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Oslo Cancer Cluster: Innovation, Funding and the Future

Authored by Karl Simpson

Recently appointed to the role of General Manager of the Oslo Cancer Cluster, Ketil Widerberg has a clear vision and grand plans for the Oslo cluster. In part, this future lies in the significant global interest among the drug development industry and diagnostics sector to continue to pursue new therapeutic approaches to the treatment of cancer. To facilitate this vision, the cluster looks forward to the opening of a considerable new Innovation Park. This park will house a number of incredibly knowledgeable and expert tenants, while creating a platform for the future maturation of the biotech sector in Oslo.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Logo

Oslo Cancer Cluster

  • Institute for medical Informatics, Oslo University Hospital, the Norwegian Radium Hospital
  • Department of Pathology, Oslo university Hospital
  • The Norwegian Radium Hospital Research Foundation
  • Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator AS
  • The Norwegian Cancer Registry
  • Ullern High School

Innovation Park

Image Courtesy of DARK Architects

The ‘under one roof’ approach of bringing together biotech, pharma and service companies alongside these significant centres of excellence and world-class lab facilities is expected to bring about the highest levels of collaboration and connectivity. With an ‘business incubator’ also part of the 36,000 m2 site, the lowering of barriers to creating new companies will hopefully give many more opportunities for new scientific and technology approaches translated into companies.

Bringing these technologies through the respective development stages will unquestionably take considerable levels of investment from a range of investment sources, including the very typical route of venture capital. Widerberg accepts that the capital infrastructure in Norway needs to mature considerably to truly offer the access to capital that a growing biotech sector will require.

The evidence points to the fact that Norway has considerable financial resources, yet this capital is often directed towards more traditional industries which have been part of Norwegian industry and have formed part of the successful investment strategies of domestic investors; oil, shipping and fishing most prominent among them.

Attracting capital from outside of Norway is also very difficult. With such financial prosperity clearly perceptible, external investors are not necessary inclined to come in from outside to invest in the country, particularly in a sector like biotech which is underdeveloped relative to some of the other biotech clusters across Europe. Perhaps because of this, the feeling is that external investors could capitalise on the value opportunities of the market given it lacks investor competitiveness. This is specifically the case in terms of early stage deals.

The apparent challenge the area does face from an investor perspective is in respect of Angel investors. The market simply does not have these networks of private investors who provide this early seed capital and it is a clear weakness in the investment picture in Oslo, as well as the wider country.

Widerberg points towards some significant progress in the cluster and he believes this, combined with the significant opportunities that exist in areas of cancer drug development and immunotherapy, could make Oslo the place to be. Certainly their high quality research in a very specific field of medicine gives them a distinct competitive strength. Whether this translates to an advantage is perhaps only answerable over time. For now though, the cluster seemingly is in need of attracting two significant ingredients to catalyse their plans and build global competitiveness; experienced and intelligent life sciences investment capital, as well as experienced industry professionals with scientific or business expertise capable of transforming the emerging biotech innovators here into successes like Algeta.

For more information on the Oslo Cancer Cluster please visit:

Liftstream will be attending the 2nd Annual Nordic Life Science Days Event in Stockholm on the 7-9th Spetember 2014. If you are interested in meeting with Liftstream or finding out more about our work please email to arrange a time to meet with one of our consultants. 

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