SwedenBIO comments on the innovation report: “Too narrow a perspective!”

SwedenBIO has now submitted its views on the report "Innovation as a driving force - from research to benefit" to the government. The inquiry has been tasked with reviewing innovation support systems at higher education institutions to strengthen Sweden's innovation capacity.

Frida Lawenius, Vice President of SwedenBIO, believes the investigation has been too narrow.

– There are great gains to be made in a well-oiled innovation system, but unfortunately the investigation has only analyzed and provided measures to support the innovations that come from ideas in the higher education institutions’ own operations and that make their way via the higher education institutions’ innovation offices and holding companies. This is too narrow a perspective on how new products and services are developed and commercialized and gives a distorted view of how innovation ideas emerge. In fact, innovations are often created at the intersection of different activities – business, healthcare and academia – through research collaborations or through people’s mobility and relationships.

SwedenBIO therefore calls for a more comprehensive review of the entire innovation system, which includes strategic collaboration, infrastructures and state venture capital and not just the universities’ innovation offices and holding companies.

Klementina Österberg, CEO of the holding company GU Ventures, emphasizes the importance of a strong financial ecosystem.

– The inquiry has given us a unique opportunity to make our voices heard about the fact that most of the ideas we work on in connection with higher education institutions are of a disruptive nature and mean that completely new technologies and business models can emerge. These are mainly found in the life science sector. However, our assessment is that the proposal is far too weak financially, as there is no money to really put the ideas into action. So if the holding companies do not have the investment resources to invest in these ideas, Sweden is unlikely to produce more and stronger innovation projects from academia.

Helén Fält is CEO of Quretech Bio which was founded in 2010 to commercialize world-leading research from Umeå University, Sweden and Washington University, St Louis, USA.

From your own development journey, what has been most important in taking the project from academic research to where you are today?

– There has been strong research and persistence, support from innovation offices, incubators and long-term investors. It is very important to get support from the beginning to deal with IP issues in order to create good conditions for the future.

What are the main measures that need to be put in place to facilitate the success of excellent life science innovation projects?

– There is good support and soft funds are really needed to facilitate the transition from academia to companies. That you can also get support for critical technology verification where it is not possible to get academic funding and it is too early for investors. In order to broaden the opportunities for Sweden to have innovative products, it is an advantage not to set too narrow criteria for receiving support, e.g. a time limit for how long you are considered to be innovative. It takes a long time to develop a medicine and often the company is set up just to hold a patent before operations can start.

Read SwedenBIO’s response here.

Read the report here.