#TogetherAgainstCOVID19 - Interview with Sweden BIO

Read the interview with SwedenBio's Director General, Helena Strigård, in our #TogetherAgainstCOVID19 series.

COVID-19 has taken societies around the world by surprise. How did the Swedish biotech ecosystem react?

The Swedish ecosystem within life science is characterized by many small actors, and a handful of big ones, used to working closely together. When the COVID-19 challenge arose, these actors quickly joined forces as one community and found many new ways to contribute to handlining the pandemic. From a SwedenBIO-perspective, we were particularly happy to see that many companies repurposed their activities to fit into the new needs as well as acts of generosity between companies regarding advice on how to tackle the financial challenges.

Biotech SMEs and Start-Ups are affected in the short-term but also the long-term effects on the industry will unveil soon. Why is the support for the biotech & life science so important?

For the smaller companies, and particularly those in early stages, the availability to funding is crucial to reach their next milestones. These are naturally also more susceptible to the investment climate, which in certain areas has become tougher.

Collaboration across industries, politics, citizens, and research has never been more important. What roles do National Biotech Associations play in facilitating the system’s response to the crisis?

We must play a very active role in catalysing initiatives, pushing for agility in these extreme times, and make sure that governmental policies and crisis measures take into account the special needs of our sector. We can also do a lot ourselves in adapting our own activities into the most effective support for our member companies. We have seen that Swedish and Nordic companies within life science are now more eager to get in contact with International investors. In April 2021, when The Nordic Life Science Days takes place, we will start out by arranging a pre-event called Nordic Life Science Invest to this end, enabling Nordic start-up companies to get in contact with high quality investors from across the globe.

The biotech and life science ecosystems in the Nordics are very well connected. How important is and will that collaboration be in the recovery process after COVID-19?

The Nordic life sciences is increasingly teaming up, shown not least from the way SwedenBIO and a number of sister organsiations from the other Nordic countries work together in the Nordic Life Science Consortium. We also note that the interest for Nordic Life science Days, the largest business meeting within life sciences in the Nordics is increasing. The Nordic countries have something unique in that they all excel within life sciences and also share a lot of culture. It makes for a good collaboration.

What role will Europe play in this regard and what lessons should be learned for biotech in Europe?

I think that Europe and EuropaBio can help us stay connected so that we can learn from each other in an effective way but also to join forces to raise the attractiveness of Europe as a whole for investments and R&D establishments. On a global scale, Europe is one region. Also, we must not forget that one can never know what kind of pandemic hits us next time and who will hold the keys to the vaccines and treatments needed further on. The variety that we show in Europe´s life science industry is something to treasure and should be part of a joint contingency plan for future health threats.

Helena Strigård, M.Sc. Molecular Biotechnology and BA Business Economy, has previously worked as an advisor within research and innovation politics at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and as an advisor at BusinessEurope. At the Ministry of Finance in Sweden she has been responsible for a number of political areas, such as industry and research politics and the 2016 research and innovation bill. Helena Strigård took up her new position as CEO of SwedenBio in September 2019.