The number of companies in Umeå’s life science cluster has increased by 250% in ten years, and Umeå is currently witnessing a thriving activity in both the business and academic sectors.
With organisations like Umeå University, the County Council of Västerbotten, University Hospital of Umeå, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Umeå Plant Science Centre, and Umeå Centre for Microbial Research and Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine, the city has strong scientific and clinical competence in the life sciences and has attracted top-notch scientists like Emmanuelle Charpentier.
Infectious disease research, diagnostics and medical technology, plant and forest biotechnology, neurological diseases and metabolic disease research are all areas of excellence in the Umeå region.
The life science cluster boasts with 80 companies connected to the umbrella organisation Biotech Umeå, which is part of Uminova Innovation that together with Umeå Biotech Incubator and Västerbotten Innovation Gateway form the Umeå innovation system within life sciences.
In December last year, Jennie Ekbeck, CEO of Umeå Biotech Incubator, was awarded ’Innovation Angel 2015’ by Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova. In their motivation the jury states that the incubator has enabled researchers to work closer with the business sector, which has made a significant difference for Sweden’s life science research.
3,000 Employed in the Sector
With over 3,000 people employed in life science companies and academia, Umeå has a critical mass of expertise, research, innovation and entrepreneurs.
”We’re starting to get a couple of serial entrepreneurs, and the region has the potential to do even better with a higher influx of entrepreneurial competence and venture capital. We work a lot with this issue, for instance by arranging Biotech Umeå Investment Day in conjunction with the annual event Västerbotten Days in Stockholm,” says Karin Borge Renberg, Marketing Manager, Biotech Umeå.
Still, the number of companies in the cluster has increased by 250% in ten years and there’s a thriving activity in the business sector right now.
”We’re witnessing a boost in start-ups and several companies take the next step and employ more people,” she adds.
One example of a start-up that’s performed well is MYoroface, who based on research in Umeå has developed IQoro, a therapy and product for treating dysphagia. Last year, they won ALMI Invests pitch competition at Åre kapitalmarknadsdagar and were awarded Uminova Innovation’s and PwC’s newly founded sales prize.
Among the more established companies, one can mention Omnio AB, founded by Professor Tor Ny of Umeå University in 2001, who recently signed an agreement with a Canadian partner for commercialising their first biological drug candidate for wound healing, based on the plasma-derived protease plasminogen.
Integration with IT
In Umeå, there are good opportunities for intersections between life science and other fields of research and business, like IT. Last autumn saw the establishment of Soft Lab, a lab for production of prototypes related to smart textiles and wearables, for instance.
Other areas in which IT is integrated with life science are e-health and telemedicine. Given the long distances between points of care in Västerbotten it’s not strange that Umeå is strong in these two fields.
The examples mentioned above are but some of all positive signs showing that Umeå’s life science arena is truly on the right track. Many more cases are presented in the following articles.