SwedenBIO welcomes long-term approach – but more vigorous efforts needed

On Monday, Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research, presented the Government's research policy proposal Knowledge in collaboration - for society's challenges and strengthened competitiveness, which outlines the guidelines for Sweden's research policy in the coming years.

SwedenBIO welcomes the general direction of long-term political commitment to strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness, but points out that more needs to be done to stimulate a world-leading innovation climate.

If Sweden is to maintain and strengthen its position as a leading research nation, companies must be given the conditions to play the important role they can actually do , says Jonas Ekstrand, CEO of SwedenBIO, the industry organization for Swedish life science.

The Swedish life science industry currently employs over 40,000 people in nearly 1,500 companies, of which 800 with 11,000 employees conduct their own research and development. The life science sector currently accounts for around seven percent of Sweden’s goods exports and, thanks to the companies’ strong R&D presence, also provides Sweden with significant tax revenues. It has long been clear that a strong and free academic research is certainly a basic prerequisite for Sweden’s continued development, but also that a dynamic and innovative business environment is required to make use of academic research.

– In this way, it is gratifying that the government now emphasizes the importance of collaboration between business, academia and the public sector to create a favorable innovation climate, says Jonas Ekstrand. For example, we welcome the fact that the major investments in research infrastructure in recent years will now be made available to companies to a greater extent.

Enhanced collaboration can also play an important role in facilitating the natural movement of researchers and innovators between academia and business. The limited mobility that exists today is a major competitive disadvantage that makes it more difficult for Swedish companies to attract and retain international experts, as it is difficult to arrange affiliated professorships and other research positions at Swedish universities. Increasing mobility requires action at both systemic and individual level.

Perhaps the most important thing, says Jonas Ekstrand, is that the government is now clearly signaling that the current system for innovation support must be streamlined.

– Sweden has an extensive and ambitious innovation support system, but both large companies and individual life science entrepreneurs are hampered by the fact that it is fragmented, unpredictable and lacks a long-term perspective. A major overhaul – rationalization and streamlining – can play a crucial role in creating growth and increasing international investment in Sweden.

On the whole, SwedenBIO is positive that the government now extends its time horizon and draws up guidelines for the next ten years, but the long-term goals must not obscure the need to create the conditions that are needed here and now, such as stimulating investments in research and development, which is described in the bill as being “of great importance for Sweden to create sustainable growth in a globalized economy”.

– “For several years, we have seen an ominous decline in business investment in research,” says Jonas Ekstrand. This requires several different actions, but a relatively simple one would be to increase the so-called R&D tax credits. The current 10% deduction on the employer’s contribution is of great importance for our smaller members, but the ceiling of SEK 230 000 per group per year means that larger companies are not significantly encouraged. More powerful tax incentives are needed to influence where companies choose to invest in research.

SwedenBIO’s working groups will now make a more thorough evaluation of the implications of the research policy bill for the Swedish life science industry.

Read the press release on Mynewsdesk.