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Sweden-India Collaboration in Health Sector

By February 11, 2019 February 25th, 2019 No Comments

An interview with H.E. Klas Molin, Swedish Ambassador to India done by Sachin Gaur, Director Operations at InnovatioCuris for InnoHEALTH Magazine.

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H.E. Klas Molin has been serving as the Ambassador of Sweden to India since 2017. Prior to this, he served as the Ambassador and Chief of Protocol at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm, Sweden.

He also held various positions at Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm. He earned his Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (USA).

Q. What is the Swedish interest in India and your priority topics for the Indian health sector?

We have a very fruitful bilateral collaboration with India in the health sector, beginning with our development cooperation in areas such as mother- and child health, midwifery, and work against communicable diseases. Cooperation has now increased to mutually beneficial partnerships. For the past ten years, we have had a Memorandum of Understanding on Health between our countries and next year we are going to celebrate this with an India-Swedish Health Year.

Many collaborations of mutual interests are ongoing and being planned that focus in a wide range of areas like antimicrobial resistance, elderly care, pharmaceuticals, non-communicable diseases and digital innovations including artificial intelligence, where the emphasis will be on knowledge transfer, capacity building and skills training.

Q. An MoU was signed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sweden on 17th April 2018 at Stockholm on “India-Sweden Innovation Partnership for a Sustainable Future”. Can you share the progress with respect to healthcare?

We are in the process of putting out calls and setting up incubators which will encourage close collaboration between the innovators in Sweden and India. Solutions are only sustainable if both sides contribute and share a strong sense of ownership. Progress has already been made in laying the groundwork for such partnerships within the sectors of clean energy and smart cities, and we hope to launch initiatives targeted to healthcare during the coming year. The Embassy will be sure to keep you posted.

Q. India and Sweden will complete 10 years of Partnership in Health Sector in 2019, any plans in store for 2019?

India and Sweden plan to commemorate the ten years completion of the MoU in 2019. We hope to enhance our collaborations in new areas with new stakeholders like the new AIIMS that have come up in some states. We also hope to have high-level visits from both sides to enhance policy dialogues and bilateral relations. Some of the collaborative partners are also developing new plans to strengthen their cooperation.

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Q. What can Indian healthcare businesses gain from Swedish healthcare businesses?

Any suggestions on possible partnerships? It is not so much what the Indian healthcare system can gain, but rather, how can we join forces to overcome common challenges. Swedish businesses have been in India for many years. Within healthcare, we have AstraZeneca, who recently celebrated 40 years in India, and Getinge who has been investing in the Indian ecosystem for many years. Their focus, like many others, has been in building the capacity of their employees and the users of their products to increase efficiency. The businesses also bring with them lessons from Sweden so that we can help India leapfrog outdated technology. Sweden also ranks high in most innovation indexes – it can be argued that our relatively small size makes collaborations outside traditional silos necessary in order to succeed. Public actors, private companies, and institutions often work together in finding innovative solutions to serious healthcare challenges. We would like to work with India to build spaces for similar ecosystems across India.

Q. What are the common areas for healthcare research and ongoing partnerships for both sides to collaborate?

Under the MoU, there are extensive collaborations between public authorities and universities from both countries. For instance, the Swedish Public Health Agency, Medical Product Agency and Forte (the Swedish Research Council on Health, Working Life and Welfare) have an ongoing collaboration with their Indian counterparts. There are ongoing discussions on extending collaborations with new players like our National Board of Health and Welfare and E-Health Authority as well as between our medical universities such as Karolinska Institute, Uppsala University and the different AIIMS.

Through these collaborations, we hope to demonstrate best practices and technologies. We have research calls in different areas for example with EU in big data and artificial intelligence for monitoring health status and quality of life after cancer treatment, under JPIAMR call on diagnostics and surveillance 2019.

Innovation-the UNNATI way is an India-Sweden Innovators for strategic business development to address global challenges. It is an industry-supported initiative coordinated by Business Sweden in collaboration with AGNIi-Invest India and ATAL Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog.

Q. You have signed for skilling nurses on infection control, wound care and diagnostics with Govt of Maharashtra in 2016. What is your experience of the last two years?

I believe the overall experience has been good. Business Sweden will, however, be able to provide more information on this as they have been coordinating this activity.

Q. Anti-Microbial Resistance is an important issue right now. How do you propose the Swedish Govt. support in this area?

The Swedish Public Health Agency and the Indian National Centre for Disease Control have an ongoing collaboration with a focus on antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, the Indian Ministry of Health has proposed that Sweden collaborate closely with a new-AIIMS and its associated Health and Wellness Centres. AIIMS-Jodhpur has been suggested to us and we are currently considering the scope of such collaboration.

Q. Artificial Intelligence seems to be a focus area for Sweden in the Health Sector?

Do you see any collaboration in this field with Indian providers? This is a hot topic all over the world right now. I know India is well ahead in AI technology while Sweden has more long-term experience in extracting relevant information from vast amounts of data. Our patient registries have enabled us to have one of the highest cancer survival rates in the world and that is only one example. I believe we will see some collaborations in the coming year, especially as you are arranging a delegation to Sweden addressing this exact topic in May next year. I will follow this progress closely.

Q. What is your message for InnoHEALTH Magazine readers? How can we, as a platform, support India-Swedish collaboration?

I congratulate InnovatioCuris for collaborating with Swecare Foundation and Swedish Medtech in facilitating innovative and promising solutions for India. Sweden has a long tradition of developing innovations in healthcare. We also have a well-functioning public sector, together with extensive health data registries, biobanks and digital connectivity infrastructure, that provides great opportunities to develop innovative, demand-driven, competitive solutions for healthcare. Exciting opportunities abound in an environment dedicated to medical innovation, drug discovery and pharmaceutical commercialization. Sweden and India have lots to share and learn from each other!

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