Ideon Science Park: “Lund is better than we dare say”
Ideon Science Park has been helping to create job opportunities and businesses in research and innovation in Lund since 1983. During that time, Ideon has created well over 10,000 jobs and housed 1,200 companies in northeastern Lund. This fall the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is moving into Ideon to establish a global innovation center in order to more quickly match Swedish innovations with international needs, among other things.
Ideon started in 1983 to take advantage of the research coming out of Lund University so that innovations and entrepreneurs would be supported in turning their ideas into companies. Support for startups and coupling research with entrepreneurship and growth, thus creating jobs, remains central to the work of Ideon Science Park.
“The fantastic thing about Ideon is the 36 years of experience both in how to build ecosystems for innovation and how to help teams find ways forward for their innovations,” according to Ideon Science Park’s CEO Mia Rolf. “Our main purpose is to create more companies and more jobs in Skåne. How we do that has changed over the years. Today, the most important thing is not to carry out all services ourselves, but rather that we facilitate more and are an engine within this ecosystem.”
As more and more players have emerged to support startups in Sweden over the years, Mia Rolf sees Ideon investing additional resources in scaling up and growing companies through a series of collaborations and programs.
“Today we work primarily within four focus areas: Future Transportation, Smart Cities, Smart Materials and Healthtech. And we would like to be a commercialization center to help small businesses with between two and twenty employees to take the steps for growth. If we help the 70 startup companies in our vicinity to become medium-sized companies, that would mean many new jobs. There are more than 200 additional companies in the Park that could grow.”
Since its inception, Ideon Science Park has worked to help companies grow. One aspect of this work is the mentoring program, where companies can get mentoring hours and be matched with a leader who has already gone through the growth process. Another project is to launch a new platform that will present innovations before they have reached the market. Through the platform, innovations can receive feedback and create a dialogue with the market or investors. Ideon also hopes to attract more financiers, for example through collaborations with the UN’s project organization UNOPS to develop a global innovation center and with Business Sweden to help companies set up a plan for export.
Is this Ideon 2.0?
“You could say that. We have matured and we know that we should never do anything without partnerships, preferably a blend of public and private partnerships. It is important that the society appreciates the willingness of private owners to go in and co-finance this type of innovation node,” says Rolf.
Companies receive a welcome meeting when they move into Ideon to determine what support would be the best fit for them. Then, the company is matched with other companies and investors. Within Ideon there are networks within sectors as well as networks for managers, marketing, sales, and industries. The companies are invited to participate in events with exciting knowledge transfers and they are expected to share their own experiences with others.
In 2018, Ideon began offering a new program to support foreign companies called soft landing.
“It is a new concept that we produced because we experienced a need among foreign companies to have an easy landing place in Sweden. For those who cannot be here full-time, there is the possibility to have a workplace when you come here and then to get help with matchmaking, business contacts, and recruitment contacts among other things.”
It was in the end of 2018 when it became clear that UNOPS would establish one of their global innovation centers at Ideon with support from Vinnova. UNOPS’s employees will move into Ideon’s offices in the fall of 2019. Swedish innovation capacity and Swedish companies will be matched together with major international needs in order to solve global challenges, such as climate-saving measures.
“This will shine a global spotlight on Lund and show that Lund is a place that delivers exciting innovations,” states Rolf. “We must have the courage to stick our neck out, Lund is better than we dare say.”
When Rolf talks about the advantages of Lund, the Swedish word “fikadistans” pops up. It literally translates as coffee break distance and it refers to the closeness and interconnectedness of Lund.
“There are approximately 400 companies and 10,000 employees at Ideon Science Park, plus 2,200 people at more than 150 organizations at Medicon Village Science Park, and 40,000 university students and 7,600 employees at Lund University. There are many people with great competencies within coffee break distance – and also the culture here welcomes meeting over coffee and problem solving. Lund is big enough to have a critical mass of exciting companies, but at the same time the city is small enough that you can reach everyone. This is needed – we will not be able to solve the challenges of the future without a diversity of competencies.”
- 1,200 companies have worked at Ideon since it began in 1983, including Axis, Ericsson, and Storytel. 400 companies are working at Ideon simultaneously in 2019.
- More than 3,400 patents have been registered by Ideon companies according to one of the patent companies in the Park.
- Ideon Innovation, Ideon Open, VentureLab, Venture Cup, and a brand new manufacturing simulator run by IUC Syd are also located at Ideon. The innovation ecosystem is divided into different organizations that do not compete with each other. Ideon Science Park sees itself as the engine and the one that drives everything forward.
- Ideon was highlighted by Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker in their book The Smartest Places on Earth, in which the entire Malmö-Lund region is identified as one of the world’s 13 brain belts where the smartest people in the world work.
- In 2018, it became clear that the UN project organization UNOPS would be opening in Ideon, which means the UN will be running an innovation center with Vinnova as a part-financier until 2023.
- This fall, Ideon, in collaboration with Medicon Village Science Park, Science Village Scandinavia, the City of Lund, Volvo Cars, Kraftringen, and Sony, organized the High Level Forum 2019 on the theme of Sustainable Innovations in the World of Data. It is a global meeting where approximately 45 innovation ecosystems and 180 decision makers came together in Lund.
Text: Caroline Wendt
Translation: Finlay McGregor
Photo: Caroline Wendt