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Copenhagen Capacity: Ambition Is to Make Greater Copenhagen a Global Hub for Microbiome Research

A new three-year project seeks to establish Greater Copenhagen as a global leader and hub for research in the up-and-coming field of microbiomes.

The field of microbiome has in recent years been linked to a plethora of conditions such as diabetes and neurological diseases, which has made it emerge as one of the hottest topics in life science research. The Greater Copenhagen region – with its established strengths in the life science industry – has the potential to become a global leader in this new field.

For that reason, Copenhagen Capacity, the official Danish investment promotion agency for Greater Copenhagen, has recently kicked-off a three year EU Interreg funded initiative together with Medicon Valley Alliance and Invest in Skåne with the ambition to catapult Greater Copenhagen to the top of Centres of Excellence when it comes to research within the microbiome. If not globally, then at least in Europe.

Anette Steenberg, Director of Investment Promotion, sees a great potential in making the microbiome area a stronghold for the region: “We focus on attracting foreign direct investors to strengthen the Greater Copenhagen strongholds where we are already- or ought to be – in top 3-5 globally, but we also focus on finding new areas with an untapped potential. The microbiome area is very interesting, and we know we already have several strongholds within this area, though it is still virgin ground for many companies.”

Copenhagen Capacity has a 25-year long history of attracting companies, investments and talent to existing and successful clusters but also to provide support and promote new up-and-coming industries.

The work of identifying microbiome as a new stronghold started three years ago, when Copenhagen Capacity asked Copenhagen Economics to conduct a study on Denmark’s research strengths. Twelve research areas were identified in which Denmark is particularly strong.

It turned out that five of those areas were related to microbiome, tells Nikolaj Lubanski, the Director of Talent Attraction in Copenhagen Capacity: “For example, diabetes, immunology, ingredients and enzymes. There is strong scientific reason to say that if we combine these areas of strength, then we can lift microbiome research to a global success.”

By attracting R&D and strategic partnerships, our present microbiome cluster both in industry and academia will grow – thus reinforcing ­Greater ­Copenhagen as a ­global hub for Microbiome research and development
Anette Steenberg, Copenhagen Capacity

Even though microbiome fits the bill perfectly, it doesn’t automatically become a stronghold. Greater Copenhagen microbiome cluster needs to come together and be positioned internationally in order to attract both companies, investors and talent to the highly specialised field.

“Quadruble Helix Strengths”

Creating a global microbiome hub in Greater Copenhagen requires a high level of internationalisation. International investors, talent and businesses are prerequisites for strengthening the present existing base of companies and talent in order to build a strong international microbiome research environment.

Steenberg and her team are working on attracting international companies and investors to Greater Copenhagen but are also reaching out to the foreign life science companies already present here in order to get them engaged in the microbiome initiative.

”Foreign life science companies already present here are also incredibly important to this process. They know of their companies’ initiatives world-wide which may involve expanding their research in the microbiome area”, says Steenberg and continues:

“What we are looking to attract is primarily research and development initiatives or units within the microbiome fields. By attracting R&D and strategic partnerships, our present microbiome cluster both in industry and academia will grow – thus reinforcing Greater Copenhagen as a global hub for Microbiome research and development.”

When attracting international life science companies and investors, Copenhagen Capacity focuses on what they call a “Quadruble Helix strengths”. Steenberg elaborates on this unique approach: “The good cooperation between the authorities, industry, academia but also patient organisations – a unique selling point and something that impress most foreign direct investors when visiting Greater Copenhagen.”

The large cluster of life science companies in Greater Copenhagen coupled with core stronghold areas such as diabetes, cancer, metabolism, neurology, dermatology and proteins are incredibly interesting for foreign companies.

“The accessibility and digitalisation of the public system and the access and dialogue with authorities are so much easier in Denmark and Southern Sweden compared with other countries,” Steenberg says.

Attracting talent – but what talent?

Microbiome is a very specialised field, and in the context of Greater Copenhagen the talent needed to drive the journey toward an international hub remains unmapped. Copenhagen Capacity therefore encourage those companies and research environments interested in this field to reach out to the agency.

Lubanski and his team will be working to attract international talent to do so, they need a thorough dialogue with the industry and academia: “Microbiome is an even more specialised area than other research areas we work with, which is why we in all humbleness say we need a close dialogue with the industry and academia.”

Microbiome is an even more specialised area than other research areas we work with, which is why we in all humbleness say we need a close dialogue with the industry and academia
Nikolaj ­Lubanski, Copenhagen Capacity

According to Lubanski the life science industry and academia must provide the input which enables Copenhagen Capacity to be precise and clear when reaching out to potential companies and talent that may be interested in coming to in Greater Copenhagen: “In relation to talent attraction, we will use this process to find out what type of profile the companies are looking for and to get a clear picture of the jobs being offered.”

The first task is to determine where these highly specialised talent are and how to reach them through a targeted digital strategy.

“The strategy focuses on place branding as well as employer branding, why the talents should choose Greater Copenhagen, why the life science industry and its companies and research environments here are attractive for them and how it can help boost their careers,” Lubanski says.

A part of the strategy is making sure there are jobs available for the talent to apply for: “Usually, we help companies screen talent, but we are considering working even closer with the life science industry here because the microbiome area is so highly specialised.”

First matchmakings and investors in 2021

The initiative to boost microbiome research in Greater Copenhagen is in its start-up phase. The first stage consists of mapping and analysing, determining which life science companies are working with microbiome research and how far they are but also to identify world conferences and events that should be targeted.

“Once mapping is done, we will start to look at value proposition. Basically, we need to establish which unique value propositions we have that can attract foreign life science companies to come here and do research and development in microbiome,” Steenberg says and adds this part of the process is expected to be completed in the spring of 2020.

In 2020-21, Copenhagen Capacity will also run a global digital campaign, which will focus on creating awareness of microbiome research in Greater Copenhagen and aim to market and promote the Danish cluster. The campaign is targeted the top global life science companies, and at the same time Lubanski and his team are visiting companies and research environments to get a better idea of the profiles being sought and questions needed to be answered as part of the screening process.

“In 2021 the peak of the initiative will be creating an international event putting Greater Copenhagen on the global microbiome map. By then our ambition is that the first matchmakings and interested foreign direct investors will start surfacing in Greater Copenhagen,” says Steenberg.