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REGIONS EUROPE


Talent that breeds innovation I


RESEARCH EXPERTISE IN LITHUANIA IS COALESCING, WITH COMPANIES ALREADY REAPING THE BENEFITS. ALEX IRWIN-HUNT REPORTS


nnovation ecosystems are built on the talent pools within them. In Lithuania’s growing life sciences


sector, global recognition for its research and development (R&D) is helping attract foreign companies and funding. Academic research institutions,


such as the 24,000 square metre Life Sciences Center at Vilnius University (VULSC), are providing a space for sci- entists, students and start-ups to col-


laborate in areas such as biotechnology and molecular medicine. Its proximity to Vilnius’s ‘Sunrise Valley’ innovation cluster, which includes a biotechnology business incubator for start-ups, helps. “The establishment of the VU LSC has com-


pletely changed the sector across the Baltic region while positioning Vilnius asaleader,” says Inga Romanovskienė, the director of Go Vilnius, the development agency for Lithuania’s capital. The work of scientists based at VU LSC has


been awarded internationally. In 2018, the bio- chemist Virginijus Šikšnys won the prestigious Kavli prize — awarded for breakthroughs in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience — for his contributions to the development of Crispr gene-editing technology. Meanwhile in 2019, the L’Oreal–UNESCO for Women in Science awards recognised the neuroscientist Urtė Neniškytė for her research on early child- hood brain development.


International co-operation “This year we are stepping on the brink of an exciting phase,” says Gintas Kimtys, the acting director at Lithuania’s Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology. “Recently, Lithuanian researchers’ compe-


tencies to conduct world-class research were recognised as Lithuania was chosen for the establishment of a gene-editing institute based on the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Embl)model,” he adds. Some €6m of EU funding will be given to


develop laboratories, and will foster deeper co- operation and knowledge sharing between VU LSC and other Embl partnership institutes in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. In the case of multinational neuroscience


specialist Biogen — which set up a Lithuanian subsidiary in June 2020 — international aca- demic ties, alongside initiatives to drive digital- isation and better use of data in the healthcare sector, was a draw to the Baltic country.


78


The general manager of Biogen’s subsidi-


ary, Mikko Fernström, says it is a “very excit- ing time” to be part of the life sciences indus- try in Lithuania. “At Biogen, we are contributing through pio-


neering neuroscience aswell as through partner- ships across the sector to help drive adoption of dataanddigital practices in healthcare,”headds. The Lithuanian government aims to grow


life sciences’ share of gross domestic product from its current level of 2% to 5% by 2030 (see interview on page 82).


Best in class Lithuania’s 12 universities are helping tomain- tain the country’s technical talent pool. In Bloomberg’s 2021 Innovation Index, Lithuania ranked second globally in terms of ‘tertiary efficiency’, which includes enrolment in higher education, graduation rates and per- centage of the labour force who have received tertiary education. According to Lithuanian authorities, a


quarter of students are enrolled in innovation- related studies, such as science, mathematics, computing and engineering, while the country ranks fourth in the EU for its share of young people (25–34 years old) with higher education. “Educated, motivated and committed,


Lithuanian people have best-in-class skills to handle complex tasks, and an attitude to deliver, perform and learn,” says Danas Tvarijonavičius, the head of industrial develop- ment at Roquette Amilina, which is part of France-headquartered Roquette, a global pro- vider of plant-based ingredients and pharma- ceutical excipients. Roquette Amilina has 15 research staff at its


R&Dcentre in the Lithuanian city of Panevėžys, who formpart of a global teamof 300 scientists across its labs and innovation centres in the US, Singapore, China and France. Other multinationals in the life sciences sec-


torhave foundreadily availableandqualitytalent too. In December 2020, US-based Thermo Fisher announced it would expand the manufacturing facility at its Vilnius site, adding140newjobs and bringingits total headcount tomorethan 1200. Intersurgical, a UK-based manufacturer of


medical devices for respiratory support, has more than 2500 full-time employees at its plant in the city of Pabrade. In 2017, US-based Hollister, a developer of ostomy, continence and critical care products, announced a €50m investment into a plant in Kaunas Free Economic Zone, where it currentlyemploys 334 people.


www.fDiIntelligence.com April/May 2021


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