Letter from the new Vice President of SACC-NE, Nicole Clifford

Dear SACC-NE members,

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the new Vice President of the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce New England.

Despite having no Swedish ancestry, I have been interested in Swedish culture and learning the language since 2009 when I stayed with a Swedish family for a few days on vacation. After working in the U.S. Congress in DC for a couple of years, I moved to Sweden and obtained my master’s degree in political science from Uppsala University in 2015. Up until now, I was living in Stockholm working with advocacy and communications for Fastighetsägarna Stockholm, a trade association for property owners, and commentating on the 2016 presidential elections as a fellow for Frivärld, a foreign and security policy think tank.

When I found out I would be moving to Boston, I immediately reached out to SACC-NE as they were the most knowledgeable, connected and active group representing the Swedish community in the region. I am therefore extremely excited and humbled to take on this position.

As your Vice President, I look forward to strengthening the transatlantic link between New England and Sweden, finding ways for SACC-NE to increase its profile within the Swedish and New England public and private spheres, and advocating for our members’ priorities on all levels.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at nicole.clifford@gmail.com if you have any questions or would simply like to connect! I look forward to meeting and working with all of you, and am honored to represent this wonderful organization.

Kind regards,

Nicole Clifford

Interview with Phil Budden, senior lecturer at MIT management school by Susanna Bachle!

 “Boston is friendlier to startups than New York CIty, Boston people love startups and entrepreneurs”.


Phil Budden.jpg

Interviewee: Phil Budden, a Senior Lecturer at MIT's Management School, in Sloan's TIES (Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategic-management) Group, where he focuses on 'innovation-driven entrepreneurship' (IDE) and innovation ecosystems. Phil co-teaches in the l 'Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program' (REAP), for regional teams from around the globe interested in accelerating 'innovation-driven entrepreneurship'. His background as a British diplomat makes him well-suited to the 'global innovation' of REAP, the interplay among the REAP teams, and the negotiations within the 'innovation ecosystems'.

(source: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/expertiseguide/facultybio.html?w=54182)


1) What does your current work at MIT focus on, and why is this an interesting area for you?



Phil is fascinated by the “The MIT approach” MIND AND HAND!” which tries to answer questions such as “How do you put good academic research into practice?” A key framework that MIT teaches is the “innovation ecosystem stakeholder model”. Researchers at MIT also analyze why there are hotspots of innovation and what drives them.

The innovation ecosystem model focuses on 5 stakeholders: government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community (Figure 1) –  it aims to make people who care about innovation in a certain region ask themselves the following questions:

1) What do we have in our own ecosystem?

2) What are the strengths of our 5 stakeholders?

3) How are they interacting?


At the heart of the model is a 5 pointed star and it is all about the connections! For example, is the government supportive of the entrepreneur, does the entrepreneur have access to corporations i.e. via a business council? Are the universities and risk capital working together? This “innovation ecosystem” that MIT teaches is very useful for how European countries should think about their ecosystems and how they can improve them.


Phil bud ilust.png

Figure 1: The 5 stakeholders and their connections in the MIT Innovation Ecosystem model.


When asked about his role at MIT, Phil states: “I support MIT by helping people to come together as teams. For this, I leverage my professional experience in the public and the private sectors to focus on the governments and corporates.”


What is the base of a successful innovation ecosystem?

There are 2 capacities that underpin an ecosystem:

1) Science and Innovation capacity – governed by basic spending on basic research.

2) Entrepreneurial capacity – How do we ensure that our students and entrepreneurs have the skills, not only to be entrepreneurs, but to be innovation-driven entrepreneurs?

In fact, it is the connection between innovation and entrepreneurship that ends up being so important.


It is great and necessary to spend money on basic research, but according to the MIT model, if a country does not also nourish its entrepreneurial capacity, it does not attract companies.

The most immediate thing you can do to encourage innovation-driven entrepreneurs is to make sure that students at university studying STEM are entrepreneurial with their ideas! So, universities need to train innovators. This is the true “Mind and Hand” approach. Most American entrepreneurs are trained in how to speak to US consumers and investors early in their career. It is a skill that can be taught, so European countries should be invested in teaching it to upcoming entrepreneurs and their startup hubs!



2) How can other countries learn from MIT’s entrepreneurial success?

Phil refers to one example, the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration program (REAP) (http://reap.mit.edu). REAP- now in 4th cohort -has had some Nordic experience (Figure 2):

The very 1st cohort had a team from Finland, the 3rd cohort had a team from Norway and in the 4th cohort, a team from Iceland is enrolled (see map –from http://reap.mit.edu/#our-team).

“MIT REAP admits up to 8 partner regions annually to participate in the two-year engagement. A typical REAP region has a population of 1-10 million people. Each partner region has a team comprised of 5-8 highly driven and influential regional members and is headed by a regional team champion. All 5 major stakeholder groups are represented in an MIT REAP team: government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community.”


REAP helps to analyze the innovative ecosystem of the participating country through workshops over the course of 2 years. REAP gives “homework” to the teams, through which a team analyzes its innovative ecosystem and develops actionable solutions to improve it.


The next application deadline is in January, 2017. 



Figure 2: Partners from previous REAP cohorts. Note the missing participation from Sweden!



3) Recommendations for the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in New England:

A business council in the greater Boston area is uniquely well placed to help that country’s businesses of various sizes to access this ecosystem! So it assists the businesses to get into this local ecosystem which is biased towards innovation generally, very strong in life sciences but also very good in robotics and artificial intelligence. An innovation ecosystem can be good at several different technologies. A business council should understand the ecosystem here and select the right businesses from Sweden to come and meet the right partners here in the Boston area. Thereby, complementing the work done by governments and corporates “to make good things happen”.


For SACC-NE the first thing is to speak to the Swedish entrepreneurs that are already in the ecosystem here, also to reach out to academic faculty and innovators here. Analyze in which areas they could have used assistance and start building a mentor pool who can guide and support entrepreneurs and businesses arriving from Sweden – slowly fostering a “SACC-NE ecosystem”. Understanding drivers of successful entrepreneurship comprises not only the analysis of Swedish entrepreneurs who stayed in Sweden, it is also necessary to remind ourselves about great Swedish entrepreneurs in the US. The next step is to foster connections between them. SACC-NE needs to play a connector type of role.


What should be avoided? “To spend too much money and get peoples’ hopes up – and fail!”

The advice is to enable startups to be fully immersed into the Cambridge ecosystem, to be surrounded by fellow entrepreneurs. Provide the local knowledge and insight to the Swedish entrepreneurs about where such hubs and hotspots are (for example the Cambridge Innovation Center (http://cic.us) and WeWork (https://www.wework.com/l/boston--MA) and facilitate their arrival in the ecosystem by setting up meetings and introductions. “Doing fewer things, but doing them really well” instead of spending much money! “Actually SACC-NE needs to be pretty entrepreneurial and innovative itself!”



“They used to say if you make it in New York you can make it anywhere”. But New York is so busy now that a lot of startups cannot make it. But they might make it if they start in Boston and then expand! “I think Boston is friendlier to startups in New York, here in Boston people love startups and entrepreneurs”.

Thank you very much for interviewing Susanna Bachle!


SACC-NEs Christmas Cocktail Party with winetasting from Sjoeblom Winery

SACC-NE celebrated the end of this year with a cocktail-party and it was a blast! 

Sjoeblom Winery accounted for a very appreciated wine-tasting and MIke Sjoeblom spoke about the difficulties and possibilities in the wine making industry,  It was possible to buy last-minut Christmas gifts from the inspiring brands that where present. There where also a lottery with great prizes from Fjällräven, Just add Cooking, Sjoeblom Winery and SACC-NE.

The new Chairwoman, Charlotte Leife was introduced and our President, Christina Björnström was given standing ovations  for her work during 2016!

Thank you all for this amazing year and we are embracing 2017 with energy and commitment! 

// SACC-NE Team

SPEAKER SERIES with ICEBUG CEO David Ekelund at FJällräven 16th of November

ICEBUG CEO David Ekelund flew in from Sweden. Together with the President of ICEBUG North America, Evan Wert, they shared with us what ICEBUG is and how it was transformed into a sucessful international brand! 

We would like to thank Fjällräven for giving us the opportunity to host the event in their store on Newbury! 

Thank you all for coming and see you soon again!

Kick-off event at Fjällräven!

Yesterday's event at Fjällräven was a sucess!

Fjällräven opened up their store for a Sacc-ne only event and provided light snacks and beverages as well as 20 % discount on all goods!  As a result, 60 persons showed up and mingled. SACC-NE's new Young Professional branch was announced and introduceaswell.

Thank you all for coming and we hope to see you again wednesday the 19th of october for the Presidential debate and some catch-phrase bingo!

An evening with Sobi's President Rami Levin 26th of September

Yesterday was not an ordinary Monday!

Rami Levin, the President of Sobi North America, visited us at our new office and talked about Sobi. Sobi is a leading integrated biopharmaceutical company dedicated to bringing innovative therapies and services to improve the lives of rare disease patients and their families.The discussion was moderated by Elisabeth Svensson, head of Life Tech advisory board. The evening was very successful much thanks to the interaction between the inquisitive audience and Rami Levin.

Thank you all for coming! 

SACC-NE proudly announces partnership with Sobi!

Dear Friends,

SACC-NE is excited to announce our partnership with Sobi!

Sobi is a leading integrated biopharmaceutical company dedicated to bringing innovative therapies and services to improve the lives of rare disease patients and their families. A Swedish success story, Sobi is represented in over 20 countries across Europe, with their North American headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts having opened in June 2014.

We are especially proud to partner with Sobi for the important work they are doing to help tackle rare diseases. Below is an interview we conducted with Sobi North America’s President Rami Levin to learn more about Sobi’s direction, Rami’s experiences in Sweden, and the vision he has for Sobi in North America. 

Rami Levin, President of Sobi North America

Rami Levin, President of Sobi North America

Rami Levin is the President of Sobi North America and holds an MBA from Rekanati Business School and BSc in Biology from Tel-Aviv University, Israel. Rami has over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of Marketing, Sales and General Management leadership roles in different countries.

 Previous positions: Various senior positions within Merck Serono since 1998, most recently as Vice President of Marketing (US) 2012-2014. Managing Director Scandinavia (Sweden) 2008-2012. Global Marketing Head (Switzerland) 2001-2008. Business Unit Manager (Israel) 1998-2001. Product Manager, Schering AG (Israel) 1996-1998.

SACC-NE: What makes Sobi special and unique?

Rami: Sobi being a rare disease company is very focused on patients and their needs. We really want to change and improve the lives of patients with rare disease. Even with our products now and with those we’re looking at for the future. The key question we ask is, “is this an area of unmet need? Does the product bring value that was not there for patients prior?”

I personally joined Sobi because of the intriguing culture and tremendous prospects the company has. Sobi has a very startup feel to it. It has all the advantages of a startup without the risk of a startup. The culture therefore was and continues to be very unique – nothing like I’ve ever seen before. There’s this feeling that anything and everything is possible. It’s okay to think big, make mistakes, and stumble on the way to achieving success.

SACC-NE: We’re SACC-NE, so naturally, we have to ask you about your experiences in Sweden. Could you share some with us?

 Rami: Working in Sweden for 4 years made me appreciate what your country has to offer, especially when it comes to science. It’s a great hub for science and innovation, and there are plenty of examples in the industry where Sweden was absolutely at the forefront. Representing a Swedish company here is great because Sobi, being a Swedish company, is bringing innovation to the forefront in the United States. Being based in New England is critical because this is the biotech hub of the world. Our headquarters are based in Stockholm, so partnering with Karolinska for our research is critical as a pharmaceutical company. Our relationships with research institutes in Stockholm make for a great partnership with Sweden moving forward.

SACC-NE: What was it like to do business in Sweden compared to other places you’ve been to?

Rami: To be honest, it took a while to get used to the regular Fika’s and paternity leaves. That took some getting used to. You don’t see that in most countries. However, what it taught me is that in Sweden, people are very productive and the outcomes are great. I learned that having a great work-life balance is absolutely critical.

SACC-NE: Why rare diseases?

Rami: Many patients with rare disease have to go through misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. There are roughly 7,000 rare diseases out there that we know of, of which, only 400 of those have any sort of treatment available. What this means is that most rare disease have no treatment. For those that do, there’s often only one treatment available. In many cases, this one treatment can be lifesaving. When I hear these stories, it reminds me why we continue doing what we’re doing. Imagine being a parent with a child suffering from a rare disease, and the doctor can’t help you, but you know there’s something wrong. If you’re one of the lucky 400 cases, you can see a remarkable change. If not, there’s not much you can do today apart from fight and work to support clinical trials in that rare indication. Coming from the pharma side, when I see patients’ reactions – that’s second to none. Understanding what they have is a relief, and if there’s treatment available, it’s even better. It’s so gratifying to see the reactions when they receive the treatment they need.

SACC-NE: Where do you see Sobi in 5 years?

Rami: I think our vision captures where we want to be in 5 years. We want to be a profitable organization, maintain our focus on areas of unmet medical need, and we want to remain agile and focused on patient needs.

SACC-NE: How can the SACC-NE community help? 

Rami: I’d love to meet small biotech companies trying to enter the US. I’m happy to share my experiences to help them. Hopefully, some of these interactions could possibly also yield some collaborations moving forward.

SACC-NE: Any advice you have for Swedish biotech companies seeking to enter the US?

 Rami: This is such a complex market, so my recommendation - for sure - is to get experienced people in the US, who know and understand the US market, and will manage your business from here. They need to know what you can and can’t do here. Even if a small Swedish company has a product and wants to come to North America, get experience people in North America to work for you, who know and understand the market and can be realistic about what to expect from the US as well as how much to invest in. As for the pay off? It’s the most profitable market in the pharmaceutical industry.

Commercializing Life Science with Professor Robert Langer

Thank you to everyone for joining us on March 2 for “Commercializing Life Science with Professor Robert Langer.” We heard a great presentation from renowned MIT Professor Langer regarding his journey in commercializing scientific advancements that have come out of his lab. It was also exciting to co-organize the event with BABCNE, marking our collaboration with British friends in New England.

Following Professor Langer’s talk, lots of people stayed to discuss and network over drinks. It was so fun that we barely got any pictures taken!

Following Professor Langer’s talk, lots of people stayed to discuss and network over drinks. It was so fun that we barely got any pictures taken!


Christina Björnström and Professor Robert Langer before the speech

Christina Björnström and Professor Robert Langer before the speech

Professor Robert Langer during the Q&A session following his very interesting speech. Many questions were asked.

Professor Robert Langer during the Q&A session following his very interesting speech. Many questions were asked.

Letter from 19/2

Dear SACC-NE members,

I would like to use this opportunity to introduce myself as the new President of the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce New England. As some of you may have heard, Stella Lovén has stepped down as President of SACC-NE to embark on new opportunities. Stella did a terrific job leading our organization and increasing SACC-NE's visibility. She will continue to be involved as a Director of the Board.
I originally joined SACC-NE to help promote Swedish trade and innovation in the New England region. Growing up, I spent my summers in a small village called Käymäjärvi in Norbotten with my Swedish grandmother. Born in the Netherlands to a Swedish father and Japanese mother, I have also lived and worked in the UK, Japan, Los Angeles, Southeast Asia and Boston. Throughout my life, Sweden always felt the closest to home. I am therefore especially humbled and honored to take on this position.
Professionally, I have worked as a journalist in Southeast Asia, editor at Yahoo, and served as cofounder of a social enterprise and two tech startups. Today, I serve as an MBA admissions consultant and enjoy mentoring startups. I am deeply passionate about social justice, entrepreneurship, and STEM education.
Moving forward, what is of enormous importance to me is continuing to bring value to our members and our partners. Next week, we will send out a newsletter detailing some of the changes and additions we will be making as well as the plans we have for 2016. 
I feel a great sense of responsibility and pride in representing our organization. My door is always open should you have any questions or suggestions.
I greatly look forward to serving the SACC-NE community.

Warmest regards,

Christina Björnström

Christina Björnström President Swedish American Chamber of Commerce New England

Christina Björnström
Swedish American Chamber of Commerce New England

Boston’s first and only organic SPA has opened - Balans Organic SPA

SACC NE was honored to meet with Marie Aspling, founder and owner of Balans and Balans Organic SPA. Balans has, through its overall perspective of heath and wellbeing, become one of Boston’s most exclusive wellness centers in just five years.

Marie Aspling, founder and owner of Balans and balans organic spa.  

Marie Aspling, founder and owner of Balans and balans organic spa.  


A Swedish native, it was Marie’s research in Biomedical Science that brought her to Boston in 2004. Marie founded Balans five years ago with a mission to promote health through improving our posture. Balans is a lifestyle studio dedicated to promoting health through private experiences of movement, strength, massage, pilates, yoga, and chiropractic care. Balans’ mission is to provide clients with a detailed overview of their health and inspire them to improve their habits and lifestyle choices. The overall goal is to identify a way of life that works in the long term for each person based on his or her individual condition and goals.

At the fifth anniversary of Balans, Marie is expanding her business by opening Balans Organic Spa – Boston’s first and only organic spa. Located on the fashionable Newbury Street in the center of commercial Boston, Balans Organic Spa offers a full catalog of organic facials and body treatments, as well as waxing. Balans’ facials and body treatments only use 100% organic and raw products from Maria Åkerberg, a Swedish-based company. Marie has worked with Maria Åkerberg products for two years, and guarantees that they are by far the most pure line she has ever come across in terms of both skin products and cosmetics.

The opening of a 100 % organic spa is partly driven by Marie’s expertise in Biomedical Science, which has given her a deep understanding of the impact generic products have on the skin. Most non-organic products contain harsh chemicals that can not only damage the skin, but also lead to more serious health problems such as hormonal imbalances, allergies, and even cancer.

We absorb these products. These chemicals become one with our body and organs, and it can lead to a number of serious illnesses and disease. There is also the problem of many companies marketing their products as “organic” when they are anything but. There’s the issue of mislabeling as well as USDA and FDA standards at times, being questionable.

Marie’s overall goal is to increase awareness on the importance of self-care by inspiring others to embrace a healthier lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Even if Marie’s business can be classified as a wellness center, Marie’s focus is on the individual, rather than a general concept of what health means for the general population.

In December, Marie hosted the grand opening of Balans Organic Spa, by cooking food for the guests herself. The menu included homemade dishes such as squash soup with roasted pumpkin and Chia seed pudding for dessert – of course all ecologically.

SACC NE and Balans Organic Spa are now inviting you to an exclusive evening focused on "Integrative Health from the Inside Out" on Wednesday, January 27th at 6:00 PM. Marie will give a talk on the importance of self-care and how to connect all aspects of your lifestyle. During the evening we will explore how to establish lifestyle habits that are manageable and reasonable to support and sustain good health. Integrative Health from the Inside Out offers you comprehensive yet digestible education on how to thrive in our vitality.   




The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the BioPharma industry

Trading between the European Union and the United States Atlantic has a long and successful tradition. Beyond the general goals of a trade agreement, such as increasing wealth and better market access on both sides of the Atlantic, TTIP could also target to resolve specific hurdles the BioPharma industry faces when operating across the Atlantic.

MassBio, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the British Embassy and the British Consulate General hosted in collaboration an event to discuss the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the perspective of the US/EU biopharmaceutical industry. Speakers from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the European Union (EU), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) met representatives from US and European biopharmaceutical companies. The panels discussed the current state of the TTIP negotiations and existing regulatory hurdles in the biopharmaceutical sector.

TTIP – a path of convergence for the US/EU BioPharma industry?

Many members of the BioPharma industry operate globally which requires adjustment to country-specific policies regarding good manufacturing practice (GMP), market access and reimbursement. Differences in GMP regulations represent one major obstacle for bringing new drugs into the respective market and demonstrate the potential for harmonization under TTIP. It was emphasized that the overall goal of TTIP was to use existing laws and to align these in an implementable way.

TTIP could combine health and trade on equal terms. Two examples specific for the BioPharma industry were discussed.

  1. Mutual recognition agreements of GMP inspections would allow the focus of inspection efforts on risky operations instead of checking the same plant by US and EU inspectors.
  2. The possibility to seek parallel scientific advice for products in the development phase would enable the BioPharma companies to design clinical trials most effectively.

Both examples aim on cutting costs while improving patient safety and ensuring high quality standards.

Good ideas come from all different places. In order to target the obstacles experienced by the BioPharma industry, stakeholders need to come forward to suggest objectives and to raise awareness for potential solutions to resolve unnecessary bureaucratic complexity.


What’s next? Follow the ongoing TTIP negotiations via EU and US resources! 

- The 11th round of TTIP negotiations was held 19-23 October in Miami USA and the outcomes are presented HERE.  

- The European Commission collects the latest news on TTIP HERE and invites stakeholders to get in touch HERE

- The Office of the Unites States Trade Representative provides updates on current negotiation rounds, fact sheets and press releases HERE.  

The strong trade relationship between Massachusetts and the EU could grow even stronger after the successful conclusion of TTIP. Source: Atlantic Council BertelsmannFoundation (http://issuu.com/bertelsmannfoundation/docs/ttip_and_the_50_states_web-1/36)

The strong trade relationship between Massachusetts and the EU could grow even stronger after the successful conclusion of TTIP.

Source: Atlantic Council BertelsmannFoundation (http://issuu.com/bertelsmannfoundation/docs/ttip_and_the_50_states_web-1/36)