Lessons learned from the Medicon Valley Alliance

Originally posted at https://dariovazquezalbacete.wordpress.com/

November 2016

Scandinavia offers a unique science and technology ecosystem. One of the best examples of how Nordic countries work together and unite their strengths is the Medicon Valley Alliance initiative (MVA). This life science cluster located in the greater area of Copenhagen gathers some of the most influential life science companies and universities in the region Øresund region (Copenhagen area and south Sweden) and provides a framework to attract international funding and talent. I had the pleasure to attend to the MVA annual meeting 2016, representing the Society of Spanish researchers in Denmark, thanks to the  kind invitation of Petter Hartman CEO of the MVA. There I joined also Eva Ortega, the representative of the Society of Spanish researchers in Sweden who is a key person in our close collaborations within the Øresund region.

The MVA annual meeting 2016 was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the challenges and successful funding strategies for life science companies at different stages. One of the first aspects that stroke me from the beginning of this meeting was the emphasis the MVA, companies and policy-makers on how important it is to attract international talent and the value of the scientific staff in the life science sector. This emphasis was not only reflected in the content of speeches but also in the ongoing policies of such institutions. During the introduction to the event, Petter Hartman brought up some interesting figures found in the MVA report 2016. For examples, since 2008 the number of employees in life science has grown in Denmark, while in Sweden has been decreasing.


Source: MVA annual report 2016

Such negative figures in the number of life science employees in Sweden were partly due to the restructuring of AstraZeneca from 2007 to 2012, which relocated some of its research and production facilities. A big difference between large Swedish and Danish companies such as Novo Nordisk, Carlsberg or Lundbeck lies in the composition of the shareholders and the management board. Danish companies have traditionally held nearly 30% of the shares in private Danish foundations hands, while 70% of the management controlling the company is also Danish. This composition not only ensures high revenues for the remaining 70% of the shareholders but also protects the interest of Danish companies and allows a high investment stream into education through research dedicated foundations.


Source: Website Novo Nordisk and Carlsberg

The Swedish Minister of Education and Research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, gave the first speech. She also stressed the importance of attracting talent to Sweden in order to make the life science sector grow strong. The minister pointed out that research and education should not be separated at a political level. Sweden is strategically incentivizing the growth of the health care, epidemiology and bioengineering areas amid of the concern of an increasingly globalized and aging population.


The Swedish Minister of Education and Research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson

Following the talk of the Swedish minister, Peter Høngaard Andersen CEO of the Innovation Fund Denmark (IFD), outlined the main funding schemes of the IFD aspects that for him have a major impact on the growth of the life science sector. Here education is mentioned as one of the pillars of the IFD’s for improving the productivity of life science companies. More specifically, industrial PhD and postdoc programs, which provide companies with qualified workforce coming out from universities to develop high-risk projects. Public investment is another important activity of the IFD. Peter Høngaard Andersen emphasized that everything has to start with public investment, for example, to build core facilities to give specialized services to Small and Medium Size companies (SME’s) that can help them develop added value products. This, in turn, generates more qualified job positions in companies as they need to develop high-tech products. In addition, the IFD invest in start-up incubators, as a way to boost the growth of a large number of tech companies, including life science. Here public investment is also needed, but again it translates into a larger number of companies that creates more high-quality jobs. The CEO of the IDF regretted that the institution has suffered some budget restrictions. He explained that the success rate of the grant calls is an indicator of the funding capacity. In Europe, many institutions have a low success rate of funding, which in many cases indicates the lack of enough financial resources to fund more projects.


Peter Høngaard Andersen CEO of the Innovation Fund Denmark (IFD)

Finally, it is worth mentioning the presentation given by Venture Capital (VC) firms such as Sund Capital. These investors are specialized in rising private money for start-up companies with a high-risk project. Both David Horn Solomon, Managing Partner at Sund Capital and Kristopher D. Brown, Partner at Dechert LLP, indicated that in Europe there is not so much tradition of raising private funds and the current mechanisms are more conservative. However, David Horn Solomon, encouraged entrepreneurs to be open to talking to private investors, be very proactive making phone calls, and develop convincing pitch talks that make the assets appealing to such investors. Pitching is an activity traditionally taught in the US, but in Europe still remains as an underdeveloped skill, yet critical for the successful funding of life science projects. The talks were closed by the US ambassador in Denmark, Rufus Gifford, who gave some keys for the incoming US election results.


David Horn Solomon, Managing Partner at Sund Capital

At the end of the event we had the opportunity to network with some of the participants, strengthened our collaborations with our counterparts in Sweden and met some Spanish institutions such as CataloniaBio and the company Mind the Byte established in Copenhagen. Overall the meeting was a great success and we gained really good insights into some of the funding strategies that the Nordic countries are applying. I also thank Petter Hartman for inviting us to the event and we hope to establish future successful collaborations with the MVA.

Darío Vázquez-Albacete

Chairman of the Society of Spanish researchers in Denmark

Postdoctoral researcher

Other sources:




Jornadas “Bridging European Science” – 7 de Octubre 2016 Lund

In English below

YYa está disponible el programa actualizado de nuestro evento “Bridging European Science” que se celebra el 7 de Octubre en Lund.

Las jornadas están organizadas conjuntamente entre la CED y ACES (Asociación de Científicos Españoles en Suecia) y el objetivo primordial es el de fomentar los lazos entre ambas asociaciones, especialmente entre las zonas de Copenhague y Lund, aprovechando las alianzas estratégicas que hay entre Suecia y Dinamarca a través del puente de Øresund.

Estas jornadas están organizadas a través de pequeñas ponencias, habiendo un turno de preguntas desde de cada ponencia, así como una mesa redonda con todo los ponentes al final de las jornadas.  Cabe destacar la participación de Petter Hartman director del Medicon Valley Alliance y de Sindra Pettersson Aarskold del European Spallation Center. Dos grandes redes de investigación con sede en el area de Øresund que son un ejemplo de las colaboraciones Sueco-Danesas.

Respecto a la financiación, la participación es gratuita y se podrá financiar parcialmente el traslado de todos los miembros de la CED/ACES que participen en este evento y se trasladen desde fuera de la zona LUND-COPENHAGUE.

Las jornadas están financiadas por FECyT, Fundación Ramón Areces, Embajada de España en Dinamarca, Embajada de España en Suecia, European Spallation Source y GENOMICA SAU.

Échale un vistazo al póster actualizado del evento al final de esta página.

Registro gratuíto: http://tinyurl.com/jmktnce
Registro para la cena: http://tinyurl.com/zvfx5hl

Texto adaptado de Dr. Paula Fernández Guerra
Vicepresidenta de la Asociación de Científicos Españoles en Dinamarca


The updated program for our event “Bridging European Science” to be celebrated on the 7th of October in Lund is now available.

This event is organized by CED/SFD and ACES (Asociación de Científicos Españoles en Suecia/the Spanish Scientists association in Sweden) and the main objective is to strenghten the union and cooperation among the two associations, specially in the Copenhagen and Lund areas, taking advantage of the strategic alliances between Sweden and Denmark through the Øresund bridge.

The event will be organized through short talks with a question round between them and a round table with all the speakers at the end of the day. We would like to highlight the participation of Peter Hartman, director of the Medicon Valley Alliance, and of Sindra Pettersson Aarskold, from the European Spallation Center. These are fantastic examples of Swedish-Danish collaboration in two big research networks based in the Øresund area.

The event will be free of charge for everybody and CED/ACES members will have the oportunity to partially fund their travel costs, if they travel from the outside of the Copenhagen – Lund area.

The events is sponsored by FECyT, Fundación Ramón Areces, Embajada de España en Dinamarca, Embajada de España en Suecia, European Spallation Source and GENOMICA SAU.

Register for free http://tinyurl.com/jmktnce
Register for the dinner: http://tinyurl.com/zvfx5hl

Text adapted from Dr. Paula Fernández Guerra
Vicechairman of the Spanish Scientists in Denmark association

Bridging European Science – Oct. 7th 2016 Lund

Read it in English below

La CED/SFD invita a estudiantes, científicos y managers a participar en este evento singular donde la ciencia danesa, sueca y espanola convergen en Medicon Village. En este evento podrás asistir a un taller de networking, tendrás la oportunidad de conocer las opciones de mobilidad que ofrecen distintas instituciones europeas y conocerás más sobre las actividadesde la industria de la región Øresund.

Regístrate gratis (comida incluída): http://tinyurl.com/z44jxm8
Regístrate para la cena: http://tinyurl.com/zvfx5hl

Puedes ver nuestro póster del evento “Bridging European Science” más abajo.

Este evento está organizado por: Científicos Españoles en Dinamarca – CED / Spanske Forskere i Danmark y ACES (Sweden)

Y está patrocinado por: FECyTFundación Ramón ArecesEmbajada de España en Dinamarca, Embajada de España en Suecia y GENOMICA SAU

Envíanos tus preguntas a: ace.dinamarca@gmail.com


The CED/SFD invites students, scientists, and managers to attend this unique event where the Danish, Swedish, and Spanish science converge in the Medicon Village. This event will give you the opportunity to take part in a networking workshop, the chance to know more about the possibilities of mobility offered by different European institutions, and the activities of the industry in the Øresund region.

Register for free (lunch included): http://tinyurl.com/z44jxm8
Register for the dinner: http://tinyurl.com/zvfx5hl

Organized by: Científicos Españoles en Dinamarca – CED / Spanske Forskere i Danmark and ACES (Sweden)

Sponsored by: FECyTFundación Ramón ArecesEmbajada de España en Dinamarca,Embajada de España en Suecia and GENOMICA SAU

Questions can be addressed to the organizers: ace.dinamarca@gmail.com