Denmark – the leader in innovation
Denmark’s population is quite small, as the country has only 5.8 million inhabitants. It would seem that such a relatively tiny state does not have much potential when it comes to innovation. Nothing could be further from the truth! Denmark is the cradle of numerous technology start-ups that have achieved global success. The most popular example of such a venture is Skype, which is known to everyone. In addition, Denmark also has to its credit eight „unicorns” – that is, start-ups that shortly after their founding and launch reached $1 billion. The factor responsible for the success of Danish inventors and scientists is said to be a focus on quality rather than quantity – especially when it comes to Danish teams. They are usually quite small, but they include the most outstanding specialists who have a great deal of knowledge in their chosen field. Of course, the huge teams at the disposal of global giants such as Microsoft, Apple and Google also contribute to the development of science, but according to the Danish approach, it is the small teams that are able to produce real breakthroughs.
Denmark ranks very high every year in all rankings and surveys analyzing the innovativeness of countries. According to the European Innovation Scoreboard for 2019, which was compiled by the European Commission, it is among the European innovation leaders. The report considered 28 European Union member states. Their level of innovation was measured on the basis of 27 different indicators. Then the countries were divided into four groups respectively, depending on their level of innovation. Denmark was in the group of innovation leaders, taking the final third place, second only to Sweden and Finland, whose results were only slightly better. Denmark owes this high position to its very high scores in categories such as innovation-friendly environment, attractive research systems and human resources. In addition, of the 27 indicators considered, Denmark scored higher than the average score for all member states in 15 of them.
In the latest Global Innovation Index report for 2022, created by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Denmark was ranked as the 10th most innovative economy in the world. Its position has always been very high – just a year earlier it was slightly higher, at 9th place. Despite the gentle decline, the report’s creators recognized Denmark for the progress that has been made in terms of investment in innovation – never before has this parameter been at such a high level as it is today. Even despite the events that took place in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in international patent applications in 2021. The total reached as high as 278 million, which turned out to be a new record. An acceleration of as much as 3.6% in the development of health-related technologies was also noted in 2020. Despite the widespread economic downturn affecting almost the entire world, the number of trademarks in Denmark also increased in 2021, by almost 15%. It is estimated that the credit for this result can be attributed to the numerous new digital goods and services that have been launched in response to the restrictions and delays associated with the pandemic. This shows that even in the face of such difficult situations, the Danes are doing well and are able to seize every opportunity to grow and innovate further.
Pioneering solutions in pharmaceuticals and healthcare
In the World Health Care Innovation Index, Denmark achieved a score of 49.87 and ranked a high 11th. Among all the factors considered, it was recognized the most in the „science and technology” category, where it ranked 4th. Among other things, Denmark was recognized for its great contribution to scientific discovery and the dissemination of medical information technology. The beginning of innovation in healthcare in Denmark is considered to be the beginning of the 20th century. It was then that Danish companies first began to engage in innovative research on a large scale, which started the dynamic development of the life sciences sector. As a result of the progress that has been made by the Danes over the years, they now boast one of the strongest pharmaceutical and biotechnology clusters in the world. Among the leaders in the Danish pharmaceutical market, we can highlight first and foremost Novo Nordisk, which has been a leader in diabetes care for several decades. Novo Nordisk is also one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Scandinavia by market value – this should come as no surprise, as it is responsible for providing about half of the world’s insulin supply for diabetics. Other Danish companies in the industry that have also enjoyed numerous successes and distinguished themselves with their cutting-edge methods are LEO Pharma and Lundbeck. Denmark’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology clusters are famous internationally primarily for their revolutionary research, especially in the treatment of diabetes, the central nervous system, inflammatory and infectious diseases and cancer. In Denmark, collaboration between public health, industry and universities is promoted. This means that Denmark provides an excellent environment for pioneering research, offering tremendous opportunities for companies. Medical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies can count on the support of the state and its institutions. If necessary, clinical infrastructure in hospitals is made available, allowing the effectiveness of new treatments to be tested very quickly. All the paperwork for such activities is also handled very smoothly. No wonder, then, that Denmark is widely regarded as a leader in drug development.
Innovative approach to ecology and clean energy
Denmark is an undisputed leader when it comes to environmentalism and is considered the greenest country in the world. It has been actively pursuing the transition to a green growth economy for quite some time. The goal is for Denmark to be the first country in the world to become fully independent of fossil energy by 2050. Energy policy has been pursued in Denmark for more than thirty years. As a result, it is at the forefront when it comes to introducing innovative solutions in the use of renewable energy, such as solar power, wind power, wave power and biofuels. This is confirmed, among other things, by the Environmental Performance Index, in which Denmark ranked first in 2021. A holistic approach to ecology is something Danes take for granted. It manifests itself at every turn – through waste recycling the use of renewable energy, water management or even green transportation in the form of a bicycle culture. The many years of impact have proved fruitful, as Denmark has managed to build a world-class green energy system. One of the priorities in this regard has been to increase the energy efficiency of buildings, which has proven to be particularly important, as additional heating is required for more than half of the year due to Denmark’s climate.
As is well known, Denmark is the sixth largest shipping country in the world. Denmark’s famous Maersk Line is a leader in container shipping, handling more than 12 million containers annually. Research by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has clearly indicated that as much as 2-3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced through shipping. On this issue, too, Denmark is characterized by a highly green approach, seeing the potential for decarbonizing the industry. Among the country’s main stipulations is to have a carbon-neutral fleet by 2050. Maersk Line has also declared that it still intends to operate the world’s first cargo ship of this type by the end of 2023.
Environmental awareness has been greatly popularized and spread in recent years, not only in Denmark but all over the world. As a result, interest in green services and goods is steadily growing. Denmark is eager to contribute to the development of environmental awareness by selling and exporting various types of green solutions to other countries. The emphasis on green transformation means that Danish technology and know-how that are particularly environmentally friendly are now in great demand. Examples of Danish companies that are making a very large contribution to the development of environmental science are Danfoss and Grundfos – their business is mainly based on the development of heating and water control systems that effectively help reduce and minimize the impact that these two factors have on the environment. According to all predictions, although the market for green technologies is already very extensive, its development will gain even faster pace in the future. This is primarily justified by the growing interest of more countries around the world in introducing green policies. This gives Danish companies operating in the green and clean energy sector a unique opportunity to conquer foreign markets and present their services and products to the whole world. More and more foreign companies are choosing to open their headquarters in Denmark, as it provides a unique environment to test new products in a suitable advanced energy system.
European center for robotics, technology and IT
The robotics industry is highly developed in Denmark. Over the past few years, there have been particular technological advances, making the Danish automation, drone and robotics industry an ideal location for world leaders engaged in such activities. Denmark also provides a unique environment for pioneering research and dynamic start-ups. What particularly distinguishes the Danish robotics scene is its approach which is based primarily on collaboration and the very rapid commercialization of new technological solutions. Denmark’s history as a pioneer in information technology goes back some 50 years. It was then that the Department of Computer Science was established at the University of Copenhagen. The department was created by Peter Naur, a Turing Prize winner. Naur was awarded the prize for co-creating the Backus-Naur method, which now forms the basis for the formulation of much of programming languages, and for contributing to the development of the ALGOL 60 language. Denmark is also the cradle for a programming language like C++, which was created by Bjarne Stroustrup. A kind of breakthrough in the Danish robotics industry is considered to be 2015 and the moment of the sale of Universal Robots, a famous Danish company, which was bought by Teradyne for $285 million. The main mission of drones and robots made in Denmark is to serve people. Danish robots are famous worldwide for being very user-friendly, intuitive and flexible. As a result, workers no longer have to deal with routine, repetitive tasks. The Danish headquarters of the robotics industry is considered to be the town of Odense. It is the third-largest city in Denmark and has a population of just 200,000, but it is now home to more than 120 companies whose operations focus on robotics. Odense has a very high-tech ecosystem and provides companies with partnerships with educational and research institutions, which contributes to very rapid growth. Denmark is open to foreign entrepreneurs who want to contribute to the development of technology, IT and robotics, willing to provide them with the necessary tools and support.
Denmark is widely regarded as one of the most digitized countries in the world. The newer and newer digital technologies being introduced are of both strategic and commercial importance. Its potential has been noticed by such tech giants as Google, Apple and Facebook, which have their data centers in the country. The main factors that make Denmark so attractive to multinational companies are its extraordinary broadband fiber-optic infrastructure and its supply of clean, renewable energy.
Denmark’s history of digitization dates back to 2001. It was then that the e-Box digital mailbox was first introduced, providing a secure platform for citizens, companies and institutions to store and distribute relevant digital information. The same year also saw the advent of digital signatures and the imposition of an obligation on the public sector to communicate electronically. Just three years later, the Danish government introduced Nemkonto and Easy Account, which were mandatory for both individuals and businesses. Through Nemkonto, it was possible to handle all financial matters and manage benefits, such as applying for tax refunds or student loans. Companies used Easy Account, which was used to pay employees’ due salaries, insurance benefits and other payments. Later, digital signatures were replaced by digital identifiers, NemID. Having a NemID was necessary to use online banking. This was followed by the creation of Citizen.dk, a user-friendly portal that allowed citizens to easily use public sector services without leaving their homes. The last significant change was the introduction in 2014 of mandatory use of public digital mail, i.e. communicating with state institutions via it.
The business sector in Denmark is highly digitized. Well-developed digital tools make it easy and quick to set up a Danish company online and start operations in as little as 24 hours. It is also possible to store all company documentation electronically, pay taxes online or use the Danish government’s database to find information on potential business partners.
The use of cash in Denmark is becoming increasingly rare. Both individuals and companies prefer electronic forms of payment. It is standard for companies to pay the amount due using online transfers when purchasing goods, while Danes are happy to use payment cards and cell phones on a daily basis. Interestingly, children as young as 8 years old in Denmark have access to electronic payments – they have the opportunity to obtain a card specially designed for them from the bank.
Thanks to highly developed digitalization, it is not necessary to appear in person at individual institutions to, for example, make an appointment to see a doctor in the public health service, pay taxes or report theft. It is possible to perform most such activities online. Almost every government body and public official allows contact via the Internet. Danes have their digital signatures for signing documents online, so much of the paperwork can be done without leaving home. The Danish government is taking the introduction of implicit digitization very seriously and it is planned that in the near future the use of paper will be very rare, used only as a last resort. Special care is being taken in Denmark to ensure that private data is kept secure. For this reason, double user identification is required when using certain services or performing financial transactions. According to the Wiretek report, widespread digitalization is one of Denmark’s strongest points, which definitely sets it apart from other European countries. It also contributes to the success of companies operating in the technology industry. Such advanced digitization saves companies a lot of time and makes it easier to do business, allowing them to focus more on developing new innovations and technologies.
Advanced food technology
Denmark has a rich tradition of efficient agricultural practices and innovative solutions in food production. The food technology used by the Danes has such enormous potential that it could play a very important role in the future in dealing with the global challenge of providing enough food for an ever-growing population. According to UN projections, by 2050 the world’s population will already be around ten billion people. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that not only is the population growing, but in most countries the standard of living is also rising. This means that people are becoming more and more aware of healthy food and are demanding products that will meet all safety standards, contain essential nutrients and be reasonably priced. According to the UN, the availability of food would be much greater if it were not for the fact that much of the world’s food production goes to waste even before it reaches store shelves. In this case, new solutions for efficient food production and distribution are needed to reduce food waste.
Denmark’s food sector is characterized by very high-tech and efficient food production, which makes it very capable when it comes to the international market. Despite being a small country, Denmark is home to a great number of food companies that are geared up to export their products on a global scale. The Danish food market is already known for being responsible for remarkably safe food of very high quality. Danish agriculture is currently able to meet the food needs for about 15 million people, or nearly three times the population of Denmark. The food production process is extremely efficient and, at the same time, attention is also still paid to ensuring that products are as natural as possible and have good taste. Vegetarian products are particularly popular in Denmark. Danes are very aware of how the production of meat products affects the environment, so limiting zoonotic products is something that a large part of the population practices. By identifying new value streams and introducing more innovations, Danish plant-based products are not only healthy and tasty, but also contain the right nutritional values to fit a plant-based diet.
Denmark has years of experience in applying biotechnology to the food industry. State institutions pay special attention to the development of this field, investing in research dealing with the development of further tools to further improve food quality. Denmark is a very open country for companies that work in the broad field of food technology. One can take advantage of numerous facilities and work with market leaders, jointly developing further innovations or conducting research. The Danish food cluster is one of the most modern in the world, and being part of it offers the chance to expand your business and export internationally. There are also the obvious benefits of being able to tap into the latest knowledge in healthy food production and the opportunity to employ highly skilled professionals. Food manufacturing companies in Denmark are always one step ahead of their competitors from other countries.
Modern transportation solutions
Another area in which Denmark far surpasses other countries is its highly functioning and advanced infrastructure. Danish state authorities are keen to invest in integrated infrastructure solutions, modern and comprehensive public transportation and the development of new transportation technologies. The main goal of these measures is to reduce the negative environmental impact of means of transportation, but at the same time maintain a high level of mobility. Green transformation has been an object of interest for Danes for a long time. So far, air pollution levels have been significantly reduced as a result of a number of innovations, however, work on reducing emissions continues apace. Denmark is focusing on developing and improving existing technologies, but at the same time is looking for new, even greener transportation solutions. The long-term resolve of Danish transport policy is to make Denmark independent of fossil fuels and to synthesize infrastructure and environmental challenges. In particular, the focus should be on the level of pollution generated by cities, as this is where it is greatest. Denmark has all the attributes to become a pioneer in green transportation technologies and is developing more and more in this direction every year. Current efforts are mainly focused on new alternative fuels, testing new technologies and getting consumers to make better, greener choices when it comes to transportation. Numerous pilot projects are underway that are developing hybrid technologies for buses, the use of biogas or electricity, among other things. You can already find on Danish roads the first public transportation vehicles that run on hybrid or pure electric technology. The Danish government is also encouraging citizens to make the decision to buy energy-efficient cars by using tax exemptions for electric vehicles. All efforts to introduce modern, green transportation solutions are strongly supported by the state, which is why foreign investors are eager to choose Denmark for this type of business.
Sustainable cities of the future
Copenhagen is one of the most energy-efficient and sustainable cities in the world. The Danish capital is thriving according to its neutrality plan, which calls for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050. Already, out-of-the-box green solutions can be seen in Copenhagen. One of the city’s major landmarks is Copenhill, a combined heat and power plant and waste incineration plant. The waste processed by Copenhill is then turned into energy, which is supplied to tens of thousands of businesses and households. Copenhagen’s buses are gradually but consistently being converted from diesel to electric vehicles, and cycling continues to be heavily promoted, as evidenced by the growing number of road surfaces designed for cycling. For those who are reluctant to use a traditional bicycle, there is also the alternative of renting an e-bike. As you know, in Copenhagen it is also possible to get around using the city’s canals, so you can also rent a boat. GoBoats are available, which are equipped with electric motors, are made of recycled wood and are powered by solar energy. Copenhagen already has many green spaces and parks, but in the near future there are plans to create a nature reserve in the industrial area of North Harbor. Work on this district has been going on for a long time, and a number of green projects have been implemented there. The most famous example is the grass roofs, which serve the function of filtering rainwater but also insulating the buildings they cover. It is estimated that almost 70% of Copenhagen’s hotels are eco-certified. The Scandic group particularly stands out in this area. The hotel chain has decided to achieve carbon neutrality. To this end, each hotel building has an environmental manager on staff who performs duties related to controlling sustainable energy, food and design standards. The sustainable approach is also practiced on a daily basis, by Copenhageners. There are numerous waste recycling vending machines in the city, which return a deposit for putting in a plastic cup or can.
Copenhagen is not an isolated example of a sustainable Danish city here. There are other places in Denmark that can also boast urban success stories. The city of Aarhus, for example, is a leader in district heating, as a result of integrating wind and biomass into the district heating system and using specially developed heat meters. In Vejle, meanwhile, efforts are mainly focused on improving resilience to climate change, using digital technology. The city of Sønderborg has decided to involve citizens in its green transformation and is actively spreading awareness about reducing energy consumption in everyday life. As you can see, all modern solutions related to ecology and sustainability are very welcome in Denmark. Companies developing innovative technologies for the use of renewable energy and the reduction of carbon emissions are very popular in the country. Thanks to Denmark’s widespread awareness of environmentalism and numerous green initiatives, any new solution supporting the neutrality plan is received very enthusiastically.
Danish organizations and institutions supporting innovation
Innovation Fund Denmark
Innovation Fund Denmark (Innovationsfonden) was established on April 1, 2014. The foundation was created through a combination of research, innovation and technology development grants from the Danish Technology Council, the Danish Strategic Research Council and the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. Innovation Fund Denmark is dedicated to investing in companies, entrepreneurs and researchers who contribute to creating value for Denmark and engage in projects that create solutions to citizens’ current challenges. The foundation provides invaluable support to focus all of its attention on the problem being developed. Innovation Fund Denmark is particularly keen to invest in sustainable solutions that focus on healthy food, clean environment, climate mitigation or green transportation. The organization’s main priority is to create real value, thus contributing to improving the quality of life for Danes. Projects that are funded by Innovation Fund Denmark must meet certain requirements of social commitment, ethics, transparency and education. Noteworthy, there are no financial criteria that the supported ventures must achieve. Unlike other investors, Innovation Fund Denmark pays much more attention to factors such as contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions, improved social welfare as well as more jobs than to year-end financial results or stock prices. The great advantage of this foundation is that it is not required to repay the money it has invested in the project, nor does it require its employees to be involved in project-related activities. This does not mean, however, that ventures are not scrutinized in detail. Innovation Fund Denmark constantly monitors how investments are developing and whether they are bringing real benefits to society. In this way, the organization makes sure that activities are moving in the right direction. If necessary, it is also possible to use the assistance of specialists working for Innovation Fund Denmark, who are willing to share their knowledge of intellectual property and guide through the process of protecting a trademark or obtaining a patent. Another very distinctive feature of Innovation Fund Denmark is that the organization is very keen to support high-risk projects – even those that are just at the beginning of their journey. This is a huge opportunity for innovative ventures that other investors were afraid to get involved in. For the foundation, the most important thing is that a project has the potential to further improve the standard of living of Danes. Innovation Fund Denmark offers three types of programs. The first program is for large-scale projects and is designed for long-term investments with a very broad focus on market development, technology, research and experimental development. The second type of program, InnoBooster, is for entrepreneurs and small businesses that want to expand their business, however on a much smaller scale than in the first program. Lastly, the third type of program is dedicated to talent – undergraduate students, college graduates and postgraduate researchers. The program is designed to support them in launching research careers in the private sector or to help them become entrepreneurs. Taking advantage of support from Innovation Fund Denmark is possible throughout the country, as the foundation has offices throughout the country – including in Copenhagen, Odense, Aalborg and Aarhus. The organization is also happy to support foreign investors and companies – as long as they are based in Denmark, of course.
Innovation Centre Denmark
Innovation Centre Denmark is an organization that supports researchers, start-ups and corporations wishing to use their knowledge and contribute to the development of innovation. With the help that Innovation Centre Denmark provides, conducting international research and actively searching for modern solutions is much easier. The institution was established as a result of cooperation between the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Four pillars form the basis of its activities: partnership in science and technology, entrepreneurship, business development and cooperation with higher education. With branches in Tel Aviv, Boston, Seoul, Silicon Valley, Munich and Bangalore, Innovation Centre Denmark enables researchers and companies to access foreign capital, knowledge, market opportunities and technology. The organization has a strong team of consultants with a very wide range of expertise in research, science promotion, investment and commercial innovation. Cooperation with Innovation Centre Denmark also allows you to take advantage of venture capital funds and become part of foreign research communities. The institution’s main goal is to maintain Denmark’s strong international position and promote its core competencies. Innovation Centre Denmark is keen to support all ventures that contribute to maintaining the competitiveness of the Danish economy.
Innovation Networks Denmark
On the initiative of the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science, Innovation Networks Denmark was established, an organization whose main goal is to enable research institutes and companies to collaborate on various types of projects and share their knowledge together. By creating connections between private companies and researchers, Innovation Networks Denmark contributes to the development of the country’s strongest industries, such as energy, manufacturing, food, environment, IT and health. The organization supports in creating a framework for projects and initiatives so that the companies and research institutions involved can more easily and quickly find inspiration for new solutions, test innovative ideas or establish collaborations. Innovation Networks Denmark provides support not only within Denmark, but also outside the country. Entities working with Innovation Networks Denmark have a number of opportunities. Obvious examples are initiating projects aiming at the development of a specific industry and undertaking joint activities together with the public sector, researchers and providers of various types of services. It is also possible to organize seminars, workshops and conferences, to act in internationalization initiatives, to publish various types of information on the research being carried out, and to obtain assistance in obtaining funding. According to a recent annual review of Innovation Networks Denmark’s activities, those who cooperate with the institution significantly distinguish themselves in the market not only in Denmark, but also internationally. There are already more than 16,000 companies under the wings of Innovation Networks Denmark, of which almost 70% are small and medium-sized companies with no more than 50 employees. The total grant that can be received is about €10 million per year. It is awarded to companies and researchers in a 4-year grant.
Denmark an ideal place for innovative companies
If you are wondering what country would be most suitable for your company, Denmark is definitely worth considering. This small Scandinavian country is a European leader in innovation and technological pioneering. Denmark is one of the largest test markets in the world and provides ideal conditions for entrepreneurs and researchers to thrive. Not only does it have an above-average IT infrastructure, but it also boasts penetration rates for mobile devices that are among the highest in the world. Danes have a very progressive attitude and are very open to news, so the presentation of new products and solutions is always welcome. Running a company in Denmark has many benefits – it allows you to engage with innovation leaders, gives you access to a market dedicated to testing new technologies and products, and provides your products with a competitive advantage due to the availability of modern tools. Denmark has a national governance model that specifically promotes startups engaged in digital activities. The model consists of seven main digital technology ecosystems: PropTech, Robotics, FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, CreaTech and AgriTech. The ecosystems drive each other’s growth through regular information exchange. All entities operating under Denmark’s national governance model have the same goal – to attract investors, entrepreneurs and talented researchers to Denmark.
Today, it is possible to distinguish several innovative Danish companies that are very popular around the world. Forbes compiled a list of the 100 most innovative companies in the world, which also included Novo Nordisk, Coloplast and Carlsberg. The list mainly took into account how much investors bid up the company’s share price above the existing value of the business, due to the expectations that are placed on future innovative results. In addition, companies that made the list also had to have a market capitalization of at least $10 billion and spend a minimum of 2.5% of their revenues on R&D. The best-rated of the Danish companies was Coloplast, which ranked a high 12th. Slightly further down the list were Carlsberg and Novo Nordisk, ranked 66th and 70th, respectively. Interestingly, they outranked such companies as min. Apple and Adidas.
By choosing Denmark as your testing and innovation destination, you can meet other entrepreneurs operating in the same industry, forge valuable new partnerships, and gain access to the latest technologies and a cutting-edge research market. Give your company an advantage right from the start.