In Innovation

The entrepreneurial driving force behind one of Scandinavia’s most successful science parks has been appointed to lead forward a huge innovation programme in the North East.

Hans Moller, Chief Executive of Sweden’s Ideon Science Park, is the North East LEP’s first innovation director, overseeing the delivery of more than £125m worth of investment to create a globally competitive innovation eco-system in the region.

This is one of the key pillars of the North East LEP’s strategic plan to deliver “more and better jobs” for the region.

With more than 25 years experience of leading innovation at IT companies, creating start-ups and establishing Ideon as Sweden’s first and most successful science park, he is ideally placed to lead the strengthening of the innovation structures in the North East.

Mr Moller, 56, will work closely with the LEP’s recently-created innovation board, which combines the expertise of international, national and regional business leaders, public sector leaders and senior academics, to help create the conditions for a new and dynamic innovation culture across the North East economy.

Progress is already being made, with five priority innovation-hub projects securing more than £26m investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

A further investment of around £100m, including European funding, will be secured by the North East for innovation initiatives which can boost areas of business strength and promote vibrant social innovation.

The region’s national innovation profile was enhanced with the exciting recent announcements that the Space Satellite Catapult and the Digital Catapult will locate centres in the North East and that a new National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation will be created in Newcastle.

Under Mr Moller’s leadership, the Ideon Science Park in Lund, near Malmo in southern Sweden, has grown to house about 350 companies employing 2,700 people in ICT, clean tech and life sciences sectors.

”When I spoke to the North East LEP’s innovation champion Professor Roy Sandbach and members of the LEP Board I was quickly convinced that there is a real opportunity to create a special, world-leading innovation system in the North East,” said Mr Moller, who is married with three grown up children.

”For me, it is extremely interesting to get the opportunity to use my background as an entrepreneur and as a leader in the Swedish innovation system in a completely new context and really work hard to make a difference to help create new and better jobs.

”I believe in the importance of the region’s effort in having developed a strong strategic economic plan with a clear vision and goals. Having an innovation programme as part of it with the focus on open innovation and smart specialisation demonstrates clear analysis and superior thinking.”

Mr Moller was also co-founder and CEO of the Ideonfonden AB venture capital fund in Sweden, investing in ICT and life science start-up businesses.

Prof Sandbach said: “In appointing Hans to lead the vitally important innovation programme, the North East has secured an outstanding leader with a proven international pedigree in open innovation and building and maintaining innovation systems.

”He brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge which we believe can help deliver a new innovation eco-system in the North East, where businesses are supported to deliver new high quality jobs and economic growth. Hans is also well-versed in the collaborative approaches and partnerships that are the basis for open innovation.”

As Scandinavia’s leading site for open innovation, Ideon has a 30-year history with many of Sweden’s leading innovative companies having started there.

Mr Moller added: “Open innovation can be a very effective tool for companies to develop problem-solving partnerships that sharpen their competitiveness and build business in a global market. But it can only be achieved if all the players in the regional innovation system are open to new ways of “out of the box” thinking. From my experience I know it can be done, so why not in the North East?

”I have a lot to learn about the region. But I can see all the ingredients for success with well established universities combining world-class research with great teaching, wonderful growth businesses in key sectors and outstanding support structures within innovation hubs across the region.

“As a former CEO of a science park, it makes me really happy to notice that there are already strong science park environments and innovation hubs like NETPark, North East Business Innovation Centre, Northern Design Centre and Newcastle Science Central, to name but a few.”

Mr Moller will begin his role with the LEP in March 2015.

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