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In Copenhagen, location is everything for life science start-ups


Launching a life science start-up is a complex business that needs help for every step of the way. The more qualified help your start-up can get, the better chances are for survival. The offerings in the innovation district Copenhagen Science City are so good and so varied, that more than 500 innovative start-ups are currently co-located here. More than 200 of these are within life science. By Jes Andersen.

Guidance through a jungle of decisions

In order to build a successful pharma or biotech venture, you need cutting edge science to provide the idea that sets you off. You need excellent hospitals to test your product. You need start-up communities where your fledgling business can locate together with other young companies, and you need incubators and accelerators to guide you through the jungle of decisions. From finding the right investor to choosing the best go-to-market strategy.

Innovation districts hold great opportunity for inventing, developing, and marketing novel products and services. In Copenhagen Science City we help to ensure that companies can find what they need. Whether it is barely an idea in the mind of a scientist or it is a multimillion Euro company preparing to take on the world”: Kristoffer Klebak, Head of secretariat, Copenhagen Science City.

A rich and varied innovation ecosystem

Copenhagen Science City is a two-square kilometre area just outside the medieval city centre. Opportunities include a hospital, a university, and a university college where you can find collaborators, five start-up communities where you can co-locate and a wealth of programmes where you can connect to mentors, investors, and advisors. Taken together, a start-up can find the help it needs from pre-seed to series A, B and C.

Value-creating geography

Several life science companies have found success in the innovations district. Between 2020 and 2023 the four local University of Copenhagen spinouts Adcendo, Avilex Pharma, Twelve Bio and most recently Embark Biotech have been part of, respectively, a series A investment, a strategic partnership and two exits with a combined potential value of over 743 million Euro (5,5 mia dkk)

Support for scaling

Many of the local life science start-ups are in incubator- and accelerator programmes. Companies in the two cutting edge science programmes BioInnovation Institute and Accelerace have attracted investments worth billions of Euro. Meanwhile the new incubator on the block is Beta|Health, which provides up to 143,000 Euro [one million DKK) in soft funding for teams with an employee at a Danish hospital.

Early stage entrepreneurship helped here

Even those just starting out on a journey of entrepreneurship can find assistance in Copenhagen Science City. University of Copenhagen provides courses and workshops for staff and students in the medical sciences through their programmes. Copenhagen Academy for Medical Education and Simulation provides training in robot-mediated healthcare and for professionals outside the healthcare professions, BioMedical Design, Novo Nordisk Foundation Fellowship Programme provides training in needs-based innovation for the health and care sector.

A district in a start-up friendly country

Apart from the very local offerings, start-ups in Copenhagen Science City also take advantage of qualities in the wider Danish society. Denmark consistently ranks at- or near- the top in various international rankings including “most Liveable”, “Most competitive”, “Best balance between work/life and paychecks”, “World’s happiest”, “Least Corrupt”, “Most Innovative”, “Easiest to do business”, “Best for entrepreneurship” and more.

A cumulative championship

In conclusion; Denmark is frequently a champion or a runner up. We are not be the best at everything, but we do get many important things right. Copenhagen Science City may not, in itself, be the best life science innovation district in the world, but in combination with the Danish society that surrounds us, we do feel entitled to call ourselves “Possibly the best place in Europe to launch or scale your innovation based business”, and we welcome you and your life science start-up to join us.