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The power of networking within life science

Öresund Bridge
The Öresund Bridge. Photo: Mopstphotos

On 4 November there is an opportunity for researchers at Lund University to participate free of charge in the annual meeting of the Medicon Valley Alliance. Petter Hartman, CEO, talks about the benefits for both society and individual researchers when life science networks are strengthened and cooperation flourishes across national boundaries.

It is said that people build too many walls and not enough bridges. However, the Öresund Bridge was built and has become an important factor for new collaborations between researchers, entrepreneurs and clinicians in Denmark and Sweden. The building of the bridge also signalled the start of the Medicon Valley Alliance, MVA , which is engaged in strengthening networks and stimulating cross-Öresund collaborations in the life science sector. The organisation was established three years before the first cars crossed the Öresund Bridge and today’s interview with Petter Hartman, CEO of the Medicon Valley Alliance, is taking place at his office in Örestad, Denmark.

“The aim at that time was to examine how to get the greatest possible exchange from the new situation in which two national regions were linked by the bridge. It was natural to start with the life science sector”, says Petter Hartman.

With its 250 members, MVA is a unique forum for people from academia, clinical care and the private sector. The aim is to focus on shared oppurtunities and important topics for the development of the sector.

“It concerns showing decision-makers in each country how our national economies profit from collaborations, and on showing how these collaborations benefit citizens. By uniting our resources, we become more attractive internationally”, explains Petter Hartman.

He takes as an example combining the region’s patient population – and the associated biobanks and patient registers – which produces a volume that is of interest from an international perspective, not least when wanting to attract companies to place clinical trials here. 

Where does the region stand compared with other similar life science clusters?

“It is well positioned in general. We are one of the strongest in Europe and in certain fields of research we have a very strong position. But we need to go up a few notches to reach the top in terms of academic excellence. If we dare not talk about it and what is required to improve, there is a risk that we will fall behind. That would affect continued investment in the research environments, so these are important issues.”

Petter Hartman points out that there is actually a considerable consensus in the region regarding the direction to be taken, but a lack of resources and interest from the national level in Sweden and Denmark is slowing progress.

“The regional cross-boundary cooperation to address our common challenges is sure to become even more important from a national perspective, both for Sweden and Denmark. A large proportion of the available research funding does not take into account the tradition of collaboration across national boundaries that exists here and this impedes the innovative power of the region. We have to be clear on this issue and show how Swedish research is strengthened if we collaborate across borders.”

Annual meeting: free admission for LU employees

The Medicon Valley Alliance’s annual meeting is to be held on 4 November. Petter Hartman emphasises the opportunity for individual researchers to utilise the good networking possibilities the forum offers and to get involved and discuss challenges and opportunities for the life science sector – and networking is always best face to face.

“The Swedish and Danish ministers for Business, Industry and Innovation will talk about the national agendas for life science. We emphasise best practice for how researchers can capitalise on their ideas and how companies can grow. In addition to the good networking opportunities, there is a programme of exciting presentations from investors, politicians and companies ‘who have made the journey’, says Petter Hartman.

Participation for researchers at Lund University is free of charge, as the University is a member of the Medicon Valley Alliance.

“We know that international collaborations increase the chance of being published in high-ranking journals. Why not start to examine opportunities for such collaborations on the other side of the Öresund Bridge?” says Petter Hartman.

Read more about the annual meeting and how to register via this link

Tove Smeds

Peter Hartman
“Sweden has strong innovation environments and a tradition of commercialisation. Denmark has large investors in pharmaceuticals as well as capital-rich private foundations. This creates exciting dynamics and makes us more competitive”, says Petter Hartman

Themed networks

Themed networks are one of the ways in which the Medicon Valley Alliance works to create arenas that strengthen research in the region. There are, for example, networks that focus on: cancer, medical technology, commercialisation of research and microbiome-related research and development. In addition, MVA runs a number of regional cross-border projects. One example is the reproductive medicine collaboration, ReproUnion, which has attracted considerable international attention.

“Not only do the networks provide an opportunity to make contacts and enrich collaborations, they are also a way for us to showcase the expertise that exists in the region. This in turn is attractive for investors and helps to persuade international researchers to seek openings here”, says Petter Hartman.

“In the future we want to obtain even more collaborative projects based on our positions of academic strength. There are many exciting fields of research, such as diabetes, neurology and cancer – the most important aspect for us is to see where we can create the greatest possible benefit”.