Søren Bregenholt, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Medicon Valley Alliance

Well Begun Is Half Done – but Only Half Done!

When it comes to life science, the partners in the Danish-Swedish Medicon Valley region, Denmark and Sweden, are both well-positioned to become first class life science nations in the future.

Both countries are innovation leaders within Europe. Both countries have and share a long tradition of successful academia-industry partnerships within life science. Both in the Swedish eastern and Danish western part of our region we have high ranking universities such as University of Copenhagen, Technical University of Denmark and Lund University helping to create and maintain a well-trained, highly skilled and very experienced work force, of which as substantial part is absorbed and further educated by the region´s successful and future-oriented life science companies.

In addition to that, the major Danish life science companies have a rather unique ownership structure which not only prohibits companies such as Novo Nordisk, Leo Pharma and Lundbeck from being acquired and having their R&D activities relocated, but also ensures a continuous and crucial flow of new investment s into the life science start-up eco-system from these companies´ foundations.

Furthermore, we have top research facilities relevant to life science in operation and under construction in Lund. The European Spallation Source, which will be world’s most powerful neutron source, enabling scientific breakthroughs in material research, is planned to open in 2023, and with the Data Management and Software Centre located in Copenhagen, this is an excellent example of regional and bi-national teamwork.

In sum, we have a favourable point of departure positioned literally “on top of Europe” with a relatively attractive business and R&D climate and well-functioning societies allowing for a comparable good quality of life. There is, however, still room for improvement, and we do need to make it even more attractive for certain highly demanded and highly qualified profiles to relocate to Denmark and Sweden with their families, if we want to keep the engine running and sustain innovation and growth. Talented and innovative people are the key raw material for this industry, and although the life science industry is unique in many ways, just like any other industry, it will not function with insufficient raw material supply.

What we need to be aware of is that although “well begun is half done”, it is exactly that, half done! Our current success does not guarantee future success. We cannot rest on our laurels. Yesterday´s national strategy will not necessarily suffice for tomorrows challenge.

To optimise the likelihood of future success – there are no guarantees – we need to scrutinize, strengthen and, finally, coordinate our current national life science strategies. Just like team mates in a game of tennis doubles are less likely to succeed with individual and uncoordinated strategies, Denmark and Sweden are less likely to succeed and successfully compete internationally with individual and uncoordinated national life science strategies. The fact that the international competition is stronger than ever and that new nations and companies from around the world are working dedicatedly to catch-up and close the innovation gap, just emphasizes the need for us to get our act together, together. Any meaningful notion of a strong Nordic life science cluster serving as an attractive destination for life science industry, talents and academic R&D starts with Denmark and Sweden joining forces.

The good news is that we are still ahead in the game and we still have time to come up with better, more comprehensive and more aligned national strategies. But will we?