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Important tool for life science companies and investors

18 March 2021
The Nordic Center for Sustainable Healthcare has, on behalf of Business Region Göteborg, developed two different matrices that will serve as a guide of how Life Science companies & organisations can work with the global goals. In addition to these two matrices, a third matrix has also been created as a guide to the European Green Deal.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in September 2015. It is underpinned by 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. SDG3 is the goal with the highest relevance for life science companies. The Goal has a target to increase health investment, including the development of health infrastructure as well as new technologies related to the health sector (e.g. medicines and vaccines). Foreign direct investments (FDI) both in developed and developing countries are likely to contribute substantially to that end. Moreover, the provision of universal health care coverage is targeted, and SMEs are likely to accelerate progress in this direction.

Iris Öhrn, Investment Advisor for Life science at Business Region Göteborg thinks this initiative can help as an important tool for companies while growing their businesses.

- I am very satisfied with this initiative. It is a first and necessary step for us. We aimed to develop a guide to explain how life science and healthcare organisations contribute to the different SDG goals. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The companies should use the tool for a first assessment of the potential impact but should go deeper into each goal, when necessary. We have focused on the positive effects only, but acknowledge that understanding the range of positive and negative interactions among SDGs is key to unlocking their full potential, as well as for ensuring that progress made in some areas is not made at the expense of progress in others. The SDG Matrices aims to inspire and inform the private sector on potential opportunities for addressing social and environmental challenges while growing their business, says Iris Öhrn.

Over the past years, a growing number of investors have begun to create products, raise funds, and make new investments that directly target progress toward the SDGs. These investors proactively target and incorporate the goals at various stages of the investment cycle for example, during sourcing and investment selection. One example is the Swedish Investor for Sustainable Development network. We have also noticed an increasing number of public funding being direct towards sustainability. We all know about the European Commission’s ambitious roadmap. Namely, the Green Deal, which is at the heart of the Commission’s strategy to implement the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. One of the matrices refers to the SDGs and the Green Deal, Iris explains.

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We asked Dr. Joseph D Mocanu, Managing Partner, at Verge HealthTech Fund to tell us about their work on life science and healthcare, and what he thinks is important when looking at the SDGs.

- I started Verge HealthTech Fund as I had directly witnessed some of the serious challenges in healthcare access and affordability that people face in the developing world, and my work with advising multinational healthcare companies was not having the impact I had hoped for. During my client work, I had met several aspiring entrepreneurs who knew the problems and were trying to solve them directly, all while suffering from access to early seed capital. I had used my savings to fund them as an angel investor first and realised that I could have a much greater impact by pooling other investors together to do more of the same, Joseph D Mocanu begins.

The SDGs are important as it establishes a clear framework and a reminder of where we should be focusing our attention, and we certainly think about the impact potential investments may have on addressing them. What is important here is that companies should try to avoid having strict SDG-specific KPIs. The SDGs must be an integral part of the product development process from day 1. They need to be at the core of the company, rather than just being used for checking a box, Joseph says.

One of the key challenges I face as an investor is that a lot of medical innovation and pre-clinical scientific efforts are geared towards what I call 'solving rich people problems', either by being too technically complex to work outside of a top tier hospital, or by simply being too expensive. This leaves a relatively small percentage of health tech startups aligned with our impact investment goals, Dr. Joseph D Mocanu concludes.

Sofia Ström, Business Development and Social Innovation Project Manager at GU Ventures answered our questions on her take on the subject.

Why is it important for Swedish companies to work with sustainability?

It's extremely important for securing the company's financial future in the long term (company perspective). From a societal perspective, it is just as important to give future generations opportunities for a good life. 

Why do you think innovative SME companies need support from us and how do you think the matrices that have been developed can serve as a valuable tool?

The biggest challenge in company development is to bring together the perspectives of ecological sustainability, social sustainability, and economic sustainability. When running a company, this is super important. It is a new and complicated issue that requires support, tools, and skills. Tools for financial sustainability are usually available to companies, but they are largely lacking in other areas. The important thing is to integrate these parts when you develop the companies. Previously, the social and ecological part was taken care of on the side. That's not possible anymore.

Why is GU Ventures putting efforts into this sustainability area?

We develop the companies of the future and then the SDGs are a necessity from several different aspects. Raising awareness on innovations and companies that contribute to the change of behaviors and social conditions instead of focusing only on new technical solutions (if they do not contribute to the change) is key to sustainable development.


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Access the matrices here

Life Science and the SDGs report

Iris Öhrn, Investment Advisor Life Science
Phone: +46 313676130


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Iris Öhrn
Investment Advisor
Area of work: Life Science Establishment Foreign direct investments
Area of concern: Establish and invest


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