A turn-around for Swedish life science

March 30, 2016 Guest Contributor

Credits Ola Ericson imagebankswedense

Guest post by Malin Anderson, Editor in Chief , Nordic Life Science Magazine


After some tough years much effort is now being made to strengthen the Swedish life science industry.


Sweden has a long tradition of medical research and groundbreaking innovations. The life science industry has yielded innovations, such as the gamma knife, the ultrasound scanner, the artificial kidney and pharmaceuticals like Bricanyl and Losec. The country holds a world-leading position in research within several therapy areas, such as neuroscience and oncology as well as biomaterials, regenerative medicine, gene therapy, genomics, diagnostics, pharmaceutical development and medical implants.


But in recent years the Swedish life science scene has been experiencing some difficult times. An industry report from 2014 also showed that the Swedish life science market was losing ground. According to the Vinnova report, the sector decreased by 4,000 employees over the past five years, corresponding to 2,200 posts since 2009. A consequence of a few large firms deciding to close research operations and production units in Sweden, including to a great part AstraZeneca’s closure of two research facilities. The number of clinical trials has also seen a downfall in recent years, as in other Nordic and European countries.


In order to strengthen the once so thriving life science business many efforts are now being made and the issue is a priority political matter. A special coordinator, Anders Lönnberg, has been appointed to the task of assembling the Swedish life science industry and suggesting actions to make it thrive again. Some major investments have recently been made in Sweden’s life sciences research infrastructure, with large facilities being established, such as SciLifeLab, Max IV and ESS, the European Spallation Source. Other investments in clusters, life science and healthcare facilities are also underway in other cities in Sweden, such as a new Centre for Imaging and Intervention at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothen­burg. The new center is a EUR 200 million investment, due for completion in 2016. A new Medical Biology Centre (MBC) at Umeå University is being set up to enable the Faculty of Medicine to co-locate its activities and gather its medical research under one roof. In Gothenburg, Sweden is also getting a new hub for biomedical translational research.


“Sweden is at the forefront when it comes to quality records, biobanks and personal data. We have a population that takes on trends at an early stage. The Swedish value system, as well as Swedish healthcare and innovations rank high on the international scale. These are all important factors that make Sweden stand out,” believes Ebba Hult at Business Sweden.


SwedenBIO has also noticed a growing international interest in Swedish and Nordic life science. “This is manifested in the number of international delegates, which have increased during our partnering events,” says Ingrid Heath at SwedenBIO.


So how shall Sweden maintain its long tradition as a successful life science nation? Staying competitive is one key factor.


“We must never become too complacent. This business changes constantly and the investments will occur in those countries that rapidly embrace new technology. At the moment the focus is on the importance of attracting more of the international capital, getting a full exchange for the investments that are made in research infrastructure as well as getting a more innovative and digitalized healthcare,” says Heath.


Read the full report on the Swedish life science market on Nordic Life Science Magazine

*Meet innovative Swedish biotech companies at “Start-up slam: Sweden” at BIO-Europe Spring® 2016 taking place in Stockholm next week, April 4–6. The session takes place Tuesday, April 5, and features presentations from 18 of the best and the brightest from Sweden’s early academic innovator ecosystem. View the program here.


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