How AZ Gothenburg helps Nordic start-up companies to thrive
Life-science mentoring program in Gothenburg builds on the business-to-business advisory initiative in Cambridge
As a science-driven company, we want to build an environment in which our colleagues and those in the broader scientific community are encouraged and supported to innovate. That is why we launched AZ Exchange Mentoring in Gothenburg. In a similar way to the Cambridge Exchange Mentoring program, our Sweden-based mentors help next generation life-science companies in the Nordic region convert innovative ideas into long-term success.
Our goal for AZ Exchange Mentoring in the Nordics is to focus where we can help make a difference. By leveraging our scientific and commercial expertise in a business-to-business advisory model, we aim to support life-science start-ups and early entrepreneurs in the region to move towards sustainable and successful growth. We know that innovation does not happen in isolation - if the sector grows, we all grow, and patients benefit.
Working through existing incubators to reach start-ups
Our mentoring in the Nordics focuses on regional incubators (and similar set-ups), as most life science start-ups are linked to such organisations. An incubator typically provides entrepreneurs or start-up companies with coaching, support, and facilitation to help them develop.
Through AZ Exchange Mentoring, our mentors work with established incubators and respond to queries from linked companies. We in turn offer mentoring to these companies on a wide range of topics, including trial design, drug screening experiments, and commercial potential. Our mentors provide this support typically through one-off advisory sessions in strategic matters, rather than extended commitments which would be more suited for consultants.
We want to help strengthen existing players, not create a parallel initiative. In the Nordics, we have partnered with seven incubator-like organisations, and our aim is to be a part of their offer to the start-up companies that they coach, focusing on our expertise as big pharma.
Currently, we have established relations with the following organisations in the Nordics: Umeå BioTech Incubator, Uppsala Innovation centre, KI Innovation, GU Venture, Chalmers Ventures, Sting (Stockholm), SMILE (Lund), Medeon (Malmö), and Aleap (Oslo). In addition, we are working with the Nordic Mentoring program (NOME) that runs a long-term senior business mentoring program for selected companies across the Nordic countries.
Since we work with very early startups, the dialogue with industry representatives at AstraZeneca is highly valuable. Their sometimes challenging insights are crucial when we draft activity and business plans for new pharma cases. AstraZeneca’s staff has shown a genuine interest in and respect for our cases, and shown dedication to find the best opportunities by using their expertise and experience in the field. Our researchers and innovators use their constructive feedback when setting robust strategies for moving forward.
The BioVenture Hub
The BioVenture Hub team at AZ Gothenburg leads facilitation of the overall AZ Exchange Mentoring program in the Nordics and plays a pivotal role in its success.
We want to further expand our contribution to the wider life-science eco-system in the Nordics by building on and complementing each other’s successes. This initiative sends a clear message that AstraZeneca is committed to engage in the regional life-science entrepreneurship, which will make our region more attractive to scientists, create more opportunities for collaboration, and enhance professional development for our colleagues.
Reciprocal benefits for both the companies and our AZ colleagues
The impact of AZ Exchange Mentoring derives from the dedicated time and enthusiasm of AstraZeneca mentors who have volunteered to be a part of the program. At present, approximately thirty people from our Gothenburg site are volunteers with AZ Exchange Mentoring. As part of their roles, they also help identify additional AstraZeneca experts to join the advisory sessions as needed.
Gothenburg’s AZ Exchange Mentoring initiative has been up and running for slightly more than 12 months and we are already seeing and hearing about its impact. The incubators and start-up companies tell us that they see a tremendous value in the advice that AstraZeneca provides. At the same time, our AstraZeneca volunteer mentors benefit from being exposed to a broader array of life-science projects and ideas.
The open and explorative discussion with the AZ Exchange mentors gave us inspiration and new insights. Your comments during the meeting in Gothenburg have made us start to re-evaluate how to progress.
Both Cambridge and Gothenburg continue to develop the AZ Exchange Mentoring initiative in many ways. Here in the Nordics, our partnership with the incubators is maturing and growing. Our partners are currently based in Sweden and Norway, and we aim to expand to bring in more partners from across the region. In addition, we will engage with selected entrepreneur schools to support student projects.
It’s all part of our commitment to show what science can do.
For more information about the Exchange Mentoring program in the Nordics, please contact Pernilla Isberg: Pernilla.Isberg@astrazeneca.com
The AZ Exchange Mentoring program has given us access to great and unbiased expertise which would normally be difficult to access for the small start-up company. We have always been met with curiosity and a willingness to understand and help out.