RIO Country Report Denmark 2014

The RIO Country Reports, co-authored by JRC policy analysts and independent experts, give an update on the performance of the national research and innovation systems, and examine policies to address key R&I challenges, assessing their effectiveness. They serve as a tool to inform EU and national policy-makers, and support policy learning in Member States (MS).

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The annual RIO Country Report analyses and assesses the development and performance of the Danish national research and innovation system and related policies in the perspective of EU strategy and goals.

The report highlights recent national policy and system developments occurring and assesses the match between national policy priorities and the structural challenges of the research and innovation system. It addresses among others:

  • The progress of Denmark towards achieving the Innovation Union, focusing on areas where action is needed.
  • Progress in responding to the ERA actions, particularly in light of the ERA progress report findings published in September 2014.
  • Country specific R&D and innovation recommendations as indicated in COM(2014) 400 final '2014 European Semester: Country specific recommendations, Building Growth' adopted by the Commission on 2 June 2014 and endorsed by the Council on 27 June 2014.
  • Progress in tackling research and innovation system challenges beyond those outlined above.
  • Areas highlighted by the Commission's Communication on 'Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth' (COM(2014) 339 final) and its accompanying Staff Working Document 'State of the Innovation Union, taking stock 2010-2014' (SWD(2014 181 final).

The RIO Country Report 2014 builds on the experience of the ERAWATCH project. The ERAWATCH Country Reports from previous years are also available for download on this page.

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Country Report file

RIO Country Report 2014_Denmark.pdf
(1.2 MB - PDF)
National economic and political context

The global economic crisis affected Denmark considerably. The Danish government expects the economy to enter a relatively long period during which the economic situation is gradually normalized. As a consequence of the crisis, research and development (R&D) expenditures were also affected. GERD (in % of GDP) decreased from 3.07% in 2009 to 2.94% in 2010 and increase again to 3.05% in 2013 while BERD (in % of GERD) decreased from 70% in 2009 to 66% in 2013. Nevertheless, Denmark has achieved and sustained the target of investing 3% of GDP into R&D.

ERA priority 2: Optimal transnational co-operation and competition

Denmark is actively cooperating with other Nordic countries in joint programmes and institutions within the Nordic Council of Ministers. Moreover, Denmark is active in a number of ERA related cooperative actions, such as European Technology Platforms (ETP), Joint Technology Initiatives, Article 169 initiatives, ERA-NETs, and ERA-NET Plus. The Ministry of Higher Education and Science initiated several collaboration agreements and other policy measures to ensure an improved knowledge exchange between Danish and knowledge communities outside Europe.

National R&I strategies and policies

In 2013, the Danish Government launched Denmark’s first comprehensive innovation strategy based on collaborative efforts between the involved ministries, i.e. the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, the Ministry of Business and Growth and other relevant sectoral ministries, as well as stakeholders from the Danish innovation system. In connection with the new innovation strategy the Danish Government has started a process that led to the creation of the first INNO+ catalogue presented in September 2013. INNO+ identifies 21 concrete focus areas for research and innovation that are geared towards finding solutions to the grand societal challenges.

National Reform Programmes 2013 and 2014

In July 2012, Denmark received five country-specific recommendations from the Council in the National Reform Programme 2013 of which one can be related to science, technology, and innovation (STI) policy. The Council recommends implementing measures to improve the cost-effectiveness of the education system, reducing drop-out rates, in particular within vocational education, and increasing the number of apprenticeships.

ERA priority 3: An open labour market for researchers


The share of persons working in science and technology of the total workforce in Denmark has constantly increased over the last couple of years, from 36.2% in 2009 to 40.5% in 2013. In 2012, 85,959 R&D workers were employed in Denmark, about 1.5% of the total population. The number of R&D workers has steadily increased over the past couple of years.

Open, transparent and merit-based recruitment of researchers:

Open and competition-based recruitment of researchers is implemented at Danish higher education institutions and other public research organisations. In fact, Denmark has attracted increasing numbers of researchers from EU-28 and beyond.

Access to and portability of grants:

Danish funding schemes are open to researchers based abroad, regardless of their nationality, provided that their research is judged to be of benefit to Danish research. Accordingly, the Danish Council for Independent Research and the Innovation Fund Denmark welcome applications that comprise elements of international research cooperation, to support the best Danish researchers and groups of researchers in their efforts to coordinate and develop their cross-border research collaboration.


Denmark has placed strong political priority on attracting foreign talent, which is why EURAXESS Denmark is of high importance. EURAXESS and its portal provide on-line information and practical assistance for researchers coming to Denmark as well as Danes seeking to work abroad.

Doctoral training:

Doctoral training in Denmark features both the ‘traditional’ model of PhD education oriented towards internationally competitive education standards and a path referred to as the Industrial PhD Programme. The Industrial PhD Programme was established in Denmark in 1970 and has been a growing success ever since.

HR strategy for researchers (HRS4R) incorporating the Charter and Code:

Universities Denmark declared its commitment to the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers in January 2009. Prior to this endorsement, the Charter and Code were debated by the Human Resources group, the Danish Committee of University Directors and the Danish Rectors’ Conference.

Education and training systems:

Considerable emphasis is placed on the education system with excellent higher education and research. Both the private and the public sector are committed to invest in education, research and innovation at a level necessary to maintain its current highly competitive position. The education system offers several different educational routes.

Policy developments related to Council Country Specific Recommendations

There are no council country specific R&I recommendations for Denmark.

ERA priority 5: Optimal circulation and access to scientific knowledge

e-Infrastructures and researchers electronic identity:

Since 2012, the Danish e-Infrastructure Cooperation (DeIC) has coordinated Denmarks activities as an e-Science nation by consulting on and delivering of e-infrastructure (computers, data storage and networks) for research and teaching. In February 2015, DeIC deployed the strategy for the years 2015-2018 which aims at improving the e-infrastructures at all Danish research environments according to international standards.

Open Access to publications and data:

In 2007, the Danish Government approved the Council of the European Union’s conclusions about scientific information in the digital age. As a result of this, in March 2011 an appointed Open Access Committee published its recommendations on how to implement Open Access in Denmark.

Framework conditions

Framework conditions for innovation in Denmark are primarily influenced by the Danish innovation strategy ‘Denmark – Nation of Solutions’. The vision of the new innovation strategy is that Denmark should become a nation of solutions, in which innovative solutions for the grand societal challenges are converted into growth and employment.

Science-based entrepreneurship

The main policy measures to support knowledge transfer between the public and the business sector are administered by the Innovation Fund Denmark, established in April 2014. These policy measures are particularly aimed at young innovative companies and include the Industrial PhD and Industrial PostDoc programmes, InnoBooster, as well as (high-tech) innovation consortia and networks.

Funding trends

Funding flows:

Denmark meets the national investment targets of 3% of GDP spent on R&D with two-thirds coming from the business sector. GERD reached 3.07% of GDP in 2009 and 3.05% in 2013. BERD contributed with about two thirds of this. The financial and economic crisis had a profound impact on the Danish economy. GDP decreased from 2011 to 2012 after two years of meagre growth. 2013 saw again only meagre growth rates. In the business sector the intramural R&D expenditure of the business sector (BERD) as a share of the GDP decreased from 1.91% in 2009 to 1.82% in 2013.

Project vs. institutional allocation of public funding:

The main share of government funding is traditionally channelled via institutional funding of universities: In 2014, 58% of GBAORD were allocated to universities as so-called basic funds (‘basismidler’) while the remainder were handed out on a competitive basis (‘konkurrenceudsatte midler’). The most important competitive funding instruments are managed by the Danish Council for Independent Research (DCIR), the Danish National Research Foundation and the Innovation Fund Denmark. Bottom-up project funding is either transferred to the universities directly or channelled through the Danish Council for Independent Research.

R&I funding:

With the reorganisation of the research council system in Denmark in April 2014, funding for basic research, development and innovation has been allocated to three institutions: the Danish National Research Foundation (‘Danmarks Grundforskningsfonds’), the Danish Council for Independent Research (‘Det Frie Forskningsråd’), and the Innovation Fund Denmark (‘Danmarks Innovationsfond’).

Smart Specialisation

During the programming process Denmark justified the fulfilment of this ex ante conditionality by arguing that there is not a single combined Danish strategy for smart specialisation but a series of strategies which jointly describe Denmark’s actions for smart specialisation. These strategies are e.g. the Government’s growth plans and the regional growth and development strategies of the regional growth forums. There are five regions in Denmark: the Capital Region, Region Zealand, the North Denmark Region, the Central Denmark Region, and the South Denmark Region.

Knowledge markets

One of the weaker points in the Danish innovation system in relative terms is the patent intensity, which is at a lower level than in the reference countries. In recent years, the share of patent applications being exploited (through licenses, options, assignments and spinouts) has increased, as universities have become more professional and selective in regard to patenting.

Evaluations, consultations, foresight exercises

Evaluations provide essential information to policy makers with regard to the viability of policy measures and their effectiveness and efficiency for reaching the stipulated goals. In this regard, the production of analytical reports and evaluations has been strengthened substantially over the last years by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (DASTI).

Knowledge transfer and open innovation

The innovation strategy ‘Denmark – a nation of solutions’ provides the framework and contains 27 individual policy initiatives that have been implemented since 2013 and that target knowledge transfer and open innovation activities of Danish scientific institutions and companies.

Performance of the National Research and Innovation system

According to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014, Denmark is part of the group of innovation leaders that exhibit above average innovation performance. In this regard, Denmark’s innovation performance has been persistent over the past couple of years, occupying a top-ranking position in the EU-27. Denmark is grouped together with the peak performers Sweden, Germany and Finland.

Structural challenges of the national R&I system

Despite the excellent performance of the Danish research and innovation system, there are several challenges to be addressed. Structural challenges can only be addressed in the long term which is why they have been rather stable over the past few years.

Meeting structural challenges

Several policy actions have been developed to meet the identified structural challenges. To support these actions, the production of analytical reports and evaluations has become pivotal. Particularly the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (DASTI) has been responsible for facilitating such policy developments over the last couple of years.

Innovation framework for SMEs

In 2012, the ERAC peer review pointed to difficulties in increasing the innovation capacity and growth of SMEs. Danish support for innovation in SMEs has been relatively underemphasized and the instruments are deemed too small. There is further need to stimulate collaboration between SMEs and larger businesses, also internationally, in order to grow into a better position in the global market place.

Venture capital markets

Denmark has developed a policy focus on turning knowledge into business by supporting the commercialisation of public research results. The Growth Fund, a state investment fund, provides venture capital to entrepreneurial growth companies. Since 1992 the Growth Fund has, in cooperation with private investors, co-financed growth in 4,500 Danish companies with a total commitment of approx. €1.6 billion.

Innovative public procurement

The innovativeness of the public sector has great importance for the innovativeness of the business sector. There has been an increased focus on easing the bureaucratic burden of the private sector by further digitalisation of public services. Denmark has implemented policy initiatives related to public procurement of green innovations and in the health sector.

The country in the European R&I landscape

Denmark has generally been characterised as an excellent example of a well-performing research and innovation (R&I) system. Denmark is one of the innovation leaders with above average performance according to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014, being grouped together with the peak performers Sweden, Germany and Finland.

Main features of the R&I system

The Danish economy has a specialisation profile characterised by a mixture of low- technology industries such as food, furniture, textiles and toys and more knowledge-intensive service areas, such as software consultancy or supply and engineering consultancy. The manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical chemicals as well as software consultancy and supply are the largest sectors regarding intramural R&D expenditures.

Structure of the national research and innovation system and its governance

The main responsibility for research and innovation is placed within the authority of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, currently headed by the minister Sofie Carsten Nielsen. The main research performers in the public sector are the eight universities. The nine GTS institutes are the main collaboration partners with industry. The funding system is composed of several actors, including the Danish National Research Foundation, the Danish Council for Independent Research, and the newly established Innovation Fund Denmark.

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