Paving the Way for the Health Industry

Published: 07 September 2023

Text: Anne-Marie Korseberg Stokke

The government's investment in the health industry has been long anticipated, and the recently launched roadmap is a good description of the terrain but also has some shortcomings, according to key players.

Dressed in a white lab coat and blue plastic shoe covers, Minister of Trade and Industry Jan Christian Vestre, in Nykode's laboratories at Oslo Science Park, points out two major challenges facing Norway:

We need to diversify the Norwegian economy and therefore have a goal to increase exports outside of oil and gas by 50% by 2030. We also need to be more resilient in facing crises that are bound to occur. In the future, the healthcare sector must be able to handle more people in need of medical assistance while employing fewer personnel.

Minister of Trade and Industry Jan Christian Vestre and Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol present the roadmap for the health industry at Nykode's laboratories in Oslo Science Park. Photo: NFD / David Tvetene.

According to the minister, a significant part of the solution to these challenges is outlined in the "Roadmap for the Health Industry," which he has recently launched in collaboration with Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkhol.

This roadmap consists of 41 measures and 12 focus areas that have been developed in cooperation with the existing health industry in Norway.

"This is an ambitious plan for how we, together with the private sector, will build an even more growth-oriented, profitable, resilient, and export-oriented health industry that can help address important societal challenges and tasks. We aim to develop ground-breaking services that save personnel, ensure good healthcare services, and have global export potential," says Vestre.

Vaccine Success

The government's choice of Nykode and Oslo Science Park as the location for launching the roadmap is likely not coincidental. Nykode started as a small startup in 2006 and is now Norway's largest biotechnology company. They develop vaccines against cancer and many other infectious diseases, and the latest results from their phase-2 study on a vaccine against cervical cancer are described as a milestone in the company's history.

Oslo Science Park also houses several other companies and networks in the health industry, such as the clusters Norway Health Tech and The Life Science Cluster, as well as Health2B, a platform for public-private collaboration.


Co-founder Agnete Fredriksen, now the Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at Nykode, leads the development of immune-based vaccines and treatment methods in a specially built lab at Oslo Science Park. Photo: Angelique Culvin R.

The two top executives at Nykode, Agnete Fredriksen and Michael Engsig, are supportive of the plans outlined in the roadmap but point out two important measures that are missing:

"We will not be able to build a competitive health industry in Norway without improving our ability to attract international experts. We have examples of obtaining work permits for our Danish office in just four days, while we had to wait for months for the same in Norway," says Fredriksen.

Engsig highlights the tax incentives available in Denmark:

"In Denmark, foreign experts receive seven years of significantly reduced taxes, whereas in Norway, there are no such incentives. This, of course, makes it impossible to attract experts to Norway, no matter how beautiful the Norwegian fjords and mountains are," he says in an interview with HealthTalk.

High Ambitions

Erling Nordbø, CEO of the health incubator Aleap at Oslo Science Park, believes that the roadmap lives up to expectations.

"The roadmap contains high ambitions and describes the core of what we need to improve on to build a health industry. I didn't expect a lot of money or very specific measures this time, but rather a description of the processes they will continue to work on and who is responsible for implementing the measures. And that is what we got."


Erling Nordbø (on the right) is the CEO of Aleap, an incubator that assists health entrepreneurs in succeeding. They were established in Oslo Science Park in 2016, following an initiative from Inven2, Oslotech, and Norway Health Tech. Photo: Sigurd Reistad Klæva.

One example of the measures described is that Siva, in collaboration with the Research Council of Norway and Innovation Norway, is tasked with investigating how the health industry can make greater use of the catapult program, including considering whether to establish a dedicated centre for the industry or adjust or expand in the existing centres.

A catapult centre offers testing facilities with equipment and expertise, making it easier for innovative companies to develop prototypes, test, visualize, and simulate.

"This is a measure that Aleap believes is right, and we hope that we will also be listened to during further work on this. We will be a major customer, and our companies will benefit from the services the catapult centre can offer," says Nordbø.

"New, Green, and Profitable Business Development with Significant Export Potential."

In the government's roadmap, the health industry is now defined as a green industry. This means that healthcare companies can apply for the Research Council's "Green Platform Initiative", a program that provides support for research and innovation-driven green restructuring in the business sector. In 2022, 11 new research and innovation projects received a total of 623 million Norwegian kroner through this program.

"This was a positive surprise and provides new opportunities for health companies in Aleap," says Nordbø.

He also highlights the twelfth and final focus area: exports, as important and crucial for the industry.

"Export is the endpoint and the goal for our companies. Even though we primarily work with early-stage companies, we also have companies here conducting clinical trials and are soon entering the market. For them, the market is not just Norway, but also the EU and the rest of the world."

To explain the path to possible export success, Aleap, in collaboration with the University of Oslo and several other stakeholders, has created a shared descriptive model: the Value Chain for the Health Industry. This was launched at Arendalsuka and discussed by a diverse panel. Nordbø believes it is important to have a common understanding of the process when evaluating the government's measures.

To explain the path to possible export success, Aleap, in collaboration with the University of Oslo and several other stakeholders, has created a shared descriptive model: the Value Chain for the Health Industry. The model was launched at Arendalsuka 2023.

"The aim is for the entire ecosystem, including politicians and authorities, to have a better understanding of what the value chain in the health industry looks like. For the measures outlined in the government's roadmap to work and help address the bottlenecks that exist today, one must understand how a product is developed - from research and idea to the finished product," Nordbø concludes.