The annual RIO Country Report offers an analysis of the R&I system in Denmark, including relevant policies and funding, with particular focus on topics critical for EU policies. The report identifies the main challenges of the Danish research and innovation system and assesses the policy response.
Collaboration on R&D by universities and enterprises, as well as commercialisation of public research can optimise the impact of research and innovation for the economy and society. Denmark's scientific outputs are excellent in overall terms (scoring 81.1 in the EU excellence indicator, well above the 47.8 EU average) and it ranks top in the EU on percentage of highly cited publications. Moreover, of Denmark's eight universities, four are among the top 200 in the Leiden ranking system, three among those are also placed in the Times Higher Education ranking. However, the results for innovation outputs are relatively weak and have declined since 2010. Denmark's rate of public expenditure on R&D financed by business is one of the lowest in the EU and the rate of patents filed by universities and public labs by GDP is significantly below peers in Finland and Sweden and decreasing. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are underperforming, particularly on introducing marketing or organisational innovations, as well as on new products or process innovations (both rank 13th). Evidence suggests many university researchers collaborate with industry and engage in knowledge and technology transfer (KTT) activities which is why the overall KTT framework seems to function well. Difficulties in collaboration nevertheless exist, particularly due to different ‘institutional logics’, i.e. university scientists are primarily rewarded for publication output and peer recognition which is not necessarily an outcome of industry-science collaboration, since industry may have an interest in keeping research results secret in order to commercialise.
Initiatives that target private R&D investments and public research commercialisation are supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark with its InnoBooster program for SMEs to interact with public science, and innovation networks for SMEs, and support for large demonstration facilities. The strengthening of the GTS – Advanced Technology Group institutes (GTS) was also put in place along with innovation networks, the InnoBooster programme, and establishing Strategic Research Centres. Research collaboration with private companies plays an increasingly important role for Danish universities, usually organised as joint initiatives. Universities are building still more efficient and competent technology transfer offices with the aim of commercialising and ensuring that research results are brought to the market. Since one of the main concerns with such collaborations are intellectual property rights, as part of the growth plan adopted in April 2013, the government increased efforts to diffuse knowledge on intellectual property rights (IPRs) to companies and entrepreneurs, particularly to designers and creative industries, as well as to students. In addition, the independent Productivity Commission, set up from 2012 to 2014 to advise the Government, recommended in 2013 to improve university-industry collaborations on R&D and specifically to improve the legal framework for university knowledge transfer.
Since July 2013, initiatives have also been launched to enhance enforcement of IPR rules by public prosecutors. Finally, standard contracts for commercialisation aim to make it easier for large and small businesses in creative industries to collaborate on the commercialisation of designs and ideas. Evidence shows EU funding schemes enabled Danish companies and universities to build successful collaborations. Funding for activities that would not otherwise have been implemented is perceived as the most important effect, closely followed by cooperation with foreign universities and research organisations and access to new knowledge. Small companies experience greater effects than medium-sized companies and large companies. As many as half of the participating companies launched new products or services as a result of their participation in FP6 and FP7 projects.
The measures above build on more than a decade of policies seeking to turn knowledge into products or services by supporting the commercialisation of public research results. A 2014 evaluation concluded that the legal framework is adequate. Instead, barriers relate to university management, lack of economic and other incentives and cultural differences. The new policy measures address this, but it is too early to say if they are succeeding. An underlying weakness may be a lack of an entrepreneurial culture and education at Danish universities. Accreditation of new entrepreneurship education needs to be prioritised - this has been proposed by the government and an agreement reached in parliament. However, with the goal of increasing patents, the rather low patent intensity of Danish universities, with the exception of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Aalborg University, remains a challenge. University technology transfer offices have different framework conditions and most are subcritical in terms of size of patent and technology portfolios to be commercialised. The formation of spin-off companies is rather low and only the DTU made significant profits from licensing. Only a few universities have defined specific targets on research commercialisation in their performance contracts. More broadly, while cooperation with the GTS institutes has developed very well and cooperation of firms with Danish universities is comprehensive, some Danish firms still prefer to cooperate with foreign universities.