The Valley of Life: South Scandinavia’s Silicon Valley
From my perspective, the Greater Copenhagen and Skåne region is the valley of life – life science that is.
Life science professionals often use the term Medicon Valley – inspired by Silicon Valley in northern California – to describe the regional life science cluster. If you are not a life science professional, you might not have heard of Medicon Valley, but it is nevertheless very real indeed and plays an important part in the scientific, economic, and healthcare-related ‘well-being’ of the region.
Why is that? Well to begin with, we have a long and strong academic tradition in the region with universities in Lund and Copenhagen dating back to 1425 and 1479 respectively. Within these institutions, and a few younger ones such as the Technical University of Denmark, we have established a particularly strong tradition for life science research, which has continued to be a fertile breeding ground for an innovative pharmaceutical industry.
A wheel in motion
The first quarter of the early 20th century gave rise to companies like Leo Pharma, Lundbeck and Novo Nordisk. Over the years, university scientist and industry researchers have collaborated – and competed – to establish global strongholds within several life science disciplines such as diabetes, dermatology and brain diseases.
This has in turn allowed the companies and later the biotech industry to attract talent and grow and, consequently, set a positive wheel in motion contributing significantly to the local scientific community in both private and public sector life science.
A healthy industry
This is also a ‘healthy development’ in a broader sense. A healthy life science industry is a key growth driver. Were the life science industry grouped together in Denmark, it would account for the single largest export sector.
It is also a local job creator. The growing tax revenue generated from the top 10 regional life science companies exceeds 14 billion kroner (2013) and could easily pay for all national tax expenditure for medicine, which amounts to approximately 12.5 billion kroner.
Obviously patients – and citizens in general – benefit as well. The strong life science industry arm and public-private sector co-operation within research and development help to secure better treatment, a better quality of life and eventually longer lives.
As the chairman of the Medicon Valley Alliance – the gold-labelled Danish-Swedish life science cluster organisation – Søren will address current trends and challenges in the sector. Away from the alliance, he is responsible for Novo Nordisk’s global R&D-based PhD and post doc programs, as well as research, innovation and educational policy.