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Helene Hellmark Knutsson is no longer a government minister, Minister for Higher Education and Research

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Speech by Helene Hellmark Knutsson at BIO-Europe spring 2016

Stockholm, 4 April 2016.

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Mayor, honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to see all of you here in Sweden, for this truly important event for life sciences in Europe.

As the Minister for Higher Education and Research, one of my goals is to enable excellent research and innovation in the public sector – in close collaboration with the business sector.

To do this, Sweden needs to build on its strengths, and one of them is life sciences. We have strong medical research, for instance in protein research and genomics, at world-leading universities and in industry. We also have a healthcare system that has always been very innovative and ahead of its time. There is a strong collaboration between the industry and academia, both in medtech and pharmaceuticals.

Moreover, we have a long tradition of strong universities and we are now increasing the number of students in all our universities all around the country. Through this, both research institutions and industry will find very high-skilled staff. It is the high level of skills in particular that has made our country very attractive to investors.

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The future of life science in Sweden is of high priority for the government. There are many reasons;

  • The demands from the health sector are growing – especially since a larger proportion of the population are the elderly. We need to invest in making life better and in making cures more efficient in the future.
  • The life science industry is going through a change where the new ideas more often come from SMEs and universities than from Big pharma. The industry is therefore more and more dependent on collaborations with academia and health care providers.
  • Also, Life science is one of Sweden's largest export areas after wood and paper. So it is of high importance for creating jobs and growth for our economy.

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I want to tell you about some of the initiatives the government is working with:

1: The Government has appointed an Innovation Council which is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has identified Life Science and digitalization as key sectors for Sweden.

Our aim now is to strengthen Sweden's position in research and development and improve our attractiveness for investments. And also to contribute to better health and help to tackle the health-related challenges we face as a society.

I also wish to highlight that the government will work with a long-term perspective on life sciences. We will address this area in the coming research policy bill that will define Sweden's research policy for the coming 10 years.

2: In order to strengthen Swedish Life Sciences cooperation is the key.I have appointed a national coordinator for life science with the task of stimulating cooperation between the academia, industry and the health care sector, Anders Lönnberg.

The government has also appointed an advisory board with representatives for each part of the sector to assist the coordinator in identifying obstacles, and through dialogue find solutions. The objective is to set priorities and an agenda for the life science sector to work with, and also to leave suggestions for further actions to the government.

3: The Government has identified that with Sweden's skills in protein research and development it is time to make an effort to make Sweden one of the leading regions for bio-production.

So, in December the government presented a national program for protein research, method development and biologics production. It will extend over a period of eight years and the state funding will total SEK 320 million.

By this new program the Swedish government wishes to enhance the collaboration between the different sectors and make Sweden a stronger international player in the Life Science area. We strongly believe that Sweden has an unmet potential to become an attractive international platform for collaborators both in academia, the health sector and the industry.

Therefore, I am glad that we have had parallel investments by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and AstraZeneca.

Together with the government, almost one billion Swedish crowns is invested in total. This shows the importance of common goals.

Portions of this national research program may also be linked to the important research infrastructures existing in Sweden, like the SciLifeLab, the European Spallation Source (ESS) and MAX IV. This creates opportunities for international partners and for creating cross-border cooperation.

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I would also like to invite you to these large infrastructures, which are open for collaboration. And I hope that we will see more collaboration between academic research and industry, all over Europe, in the future.

Sweden has a long tradition of research and innovation in the life science area. And I hope that we together with the rest of Europe can take it forward - for the benefit of our society.

So I wish you good luck the coming days!

Thank you!