Tor 23 maj / År 42 / Nr 1 2024

Beneficial Alliance Across the Atlantic

Sherbrooke Innopole, the Local Development Centre of Sherbrooke, Quebec, and Medicon Village in Lund, Sweden, have formed an alliance that will foster innovation and success in business and research, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

It was the Investissement Québec office in Stockholm and the Canadian Embassy in the same city that suggested Medicon Village to contact Sherbrooke Innopole. A bit later, the then CEO of Sherbrooke Innopole, Pierre Belanger, visited Medicon Village. During this visit the two organisations identified each other as potential international partners for a ’twinning’ to stimulate cooperation among the life sciences hubs.

”We realised that we must develop international networks. In 2012, a delegation from the Canadian Embassy in Stockholm visited Medicon Village and in the discussions that followed, Sherbrooke Innopole turned up as an interesting potential collaboration partner,” says Ursula Hultkvist Bengtsson at Medicon Village.

The alliance is declared in a Memorandum of Understanding and will bring the two organisations together to encourage and promote the life sciences industries in Sherbrooke and Lund. Moreover, it will foster and strengthen research- and business-related collaboration and discussion.

”We hope that forging this mutually beneficial alliance will foster innovation as well as success in both business and research,” says Josée Blanchard, Director, Business Development – Life Sciences at Sherbrooke Innopole.

”Medicon Village was very young and Sherbrooke Science Park was of human size. They‘ve seen a fit and thought that we could easily cooperate and learn from each other. We’re also very close to the major hub of Boston. We talked, we visited each other and got along great!”

Growing Up Together
For Sherbrooke Innopole it was an interesting way of helping the companies in their territory to develop a new international market.

”Sweden is very innovative and dynamic in the life sciences, and Medicon Village is a very motivated and helpful partner. Sweden is not the first country you think about when you want to export, it is unusual for people from Quebec, but we think it could be very good for our companies,” tells Josée Blanchard, adding:

”We also plan to provide temporary premises for companies interested in exploring the markets in Sherbrooke and Sweden. So it is not only a nice agreement on paper, but we will really help our businesses and institutions to grow!”

Ursula Hultkvist Bengtsson agrees.

”The aim is to grow up together! The idea is that we shall learn from each other and be inspired by each other. There’s no competition between us. The collaboration is built entirely on voluntariness and covers all areas of the triple helix. We will also help each other’s companies to enter markets outside of Quebec and Scandinavia,” she says.

Signed in September 2013, the agreement is very young. The two organisations are still learning to know each other, but have started to work on some projects.

”A Medicon Village company came to Sherbrooke for the first edition of the Sherbrooke International Life Sciences Summit (SILS) in September 2013. They’ve had several meetings with scientists and companies from Sherbrooke and elsewhere,” says Josée Blanchard.

At BIO San Diego last June, Sweden was featured as an important partner in the Province of Quebec booth. Ursula Hultkvist Bengtsson gave a lecture on life sciences in Sweden and how they can help Quebec companies to penetrate the European market by entering Sweden.

In September 2014, a Quebec delegation, featuring several companies and scientists from Sherbrooke, will visit Stockholm (Nordic Life Science Days) and Lund (Medicon Village) and spend time meeting with potential business partners. In September 2015, a Swedish delegation will assist to the second edition of SILS, which will have the theme Ageing, Assistive Technologies, and Drugs.

Five Strong Life Sciences Sectors
Sherbrooke Innopole is the Local Development Centre (CLD) of the regional county municipality (MRC) of Sherbrooke. Its mission is to stimulate coherent, innovative, and dynamic economic development by leveraging the start-up of companies that are the product of Sherbrooke research and ingenuity; by attracting new businesses; by supporting the expansion, innovation, and globalisation efforts of existing manufacturers; and by focusing on five forward-looking key sectors: Life Sciences, Cleantech, Micro-Nanotechnologies, Information and Communication Technologies, and Advanced Manufacturing.

Industry wise, the life sciences sub-sectors represented at Sherbrooke Innopole are: Health IT, Medtech, Preclinical- and Clinical Research, Nutraceuticals/Cosmetics and Biotech.

”In Health IT, we have innovative start-ups developing imaging software for research, as well as antibiotic prescription optimisation software for pharmacy hospitals, for instance,” says Josée Blanchard.

In the Medtech sub-sector, she points out innovative stretchers, hospital equipment, polymer apparatus for inside IRM prostate cancer treatment, among the most prosperous product developments. Preclinical and clinical research are two other strong areas represented at Sherbrooke Innopole.

”We’re home to a 100+ people plant of Charles River Laboratories. We also have Clinical Research Sherbrooke, an association of two private and two institutional research centres,” comments Josée Blanchard.

In the Nutraceuticals/cosmetics sub-sector major investments have been made in the neutraceutical, dermaceutical and therapeutical products field of expertise. There are ongoing developments on products from krill oil, marine collagen, hazel-wood products, as well as small batches/niche colour cosmetic production.

”In Biotech, we’re especially proud of our high specificity/high range antibody production,” says Josée Blanchard.

Research wise, Sherbrooke Innopole’ three major strengths are: Ageing, with The Research Centre on Ageing (CDRV) being one of the most important centres on ageing in Canada; Medical Imaging, with the Sherbrooke Molecular Imaging Center as a good example; and Diabetes, Obesity and Cardiovascular Complications. A world-renowned researcher from Sherbrooke, Dr. André Carpentier, professor with the Division of Endocrinology in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, has for instance been awarded the GSK Diabetes Research Chair.

Preferred Partners for New Markets
Josée Blanchard expects that companies and researchers from both territories will come to think of Medicon Village and Sherbrooke Innopole as preferred partners when developing new markets.

”We hope that collaboration agreements will be signed between our companies and institutions and that, eventually, some Quebec companies will establish a subsidiary in Sweden and vice versa,” she concludes.

Fact box:
Sherbrooke Innopole’s Key Sector Life Sciences
Number of Businesses: 45

Jobs in the Sector: 1,375

Strong Business Areas:
Health IT
Preclinical- and Clinical Research

Strong Research Areas:
Medical Imaging
Diabetes, Obesity and Cardiovascular Complications