Tor 7 dec / År 41 / Nr 4 2023

The right place for developing the healthcare of the future

A world-class innovation city for health is being built right now, close to Gothenburg city centre and therefore easily accessible to companies, researchers, financial institutions and other important stakeholders. GoCo Health Innovation City operates at the forefront of globally renowned research, it brings together the best talents in various disciplines, and it provides facilities for innovations to develop.

From left: Agneta Holmäng, Dean Sahlgrenska Academy; Josephine Urbath Söderström, Project Manager at GoCo Health Innovation City; Matti Ahlqvist, Executive Director Gothenburg Site AstraZeneca and Maria Lundbäck Head of Corporate Marketing Communication Wellspect.

It is no exaggeration to say that GoCo Health Innovation City is the right place for anyone who wants to be involved in developing the healthcare of the future. More and more companies and talents are being connected to this expanding innovation cluster and not only by being established with offices on site, but also by being a part of the growing community named GoCo Arena.

Building something unique

GoCo Arena is what sets this innovation cluster of companies and talents apart from all others.

“At an early stage we saw that there was a need to not only focus on the physical structures, i.e. the properties, but also to focus on social structures to establish an innovative and vibrant environment. That is how our community GoCo Arena began to develop. Today we work equally with the real-estate development as well as community and content creation”, says Josephine Urbath, Project Manager, Marketing at GoCo Health Innovation City.

GoCo Arena brings together professionals from various disciplines, as well as representatives from academia, industry, and the public sector. This creates great opportunities for collaboration across borders. To boost collaboration even further, GoCo Arena provides a rich program of activities all year round.

“We believe that interaction across borders truly is the key to success. We aim to accelerate innovation, and innovation is born through diversity. Our six Founding Partners ensure that we develop a broad range of collaborative activities with the aim of bringing out the best in our partners, tenants as well as engaging academia and public health care to collaborate even more”, Josephine Urbath adds.

Learning from each other

Women’s health is an upcoming topic, and a previous meet-up discussing future medicines based on cell and gene therapy proved to be extremely popular. All Founding Partners, namely Fujirebio Diagnostics, Chalmers University of Technology, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, AstraZeneca, Mölnlycke Healthcare and Wellspect Health Care, participated during the event.

“We see the collaboration within GoCo Arena as a fantastic opportunity for us to make our knowledge more available and to ensure that our research is of practical use. The community connects us to potential industrial partners who may benefit from our academic research, but we can also learn a lot from them”, says Professor Agneta Holmäng, Dean of Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

Sahlgrenska Academy has been a part of the community ever since it was founded. The same goes for AstraZeneca, the largest pharmaceutical developer in the community. In fact, GoCo Health Innovation City was made a reality as AstraZeneca decided to sell the grounds on which the new innovative city cluster is currently being developed.

“For our part, as a knowledge-intensive and research-oriented pharmaceutical company, we mainly want to achieve two things through the cluster. One is to develop opportunities for collaborations that lead to research that would not have happened otherwise. The second is to attract new talent more easily thanks to a stronger pull from more players”, explains Matti Ahlqvist, Site Manager at AstraZeneca Mölndal.

The fruit of successful collaboration

There are already several examples of successful projects originating from collaboration through GoCo Arena. One such example is the new hub OligoNova, focusing on medicines of the future, which was founded by AstraZeneca and Sahlgrenska Academy.

Another example showcasing the fruit of successful collaboration is the founding of the CCRM Nordic hub, funded by Vinnova. The hub has been created to bring advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) in Sweden, the Nordics and Europe closer to market, and making these products available to patients suffering from the most devastating diseases.

According to Matti Ahlqvist and Agneta Holmäng, not any one of the two hubs could have been created without the larger perspective provided through GoCo Arena.

Creating more visibility

By providing grounds for more collaborations, GoCo Arena also assists in making its community members more visible.

“Wellspect is a large employer in the region, but despite that we are not so well-known as we wish to be. Many people, even those active in Life Science, are unaware of what we do. For us, creating more visibility through collaborations via GoCo Arena is important”, states Maria Lundbäck, Head of Corporate Marketing Communication at Wellspect.

Wellspect is looking to build strong relationships with all Founding Partners. Initially, partnering with Chalmers University of Technology may lead to new and innovative packaging solutions for Wellspect’s products. Hopefully more collaborations will be developed over time.

Wellspect develops a lot of single use products and would like to minimise the amount of packaging material while at the same time protecting the product with the best solution tailored to each product. Chalmers has a lot of knowledge when it comes to materials and how to make sustainable products.

Research that would never have materialised

Gaining unexpected opportunities such as new partnerships and developing research that would never have materialised otherwise are things that all founding partners see as added value in being a part of GoCo Arena.

Senior Advisor Christina Hall at Fujirebio Diagnostics underlines the importance of keeping an active, engaging and open dialogue among founding partners and other community members. “When we are open and able to discuss freely, meet across disciplines and organisational boundaries, we can gain new knowledge and develop new ideas that would never have seen the light of day otherwise”, she says.

Fujirebio Diagnostics were one of the first to sign an agreement with the founders of GoCo Health Innovation City, and the first commercial developer on site. “Being first to sign is always a risk, even though we saw great potential, nothing was cut in stone at that point. What we see now is a development much greater than anything we could have dreamt of at the beginning”, Chistina Hall continues.

A new collaboration has started to form between Fujirebio Diagnostics and Sahlgrenska Academy, and this is an example of what innovative dialogue may result in. 

An express route straight to the core

Mölnlycke Healthcare is the latest Founding Partner to join the team at GoCo Health Innovation City. The entire site is to relocate in approximately one year from now, but initial steps have already been taken to prepare for the move.

“The move to GoCo is an important milestone in Mölnlycke’s history, and an even more important strategy for our future. Almost all of our research worldwide is concentrated to Gothenburg, and our premises at GoCo will represent so much more than just a place to develop our business. As a partner we gain an express route straight to the core of GoCo Health Innovation City and GoCo Arena”, says Kristin Hedlund, EVP Legal and General Counsel at Mölnlycke Healthcare.

Mölnlycke is working to involve GoCo in most of its activities. Employees at Mölnlycke are encouraged to use the co-working space at GoCo Health Innovation City. All large meetings are tailored to have some sort of connection to GoCo, and Mölnlycke takes part in all large events organised by GoCo Health Innovation City and GoCo Arena.

”Change is something we work with all the time, something we are good at and used to. As we move our entire operation, including our development laboratory, we will replace and invest in a lot of new equipment in accordance with our new strategy of sustainability, customer centricity and digitalisation. And best of all is that GoCo gives us opportunities to develop within all three”, Kristin Hedlund explains further.

The value of building clusters

In all regions where there is some form of cluster formation, research shows that the pace of development is higher than regions lacking collaborative clusters. In connection with GoCo Health Innovation City, the degree of development seems to be even higher, according to Mats Lundqvist, Vice President of Utilization at Chalmers University of Technology.

”There is an existing culture in our region that is based on cooperation. GoCo Arena gives us even better conditions for creating new contacts and finding new forms of collaboration. From our side, we from Chalmers University of Technology contribute with a strong connection to various research and development organisations and teams, both in the region and outside, even globally”, says Mats Lundqvist.

In collaboration with Sahlgrenska Academy, Chalmers has been able to advance and build new research teams and partnerships in the area of future therapies, that is cell and gene therapies, thanks to both parties finding common ground through GoCo Arena.

Mats Lundqvists explains: “the entire world is talking about cell therapies. Thanks to GoCo Health Innovation City and the opportunities provided by being a partner of GoCo Arena we have strengthened our knowledge within the field”.

Development is dynamic

“Health innovations are of interest to various other industries, like for example Automotive”, states Mats Lundqvist.

There is no surprise then, that Volvo Cars are represented in GoCo Health Innovation City with a private office space in GoCo’s office hub.

“Anyone who works within the field of life science, health and may benefit from cross-border collaboration are welcome to visit, establish or join upcoming community activities at GoCo Health Innovation City”, says Josephine Urbath.

GoCo Health Innovation City is still expanding, still developing and this is a process that will never be completed. Development is dynamic and will continue for as long as the community stands.