Wallenbergs give new life to Södertälje research

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Wallenbergs give new life to Södertälje research

A year after Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca announced the closure of its research facilities in Södertälje, south of Stockholm, officials are cheering plans to create a new research park financed in part by the powerful Wallenberg family.


"The municipality of Södertälje is working strategically to create the conditions for growth in the existing business community, for entrepreneurship and new business creation, and to entice new firms to establish in the municipality," local council member Marita Lärnestad said in a statement.

The comments come in the wake of news announced on Friday that the city's massive AstraZeneca research centre was being sold to Acturum, a newly created company jointly owned by the Peab construction company and Foundation Asset Management (FAM), an asset management company owned by the Wallenberg family foundations.

The price of the deal was not disclosed.

"We see a unique possibility to take care of and expand on what AstraZeneca has left in Snäckviken," Acturum chair Stephan Tolstoy told the Länstidningen newspaper, invoking the name commonly used to refer to the facility.

The future of the facility has been in doubt since February 2012 when the drug maker announced it was closing the research hub as part of a major restructuring, cutting more than 1,000 positions from the company's Södertälje workforce.

AstraZeneca's decision was a tough blow for Sweden's scientific research community, as the facility alone accounted for a full 15 percent of the country's total research output according to Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers (Sveriges Ingenjörer).

The organization hailed news that new life would be breathed into the research park, calling it an "important piece of the puzzle" for strengthening life science research in Sweden.

As part of the sale, the area is to be re-christened Biovation Park Telge with the goal of making the sprawling 130,000 square-metre facility a hotbed for life science research.

"We're happy that we've found a solution whereby our facilities can create the conditions for continuing life science research," Anders Ekblom, head of global development at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

According to the terms of the agreement, Biovation Park Telge will also take over all of AstraZeneca's high-tech lab equipment for pharmaceutical development.

The drug maker will also hand over 15 neuroscience research projects.

While AstraZeneca will no longer carry out research in the area, the company will maintain a production facility nearby.

Meanwhile, a slew of new research companies plan to establish operations at Biovation Park Telge, which will also house Campus Telge, a municipality supported collaboration between a number of Swedish research universities and local businesses.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to continue the development of Södertälje as a university town," municipal council chair Boel Godner said in a statement.

Södertälje-based truckmaker Scania also plans to move some of its operations to the research park following the deal, which is expected to create at least 50 new research jobs.

"Initially we've had discussions about between 50 and 100 researchers that may start from the autumn. Then there will be more, two or three times that number," Tolstoy said on Friday.

David Landes

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