A new collaboration agreement between AstraZeneca, Oslo Cancer Cluster, and Oslo Science City aims to strengthen the Nordic health industry by facilitating closer collaboration between researchers, startups, and pharmaceutical companies.
This is a translation of an article in Norwegian, written jointly by Oslo Science City and Oslo Cancer Cluster. The Norwegian version can be read on Oslo Science City’s webpage.
The focus on investment in the health industry in Norway gained momentum after Minister of Trade and Industry, Jan Christian Vestre announced at the Norway Life Science conference in February 2023 that the government would develop a roadmap for the health industry.
In June, the health industry was selected as the fourth national export promotion initiative under the export reform “All of Norway Exports.” Two months later, Vestre and Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol presented the roadmap, outlining 41 measures and 12 focus areas aimed at the sector developing drugs, medical devices, and digital tools.
Ahead of this year’s Norway Life Science conference, the Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, Oslo Cancer Cluster, and the innovation district Oslo Science City are following up with a collaboration agreement to strengthen contacts and cooperation between Norwegian and Swedish research and innovation environments. The agreement will facilitate Norwegian startups’ access to residency at AstraZeneca’s innovation hub, BioVentureHub, in Gothenburg. Simultaneously, Swedish companies will have the opportunity to reside at Oslo Cancer Cluster and collaborate closely with their environments in cancer and precision medicine, as well as the outstanding research groups from the Radium Hospital, part of Oslo University Hospital, and the University of Oslo, which are gathered in Oslo Science City.
“It is important for AstraZeneca to contribute to the success of new startups and to strengthen the entire Nordic health industry. Therefore, we are very happy to participate in this collaboration, which will benefit all parties and build the Nordic region`s position internationally as a leading region in health and life sciences.” Guro Bjøntegaard, Managing Director of AstraZeneca Norway.
Industrial expertise and international connections
BioVentureHub was established in 2014 as an open and internationally oriented innovation ecosystem based on a public-private partnership model. Here, promising startups and research groups in Life Sciences can access office and laboratory space close to AstraZeneca’s strong professional communities and advanced research infrastructure.
“For our company, it is crucial to maintain close contact with the companies and knowledge communities that contribute to pushing the knowledge frontier in the fields we work in. Some of these companies and environments end up entering formal collaborations with AstraZeneca, but the most important purpose of BioVentureHub is to create a professional meeting place for creativity and innovation,” said Bjøntegaard.
From the Norwegian side, Oslo Cancer Cluster will have the role of identifying the companies that are offered residency in BioVentureHub. General manager Ketil Widerberg points out that promising Norwegian startups often lack industrial expertise and an important link to the international market:
“International collaboration is essential to scale up Norwegian startups. BioVentureHub can connect our start-ups to international value chains, and it is only a short train ride from Oslo. I think that will be quite effective!” Ketil Widerberg, Oslo Cancer Cluster
Lifting the entire Nordic region
The parties to the agreement also want to involve Innovation Norway, whereby Norwegian companies staying at BioVentureHub can apply for support during their residency. In the long term, the goal is also to involve Vinnova, Innovation Norway’s Swedish sister organization, in the collaboration.
“Health technology is an important Norwegian export industry, and at Innovation Norway, we encourage this type of broad Nordic collaboration between industry, startups, and research environments. By building stronger collaboration between the governmental agencies responsible for grants and support in the Nordic countries, we can contribute to lifting the entire Nordic region.” Håkon Haugli, CEO of Innovation Norway.
Over several decades, Norway has invested significant public funds in health research, but Christine Wergeland Sørbye, Managing Director of Oslo Science City, points out that several analyses show that we have been less successful than other countries in using this research to develop new companies.
“There is great potential here for business development that will both create new jobs and benefit Norwegian patients in the form of new medicines and treatments.” Christine Wergeland Sørbye, Oslo Science City
“By strengthening the collaboration between research and business across Nordic borders, we shall realize this potential,” says Wergeland Sørbye.