Denmark Grows Into Euro-Cluster
The Nordic countries are on their way to become a hotbed for biotechnology research. Specifically, the Danish life science sector - grown from big traditional companies like Novo - has brought forth numerous SME. Favourable economic and infrastructural conditions, close cooperation between academia and industry, governmental and strong clinical research support have resulted in a growth in Research & Development and a rise in the patenting of biotech-medical products. Almost every third patent in Denmark comes from the biotechnology industry which is ranked second only to the UK in terms of the number of biotechnology products in the pipeline in the EU.
In addition to building on domestic strengths - namely proteomics, bioinfor-matics, cancer, immunology, diabetes and stem cell research, systems biology and nanotechnology - Denmark has forged fruitful networks over the Øresund strait with Southern Sweden (Medicon Valley) and throughout the Baltic and Scandina-vian Bioregion as well as Poland and Germany (ScanBalt). Findings of a 2003 survey predict some 2,500 extra biotech jobs to be created in the cross-border bioregion Medi-con Valley by 2006 (Øresund Labour Market Council/Labour Market Council for greater Copenhagen). Key life science companies on the Danish side around Copenhagen comprise among others Novo Nor-disk, H. Lundbeck, Pharmexa, Neuro-Search, Leo Pharmaceuticals, Bavarian Nordic, BioImage, NsGene, Exiqon and Pantheco. But R&D in biotech is not only taking place in Medicon Valley. Smaller clusters are centred in Ålborg, Århus and Odense. Key strengths in Odense include proteomics and stem cells. The University of Southern Denmark and Odense University Hospital are members of the virtual Danish Stem Cell Centre, which also bundles Copenhagen and Ålborg Universities as well as NsGene A/S and the Hagedorn Research Institute.
Århus University and Skejby University Hospital have been seed crystals for biomedical start-ups. Ålborg University fulfills the same role in the key research areas of neurorehabilitation technology, sensory systems and technology, medical informatics, and stem cells. It closely cooperates with the Science Park NOVI A/S, where more than 50% of the new start ups focus on biomedical technology.
Signs for Improving
Even though the general investment climate is considered to be rather lukewarm, as the Berlingske Tidende wrote recently, Pharmexa A/S secured a financial injection of some Euro28 million in late April at the Copenhagen stock exchange (see p. 13). Portfolio managers already expect more of such rights issues to follow.
There are further positive signs. Two thirds of Denmark's venture capitalists expect to increase their investment level in this quarter as well as the number of exits, according to a 2003 study of the Growth Fund and the Danish Association of Venture Companies. In 2002 life science companies had attracted 48% of investments by Danish VCs after all.
The Government also puts considerable efforts into supporting the biotech sector in order to convert IP into products. After the Entrepreneur Fund, set-up in 2003 with Euro67,2 million mainly for biotech and IT, a new foundation for high-technology and innovation, aiming also at biotechnology, will be launched in 2005.