One of the many issues discussed within the One BSR project is the retention of skilled individuals in the areas of health and life science. In October 2013, Sweco completed and published a case study of talent retention in the Stockholm-Uppsala region, which has a strong life science cluster. It emphasises the need for better marketing of the region and stronger co-operation between universities, public administration and business.
The Swedish Institute discussed talent retention issues with Ylva Williams, CEO of Stockholm Science City Foundation and a member of the Advisory Board for talent retention in One BSR. The aim of Stockholm Science City Foundation is to create an attractive environment for life sciences in Stockholm, achieving this by promoting cross-sectional collaborations and development of innovative products and services.
Why is talent retention in the area of life sciences important?
‘Naturally, it is important for regional development to keep talents that universities, companies and the government sector has invested in. I would like to point out that talent retention is not the opposite of brain drain, since talent mobility is also important for the region. Thus, talents leaving a country and settling in another is not negative in itself. It may mean that an individual retains his/her network at the previous place of work, which creates new opportunities for exchange of knowledge and skills between the two countries. In addition, these talented individuals may become ambassadors for the country they had left, provided that the change of place was not due to negative experiences.’
How would you describe talent mobility in the Baltic Sea Region from a life science perspective?
‘There is a great deal of mobility when it comes to life science, especially among PhDs and post-docs. It should be pointed out that this is a question of moving between countries with high-ranking universities. This means that in the Baltic Sea Region, talents mainly move between Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and to some extent Russia. The situation analysis that is produced by the One BSR project and describes talent mobility in the Baltic Sea Region also provides a very good overview of the talent mobility in the life science area.’
Is there anything special about talent retention in the area of life science? What are the main challenges?
‘I would argue that there is nothing unique about life science talent retention. There is no difference between life science and other areas that need highly skilled and well-educated individuals. One of the main challenges could be marketing our region with regard to soft values that people might not know about when moving to the region: security, clean air, close proximity to nature, child care, education and so on.’
What tools would we need to develop in order to improve talent mobility in our region?
‘We need soft landing tools, meaning that we take care of accompanying spouses and families and create social networks for them. It is not always that easy to get to know Swedish people. I think that this is something we can significantly improve upon.’
What would be the first step in the process of improving and developing life science talent mobility in the region?
‘It is certainly important to work cross-sectionally. Also, it is important to see what other regions are doing and learn from both success stories and failures. We should also have well-defined messages when we present our region in order to be more visible internationally.’
Camilla Wristel, firstname.lastname@example.org