More life-science, in Lund

In the early part of 2011 I was struck by the difference between the debate and focus in Denmark and in southern Sweden, just across the bridge. Perhaps it had to do with the uncertainty regarding the upcoming Danish election? Perhaps there is a real difference in mentality? At that stage many Danes I met were increasingly annoyed that the Swedish economy was doing much better, and as a Swede holding a leading position in Denmark, I was walking a thin line. However, I could not resist making a point about the difference in debate and highlight the positive development in the science-city of Lund, which was hardly mentioned in Denmark. In previous articles I have mentioned and discussed the mega investments in the ESS science facility in Lund. In this column I discuss the privately enabled Ideon Life Science Village, which is currently being established there. My purpose was to inspire and increase the interest on the Danish side to make more connections with Lund. It hasn’t really happened yet.

Onsdag 02/02/2011. Berlingske Nyhedsmagasin.

Another 1.000 life science-jobs… in Lund

In Sweden a private individual has just donated 100 million Swedish Crowns, to create progress in a science-park in Lund. In Denmark we are leading a passionate debate, discussing whether publicly funded early retirement benefits* should be abolished quickly or slowly.

In Denmark, we are proud of our strong position in the field of life science; which is why it is interesting that the University of Lund, Astra Zeneca and the billionaire Mats Paulson (founder of the construction company Peab) are now founding Ideon Life Science Village. The city will create one thousand new jobs, a power centre for research in life science, and a dynamic environment for entrepreneurship. The intention is clear: Lund wants to attract top researchers from around the globe, expanding companies based in medicine and related sciences, plus people with an interest in creating new companies.

The future is in Lund. The venture is especially interesting since Lund is already in the process of building ESS – the world’s largest neutron microscope – and MaxLab IV, which during the course of a few years will become one of the few power centers in the world within the field of advanced particle physics and materials research and development.

This will contribute about another one thousand resident researchers, plus another three to four thousand who will fly in and out on short or long visits. In this picture, other groups belong as well: aspiring researchers (Ph.D.’s), masters, and bachelor students.

By the way, thousands of researchers have families as well, which calls for good kindergartens, international schools and secondary schools, stores and hospitals. The families need a place to live, they go shopping, they go to the opera and the theatre (perhaps preferably in Tivoli), and they want to watch handball.

We should congratulate Lund, because these projects benefit the entire Copenhagen Metropolitan Region (CMR).The initiative attracts everything a community needs.

But let us look at things in a slightly less rosy perspective.

Differences across the sound: On one side of the sound, nearly all the municipalities have included the options that ESS give in their strategic plans. On the other side of the sound, only a few people know what the abbreviation means.

On one side of the sound, politicians – on a national level and across political boundaries – are ready to make decisions on new infrastructure projects, which bring us even closer together. On the other side, the interest seems to be more lukewarm.

The list could go on, and, with all due respect for national differences, this pattern is not working. There are far more similarities than differences between Sweden and Denmark, and my impression is that we, on the Danish side, do not see the opportunities in what, in my opinion, should be called the Copenhagen Metropolitan Region.

Isn’t it about time we place Scania (Skåne) high on the national agenda for strategic co-operation?

My hope is that the government and the opposition will unite in a “regional effort” to grab hold of the possibilities and challenges of the future, instead of passively letting the development pass us by.

Private donations: On one side of the sound a wealthy private individual has just donated 100 million Swedish Crowns to enable further progress for the existing idea-park for research and entrepreneurship. On the other side of the sound, we are leading a passionate debate, discussing whether the publicly funded early retirement benefits* should be abolished quickly or slowly.

I am also convinced that private individuals want to make more donations. As Mats Paulson commented on TV that same night, the deal was clear: “You can’t take the money with you, when you go…”. The legacy, which he is now creating, will last for generations.

—–

* Early retirement benefits – The Danish term “efterløn” refers to publicly funded pension benefits payable five years before normal retirement.

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