Gothenburg makes use of its strong quadruple helix collaboration between industry, academia, healthcare and society, and its high innovation capacity to place the city at the forefront of future healthcare and medicine.
The annual Gothenburg life science event Park Annual was held at the end of September. It attracted 500 participants who had the chance to network, initiate collaborations and learn more about the latest progress in the region. Something very critical for the success of Gothenburg, according to Charlotta Gummeson, the CEO of Sahlgrenska Science Park, a research and development park focused on strengthening the life science industry in the region.
”It is very important to work together, to look at what the city possesses and to raise what’s working well,” she says.
And with a strong collaboration system and a political will, companies are able to develop, grow and stay in the region, she continues, “And we want to think global from day one.”
Sahlgrenska Science Park is jointly owned by the Region Västra Götaland, Business Region Göteborg, the University of Gothenburg (through GU Ventures), Chalmers University of Technology and the City of Mölndal. It is well connected with the other strategic science parks in Gothenburg; Johanneberg Science Park, focusing on the areas of urban development, energy and materials, and Lindholmen Science Park, focusing on transportation and mobility.
“Our model for science parks as a facilitator that joins forces in order to create critical mass is unique compared to other cities I think. There is a clear ownership dialog between the parks and a will to build upon these clusters,” Gummeson says.
A new approach for open innovation
A successful example of the city capturing and building upon the strengths already there is the AstraZeneca BioVentureHub in Mölndal, a new approach for open innovation. The company has opened up their offices, laboratory space and facilities to academic groups and biotech companies that could gain competitive advantage by tapping into AstraZeneca’s resources and expertise. The hub has been called a game changer in the Swedish life science industry, and today, companies in the hub include Antaros Medical, Athera Biotechnologies, Lipigon, Mölnlycke, Swecure and Vicore Pharma.
The hub has now also taken an important step towards becoming an international research arena. An investment of 3.5 billion SEK was presented by Next Step and Vectura in collaboration with AstraZeneca in October, with the purpose to form a new life science cluster in the area.
It is planned to start in 2019 and will house its first tenants in 2021. By 2030 they want to create at least 7 000 workplaces in the cluster and a total area of 100 000 m2. A role model in the project is Stanford University, where meetings and interactions between people has been an important ingredient for success.
“We strongly believe in a life science cluster in the region, since it would mean very good prerequisites and increase cross-fertilization, innovation and attractiveness. The innovation chain is important for AstraZeneca and our ambition to be the hub in one of the world’s leading research clusters. In order to succeed it is critical that we attract key competencies and collaborations,” said Jan-Olof Jacke, CEO of AstraZeneca Sweden.
Facing the challenges ahead
Another important feature of Park Annual was its theme of the Future and the challenge of adapting to the rapidly ever-changing life science industry, especially when it comes to digital health and the healthcare sector.
”The life science concept will broaden and we need new kinds of competencies, not traditionally related to life science. We have to stay alert to all the new things that are coming, and it is also a very exciting period,” says Gummeson. ”We want to tackle these challenges through interplay in relevant issues.”
To face these challenges, Gothenburg has a great academic excellence, originating from the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital. It has a strong tradition of innovation, resulting in for example Losec, the Brånemark implant, drugs against Parkinson’s and most recently, the first ever completed pregnancy from a transplanted uterus. In the latest Shanghai ranking the university was placed second in Sweden and 42nd in the world in the subjects of biological sciences and clinical medicine. Odontology at the university is leading in Sweden, and continues to have a strong international ranking at number 26. The city is also in the forefront of infection and immunology (for example gastrointestinal diseases), metabolic diseases, oncology, cell and gene therapy and ageing research, like Alzheimer’s disease. Technical research with medical applications includes microwave technology for medical applications, where Gothenburg is a world leader, biomaterials, bioimaging and bionics. The life science sector in the city employs around 9 000 people and there are approximately 540 companies working in the field.