Scandinavian networking in Oslo
“Alone, we are nothing. Together, we are strong.” Under this headline the biotech regions of northern Europe came together in Oslo during the 4th Scanbalt Forum held on November 3-4. Around 180 participants from Scandinavia as well as from northern Germany, Poland and the baltic states discussed the role and position which northern biotech regions seek to take up within Europe. Their conclusions were moderate and realistic. The obviously strong economic performance of most of the Scanbalt countries should push forward the still lower power of the new EU members and lead to a more stronger and united northern European voice, especially in Brussels, they said.
What has been achieved since Scanbalt, the network of the northern bioregions, was established in 2001? At the beginning of the meeting the answers to this question were mainly positive. Ole Frijs Madsen from the Baltic Development Forum and Christian Ketels from the Harvard Business School presented a range of data, which showed the good economic performance of most of the eleven scanbalt countries. Compared with the rest of Europe the amount of researchers and scientists is extremly high. In addition, a lot of them already spend 2% to 3 % of their GDP for research and education. As Madsen underlined, the biotech focus of Scanbalt lies mainly in biomedicine.
Ketels however did not forget to mention the critical points. His data clearly indicated that the difference between old and new EU member states is high concerning the amount of investments, the number of publications and patents. “Most of the Scanbalt regions titled as biotech clusters are not really clusters in the economic meaning of the term,” Ketels underlined. To address this difficult point the Scanbalt network announced a publication for the end of the year which aims at providing the network with more facts and figures about every member region.
Enforce presence in Brussels
As one of the most successful projects within the Scanbalt region SAFEFOODERA was pointed out - a Euro4 million EU-funded initiative, which aggregated safety research projects in 20 countries. “We have to use Scanbalt as a platform, which is widely recognized in the rest of Europe,” said Ole Frijs Madsen. As Irene Norstedt, Head of sector Innovative Medicine from the EU Commission, pointed out, this goal is still far away. “The Scanbalt region is not noticed in Brussels,” she said and invited the Scandinavians to apply for the coordination office of Innovative Medicine. According to Norstedt the Commission plans to re-locate some of their coordination offices geographically away from Brussels. This idea received a lot of support from the forum participants, not least because there are no resources to afford an own Scanbalt EU office. Apart from this, all member regions agreed to enforce collective lobby activities on the EU level. Furthermore, the eastern European regions are supported within the “boosting baltic” project to provide their scientists with more information on how to raise EU funding.
Research without hype
Within the scientific panels this year's focus was on stem cell research, regenerative medicine as well as on agricultural and marine biotechnology. The northern scientists presented themselves moderate. “We do not have to hide our results, but we want to research realistically without producing any hype,” underlined Stefan Krauss, stem cell expert from Oslo University.