An ecosystem in life science

The Stockholm region's life science cluster includes Uppsala, Stockholm, Södertälje, and Strängnäs

This life science cluster brings together global SMEs, investors, and innovative startups. Since 2018, the government has appointed a coordination function for life science, followed by a national life science strategy that was launched in 2019 with the aim of further strengthening Sweden as a leading life science nation.

The importance of the life science industry to Sweden is made clear by the recently published half-yearly figures from Statistics Norway, where Swedish pharmaceutical exports accounted for 7.1% of Sweden's total exports, which is thus higher than the traditionally strong export industries such as passenger cars, iron and steel and also paper products. The Stockholm-Uppsala metropolitan region is a generally well-developed, innovative, and growing region for business, where Stockholm was ranked number 1 by the EU Commission's "Regional Innovation Scoreboard," 2022. Life science is also an important industry here.

The life science cluster in the Stockholm region covers the geographic area of Uppsala, Stockholm, Södertälje, and Strängnäs. It brings together global, small, and medium-sized companies, investors, and innovative startups. Here are 50% of all life science employees in Sweden, around 1,000 life science companies where all sectors in the industry are represented: pharma, medtech, biotech, service companies, and the emerging health tech segment. Most companies (around 60%) have fewer than ten employees, affecting their needs for offices and labs. Seen over ten years (2009–2019), regional companies have increased by 48%. In addition to the growing life science industry in the Stockholm region, there are five universities with significant life science activities, three university hospitals, and essential authorities such as the Medical Products Agency and the Public Health Agency.

Closeness, closeness, closeness.

Overall, the Stockholm-Uppsala region has a well-developed ecosystem within life science. From a real estate perspective, there is thus a market within the life science area, where there has also historically been substantial growth in the number of companies. An example where the focus is both real estate and urban development, as well as life science, is Hagastaden. The basis for Hagastaden is the vision signed in 2007 by several key players to develop an old station area, Norra Station, into a new vibrant district and, at the same time, a world-leading life science cluster. When the Norra Stations area began its transformation, life science companies' interest in establishing themselves was not significant. Today, development has come halfway, and life science companies' interest in establishing themselves here is greater than ever. Global companies such as Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, MSD, and Bayer have chosen to show themselves here, together with small innovative startups, which in many cases have their origins in research from the universities. Today, 170 companies and other life science actors come together in Hagastaden in an area three times larger than Gamla Stan.

What drives a life science company to move to Hagastaden in particular? There are more reasons, but a given explanation is proximity, proximity, proximity. In Hagastaden is the Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital, St Erik's Eye Hospital, and within walking distance of KTH and Stockholm University. Proximity to research, other companies, and healthcare are essential in choosing where a company should conduct its operations to gain access to the best competence and achieve its business benefit. In addition, there is an extensive range of services, proximity to Stockholm city, and good communication, which are prerequisites for an attractive employer when recruiting new employees. Proximity to other industries and competencies is also essential, such as the information and communication cluster in Kista, the gaming cluster in the south, and the financial cluster in central Stockholm. Today, the traditional life science industry is closely intertwined with the tech industry, as many of the developed solutions are relevant to developing new solutions in life science.

Today, life science is a contact sport in that there is a need for collaboration between universities, industry, and healthcare. The universities are responsible for basic research where an understanding of our health and diseases is built, and industry develops products to maintain health, diagnose and cure diseases, and healthcare diagnoses and cures. In addition, cooperation between the companies, the large global ones but also the small innovative ones, is important. 10–20 years ago, large multinational pharmaceutical companies worked in isolation with a focus on ensuring that all competence was within the company. They rarely collaborated with other companies. Then something happened, it was realized that the best competence is not always "in-house" but with other actors/organizations. The focus was shifted to the outside world, and collaborations were actively invited. Today, the so-called ecosystem thinking has emerged, which means that you see your organization as part of a larger context – an ecosystem. In a functioning ecosystem, there is a mix of different actors such as companies, large global and small startups, universities and healthcare, financiers, authorities, and various support functions. The other actors in the ecosystem all contribute in different ways. There must be places where these actors meet in both organized forms, and spontaneously. Therefore there must be meeting rooms, conference facilities, cafes, and restaurants. Another important component is proximity. It must be easy to meet. In the ecosystem, real estate players play an important role in providing premises adapted for the various players and creating space for meeting places.

An ecosystem is emerging

In Hagastaden, a life science ecosystem is now emerging around the Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital, where offices and lab spaces are offered for the large company and small growing companies that need more flexibility. In connection with Karolinska Institutet moving its research to the new Biomedicum property in 2018, premises became vacant on Campus Solna, which was opened to establish life science companies. To meet the needs of the small companies, Akademiska Hus also started the concept A Working Lab, AWL, which offers flexible lab and office space to the many startup companies. In Hagastaden, since 2010, real estate and housing developers have coordinated in a joint association to realize the vision of a world-leading life science cluster in a vibrant city district. The understanding of the unique needs of life science companies has increased among property owners, and an interest in the concept of "life science properties" has increased both nationally and internationally. What life science real estate means can differ depending on who you ask. A critical component is undeniably proximity to strong knowledge environments such as universities and hospitals and another is meeting places. Properties enabling laboratory activities are an important part of the offer, but they can also be pure office offers for large and small companies. The coworking concept has also reached the life science industry, and in Hagastaden there is, among other things, AWL, which was mentioned above, also The Park and Convendum. Another trend in recent years is the interest from pure investment players, i.e., those who want to invest in life science properties, where the Stockholm region is mentioned as an important knowledge node in Europe within the segment. It is a trend that comes from the United States, where there is great interest in investments in life science properties.

In the Stockholm region, there is also Campus Flemingsberg, located south of the city in connection with the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge and which is being developed both in terms of housing and commercial properties adapted, among other things, in life science. Also, in Uppsala, significant investments are being made in life science properties. Overall, life science properties are a growing segment in the region where life science is an important part of Swedish business life.

Stockholm Science City Foundation

Stockholm Science City Foundation, SSCi, was established in 1990 to strengthen cooperation between universities and the environments around the universities so that they become attractive for the establishment of actors relevant to the universities, such as companies with research and development activities, research institutes or authorities. SSCi must also promote collaboration between different sciences and universities, industry, and healthcare. SSCi is financed by the three universities in Stockholm, Karolinska Institutet, KTH and Stockholm University, and Region Stockholm and Stockholm City. Today, SSCi focuses its work on Hagastaden and the emerging life science ecosystem and acts as a support organization that identifies needs and ensures that the right actors address them.

Through global monitoring, SSCi puts Stockholm in relation to the rest of the world, facilitates cooperation locally, nationally, and globally. Through e.g., seminars, workshops, and panel discussions, SSCi works with knowledge transfer between different actors to spread what is happening in Stockholm in social media and newsletters. SSCi also produces reports that highlight Stockholm in various ways. SSCi works closely with the real estate players involved in Hagastaden and participates as an associate in the association set up between the real estate players in Hagastaden.