Jennie Ekbeck, VD Umeå Biotech Incubator

Jennie Ekbeck has been the leading figure for life science in Umeå and northern Sweden since she took on the CEO-role for Umeå Biotech Incubator in 2013. She was named “Innovation Angel” by Veckans affärer and Vinnova in december 2015 and last year Umeå kommun handed her the Equal Opportunies prize. Now, her leadership is gaining attention as she is one of four nominees for the title “CEO of the year” in the Umeå region.

The CEO of Umeå Biotech Incubator is one of four nominees for the annual prize as “Best CEO of the Umeå region”

How did you respond when you were told you were nominated?
I was very happy and honored. I have called Umeå my home town for 20 years now, and I love to live and work here. The nomination tells me that my employees and also people outside of Umeå Biotech Incubator appreciate my leadership and our dedication to contribute to growth in our part of Sweden.

Full article about nomination in Swedish in Västerbotten-Kuriren (link to Swedish article)

Describe yourself breifly – who are you?
I am the CEO of Umeå Biotech Incubator since five years, married to Pål and mother to Elvin and Linnéa. I live in the beautiful village of Röbäck where I get the best of two worlds; closeness to the city center and vast spaces of open landscaape. I started my academic path with a degree in biomedical sciences at Umeå University with the goal of becoming a researcher. But along the way I realized that my interests were leaning more towards business, and I chose to study a number of courses related to entrepreneurship at the School of Economics before leaving the university.

During my final years at uni, I began to work with Eva Grahn Håkansson at Essum. Eva saw something in me, and I was eventually recruited to Probac when the company started in 2005. When I was on leave with my second child, Umeå Biotech Incubator announced a vacancy for the position as CEO. I grabbed the opportunity and applied – something I have never regretted. In my current role, I get the opportunity to build business and see people grow which is the best thing I know.

What is the most important aspect of leadership according to you?
My role as a leader is to create the conditions required for my employees to perform and develop in the best possible way. I want my employees to get positive energy from their work and to feel that we are achieving our set goals as a team.

I have a very clear and straightforward approach when communicating and by using clear job descriptions, I create frameworks for my employees so that they can work independently. Finally, I want to create an open and tolerant workplace where everyone feels welcome and valued.

What is the biggest challenge in your industry?
The biggest challenge for Umeå regarding life sciences is that we have a university with great potential and excellent research – but we lack a local business community with experienced people from the industry.

Our vision is that UBI will create the right conditions required for life science companies, making them attract both capital and human resources, so they can stay and grow in Umeå and Västerbotten. In this way the region will organically build a local business community with flourishing life science companies.

What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family. We put a lot of effort into the maintenance of our house. When we are on vacation, I love to head to our mountain cabin in Stora Blåsjön. To take the cross country skis out on the mountain a sunny day, or ski downhill with the kids is the most relaxing thing I can think of.

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows about?
I love to meet new people and consider strangers friends I have not yet gotten to know. One of the reasons behind me developing extroverted qualities can be attributed to my dyslexia. I learn new things by listening and discussing. To me, my dyslexia is one of my biggest strengths, and I hope that by being open about living with dyslexia, I can inspire others to dare more, and chase after their dreams, despite having difficulties with reading.

Read about earlier prizes awarded to Jennie Ekbeck and Umeå biotech Incubator

Text: Original text by Elin Olsson in Västerbotten-kuriren, VK24. Translation to English by Carolina Hawranek.

Photos: Malin Grönborg