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Collaborating regionally will help us compete globally

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at the annual meeting in the Medicon Valley Alliance 28 November 2013.

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Talents attracts talents

Thank you for the invitation for today.

Two days ago I meet some amazing young students. They all participated in The Junior Researchers Project which is a Danish national competition for high school students.

The Junior Researchers Project gives the participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in a certain subject and prepare a proposal for a research project.

The winner in the health science category was a student from Kolding High School. She had a proposal about reducing tinnitus among musicians using a special earplug that combines a hearing aid and ear protection. The jury called the winner's proposal both highly professional and very innovative.

I am a big fan of the Junior Researchers Project. And I believe that it is an important ambition with our education system – if not the most important ambition: that we must challenge each individual so that they can realise their potential.

Developing talents will also attract talents. And talented and skilled employees are our most important assets when it comes to creating growth and new jobs.

That is also the case in the life sciences industry.

Prospects and competition in life sciences industry

No doubt everyone here today is aware of the huge potential in the life sciences industry.

The global market for health and care solutions is growing rapidly - as a result of ageing populations, the rising number of people with chronic diseases, lifestyle diseases and the increasing expectations of citizens with regard to treatment and care.

This upward trend will continue. It will be driven to a significant extent by economic growth in the OECD countries.

And it will be increasingly be driven by improvements in life expectancy and prosperity in the new growth economies in Asia and Latin America.

Denmark holds a strong position for making the most of this trend. Health research is the single largest field of research in Denmark. Around 30 per cent of the public expenditures in research is directed towards the health area.

And both the public sector and private businesses invest significant amounts in research and development. Health and care businesses account for 3.6 per cent of the value creation in the Danish economy and employ around 35,000 people full time.

However, Denmark’s strong position does not mean that growth in this business area will occur automatically in the coming years.

A lot of countries are, like Denmark, focusing on developing and manufacturing new health and care solutions to exploit the growth potential in the area.

And a lot of them have invested sizeable amounts in research, innovation and education.

This is also the case in the new growth economies. Research and development is globally mobile. And there is intensified competition to attract and retain investments.

And therefore it is an integral part of our national innovation strategy that we aim to be among the top five in the OECD countries when it comes to attracting private investments in research and development.  

Today we are in the top five when it comes to public expenditures in research and development.

But we would also like to be in the top five when it comes to private investments in research and development.

So there is still a need to maintain and strengthen the conditions for growth in Denmark.

And that is exactly the Government's ambition with the Plan for growth in health and care solutions.

The government’s growth plan for health and care will among other things:

  • Strengthen research and innovation in the life sciences.
  • Improve the conditions for public-private collaboration on the development and testing of new products and solutions.
  • Give higher tax credits for research and development activities.

And with the national budget agreement Tuesday night we will allocate additional DKK 760 million in 2014 and thereby speed up the already agreed tax relief.

This will improve framework conditions for companies in Denmark already in 2014.

Cooperation in the Oresund region

I would like to give credit to the Medicon Valley Alliance for their continued focus on the cooperation between Denmark and Sweden.

We have close cooperation across the sound in relation to research, education and innovation. But I believe and hope that this cooperation can be strengthened and developed in the coming years.

There are several reasons why I believe that this cooperation will develop.

Firstly, as you know we have started to establish the European Spallation Source, ESS. Sweden and Denmark are the main forces of this new major research infrastructure.

The location of the ESS in the Oresund region with laboratories and researchers on both sides of the Sound will have enormous impact on the entire region.

And it will provide better opportunities for collaboration with researchers and universities on both sides of the Sound.

Secondly, we have already gained a lot of valuable experience from working together in the context of European research programmes – not least the Seventh Framework Programme.

With Horizon 2020, the biggest research and innovation programme in the history of Europe, there is a great stepping stone for even more cooperation.

Thirdly, we will establish a major new innovation fund here in Denmark.

Denmark's Innovation Foundation will have more power to engage in international cooperation than the previous smaller councils and foundations.

In addition, we introduce a new instrument, societal partnerships on innovation, which will also focus on promoting international cooperation.

And with our budget agreement the first partnership will be the ambition to make Denmark the most attractive place to conducts early clinical trials of new medicine and treatments. And this in a 3 to 5 years perspective.

We will turn around the downwards trend for early clinical trials in Denmark – we have the research communities and the companies to make it happen. 

And finally, we have developed a new Danish cluster approach, which among other things is focusing on increased cooperation in the Oresund Region.

Already this year, this has resulted in a number of new partnerships between Danish and southern Swedish organisations.

If we collaborate regionally, we will be better off in the global competition as Medicon Valley Alliance emphasises.

All in all, I see a lot of good prospects for closer cooperation in the coming years.

We need to attract talent

It is no surprise that industry and companies that depend on knowledge move to where there is access to highly qualified staff and strong research.

That is why the Danish Government’s approach from day one has been: more and better education and research.

We invest more in education and research than any government before us. The ambition has been to lay the groundwork for the brightest generation ever.

And this summer we celebrated a record acceptance of students in Danish higher education. We have more students than ever before.

But I insist that we also raise the quality of education. We need an education system where we challenge each individual to reach their full potential. That is precisely why I highlighted The Junior Researchers Project earlier.

And we need an education system that is responsive to the needs of the industry and the society.

The Government's target is that we must ensure that we do not lose one single job, because we do not have people with the right qualifications.

This November we therefore set up a committee to come up with concrete recommendations for improvement of the quality and relevance of Danish higher education.

Quantity should not lower the quality.

We must be open to the outside world

It is crucial for companies – both Danish and international companies in Denmark - to have easy access to the highly skilled workforce that they need.

If they do not, there is a risk that Danish jobs are lost because corporate research, development and production move out of the country.

Not least in life sciences industry it is crucial that we in Denmark can attract the best candidates and the best talents.

We have to be better at welcoming skilled international students and employees.

Therefore, the government now looks through rules in this area, so the ability of business growth is not stranded on red tape.

The government is also looking closely at the administration of the schemes and options available to experts who want to move to Denmark to work.

We need to remove barriers to make it easier and more flexible when companies need to recruit skilled people from abroad.

Attracting talent and creating growth

I can only support the Medicon Valley Alliance ambitions that collaborating regionally will help us compete globally.

International talent is mobile across the globe, and so is research and development.

It is the Danish Government’s ambition to make the best possible conditions and framework for Danish and international business.

That is relevant to the life sciences industry – and that is relevant to Danish-Swedish cooperation.

We need to develop and attract talent. We need to strengthen research and innovation and. And we need to be open to the outside world.

I wish you all a great Annual meeting.

Thank you.

last modified Nov 29, 2013