley, has the potential to become a hub for future global health tech solutions. But to truly establish its reputation and status as a leading health tech lab, Greater Copenhagen must attract even more talents and companies from abroad.
There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child. This sentiment also applies to talent and start-ups in the Danish health tech and life sciences sectors. In other words, to create health tech and life sciences solutions for the future, it is essential to start with a vibrant ecosystem filled with reliable experts and stakeholders.
Denmark is home to one of Europe’s top three life science clusters; Medicon Valley in the Greater Copenhagen area. As one of the world’s most digitised countries, Denmark maintains a strong tradition of close public-private partnerships. According to Anette Steenberg, who is the investment promotion director at Copenhagen Capacity and is responsible for attracting foreign companies and investors to the Greater Copenhagen area:
“Hospitals, regions, and municipalities are open to cooperating with Danish and international companies. Denmark can offer businesses several attractive opportunities. Whether you seek research and development collaborations, design and innovation expertise, testing and demonstration facilities, or public-private co-creation partnerships, you will find them here.”
With a substantial talent pool of 42,000 highly-skilled and specialised employees working in life sciences and health tech; 14,000 senior researchers; and 6,000 PhD students in science, engineering, and medicine, this life science region Medicon Valley has both a critical mass and high-quality talent to draw upon.
In turn, Medicon Valley has the potential to become a leading hub for developing new digital health tech solutions that solve global problems.
A robust and agile ecosystem
An ecosystem of companies, research, knowledge (universities and data), education (talent pool) and financing is essential to maintaining a thriving environment.
As Steenberg points out: “Innovation in the health tech sector requires an agile setup. In Medicon Valley, companies can gain access to test labs in hospitals, engage in collaborations with universities, and involve patients, staff, and patient organisations in product development.
Accessing these stakeholders is a key factor for the growth of entrepreneurial ecosystems and co-working labs, such as Cobis, Symbion, and the newly-established Health Tech Hub Copenhagen.” According to Steenberg, one of the strongholds in the health tech sector in Denmark is the quadruple helix collaboration between stakeholders from the public and private sector, together with academia and patient organisations.
“There is a culture for user-driven innovation. The Danish healthcare system provides great opportunities for involving patients, staff and patient organisations in product development and almost every hospital has a dedicated innovation department,” Steenberg says.
Paraphrasing Steenberg, for Denmark to maintain its position among the most attractive destinations for global companies, our cluster has to become even stronger. Though Denmark is not a large market, we are agile and can test products and launch them quickly. Foreign companies can benefit from this and move from A to B – and even further – if they establish their business here.
Not on the radar
Throughout most industries, companies rely on a highly educated and sophisticated technical workforce who possess STEM competencies (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Health tech and life sciences sectors are no different. And, according to Steenberg, Denmark needs to ramp up its efforts to attract more talent to these sectors:
“Regrettably, the countries we usually compare to Denmark in health tech are moving at a faster pace when it comes to applying artificial intelligence and the IoT or using big data in health tech and healthcare. Sweden and Finland are particularly strong in the health tech area.”
What’s more, there are too few international students aware of the massive potential that the Danish life sciences ecosystem holds and that companies offer. That being said, once the talent arrives, it is easy to encourage them to stay.
Weighing in, Nikolaj Lubanski, the director of talent attraction for Copenhagen Capacity, observes:
“There are not a lot of international students who think of Denmark as a place where they can settle and build a career within health tech and life sciences, even though Medicon Valley is home to major global life sciences companies. Denmark has a strongly regulated welfare state, with a high degree of trust between civil society, the public sector, and industry. This should be a best-case scenario, but, unfortunately, people outside of Denmark are just not aware of this.”
Substantiating his claim, Lubanski points to the report, “Global Talent Competitiveness Index” published by INSEAD, which ranks Denmark among the five most attractive destinations for international talent. Importantly, when it comes to actually attracting talent, the report ranks Denmark as number 14 – behind Sweden, Ireland, and Switzerland to name a few of its closest competitors.
Reflecting on this, Lubanski suggests:
“We have to do something that is very non-Danish. We have to tell the world how good we are. In Denmark, we are very proud of our successful health tech and life sciences companies, such as Novo Nordisk, Ferring, and Novozymes, and rightly so. But we must keep telling the world about these achievements, and the strengths of the Danish welfare society.”
In it for the impact
Denmark’s life sciences and health tech workforce of 42,000 talented professionals is a huge asset. What’s more, the research evidence and technical developments coming from academia are among the Danish ecosystem’s greatest strengths. According to Lubanski, digital health companies are already recruiting students straight out of universities and signing contracts that guarantee them jobs when they graduate.
But we also need to focus on attracting a different skillset:
“The best tech talents won’t get you very far if you don’t have the abilities to establish and run a business. We need to think from idea to invoice. Consistent with this, the campaigns for attracting talent to Greater Copenhagen have now been broadened to focus on skilled business developers and marketers. Of course, people who understand rules and regulations, as well as market access in a healthcare context are critical to ensuring a profitable business. Building and scaling new companies for innovation, with solutions that have a global impact is an excellent crowd-puller for foreign companies and future talents,” Lubanski explains.
Denmark, and Medicon Valley, in particular, has an excellent upside in its competing markets.
“The next generation and the future workforce in the health tech industry want to do something meaningful – something that gives them a purpose in life. And this is where Denmark has an advantage, as we have a high degree of transparency and level of trust. So, if we can connect tech and sustainability with new health tech solutions, we will have a significant advantage ahead of other markets,” Lubanski concludes.