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Big Science can be big business

The Minister for Higher Education and Science Sofie Carsten Nielsen's speech at the Big Science Sekretariatet’s yearly network event about ITER and Fusion for Energy 16 September 2014 in Copenhagen.

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Big Science in a small country

Good morning

It is a pleasure to welcome you all. And I am delighted to see so many Danish companies interested in Big Science business.

Two weeks ago I was standing with a shovel in a muddy field near Lund in southern Sweden.

Along with my Swedish counterpart, I took the first steps to what will be the world's largest and most powerful microscope in five years’ time – the European Spallation Source.

It will cost around DKK 14 billion. That is approximately equivalent to the price of six opera houses.

It is quite an investment. And it has also been a bit of a potluck.

In fact, fifteen other countries apart from Denmark and Sweden helped contribute towards the financing of it.

ESS is Big Science. And international cooperation is needed to get Big Science to a small country.

Big Science facilities are research facilities that are too large for one single country to construct and operate. It therefore makes good sense for a number of countries to join together to build a Big Science facility.

This lends the facilities a strong international element and they are typically excellent driving forces for research.

Within the technical and scientific fields in particular, it is essential to have access to the best research infrastructure. Not least to be able to compete internationally.

Business opportunities

Denmark participates in a number of Big Science projects, primarily through involvement in leading research in relevant research areas.

Denmark’s total contribution to Big Science facilities is more than DKK 700 million annually.

Denmark is a member of eight large Big Science facilities including CERN, the European Space Agency and as I previously mentioned, the European Spallation Source. 

And of course ITER which I will come back to.

Participation in these research facilities does however lead to reasonable expectations that Danish companies will be successful in securing some of the tenders that result from Big Science organisations.Both in the building and operational phases.

The procurement market associated with research infrastructure in the EU alone, amounts to around DKK 60 billion a year.

Big Science facilities with Danish membership accounts for DKK 20 billion.

So there are endless possibilities for Danish companies. Which is why the Big Science Secretariat has the full support of the ministry.

And I would like to acknowledge today’s conference.

Because of the work carried out by the Big Science Secretariat, we have already seen greater Danish involvement in Big Science organisations’ tenders in just the timespan of a few years.

Approximately 130 Danish companies keep track of this exciting and developing business area.

And the hope is that within a few years, we can have a truly Danish Big Science Industry with many companies that have Big Science as one of their key business areas.

Danish companies get a lot out of participating in Big Science tenders, as they can elevate the level of knowledge and quality in their company.

Other benefits for companies include expanding their networks and collaborative areas both nationally and internationally.

Tenders from Big Science organisations often require technological development, as they are on the cutting edge of research and existing technology. And this provides good opportunities for cooperation between universities and businesses.

It also creates the foundation for innovation, development of products and services and thereby growth in Danish business.

Studies have shown that for every Danish krone that is brought into Denmark in the form of purchased goods and services, its value is fourfold in the form of derivative income.

However, the total Big Science market is much greater.

There are more than 100 national and international research facilities in Europe alone. The potential and market really is quite enormous.

Bringing the power of the sun to the earth

Today we also welcome representatives from Fusion for Energy and ITER.

Together with international partners, you are behind the development of the world’s largest energy research project ITER.

The current – and future – climate and energy supply challenges are global. Global energy consumption is set to triple by the end of the century.

Two questions are vital:

  • How can we supply all this new energy?
  • And how can we do so without contributing alarmingly to atmospheric greenhouse gases?

ITER is trying to face that grand challenge.

ITER is a large-scale scientific experiment intended to prove the viability of fusion as an energy source.

Fusion is the process which powers the sun and the stars. And the ambition with ITER is in short to bring the power of the sun to the earth.

Denmark therefore wants to contribute to research in fusion energy which, hopefully with the success of ITER, will become a significant part of the future carbon neutral energy supply system.

But it is also important for Denmark and Danish companies that ITER has an industrial angle. Business participation in the development of ITER requires great skill and quality and also develops the capabilities of the companies.

Denmark has many good industrial suppliers within many fields that can deliver both high-quality products and knowledge. And when you take all factors into account, they are also internationally competitive.

It is therefore my hope that we can make our know-how and competences in many advanced technological areas available to Fusion for Energy and the ITER organisation.

ITER is one of the most complex scientific and engineering projects in the world today.

It is not a walk in the park to bring the power of the Sun to the Earth.

Big Science can be big business

Big is beautiful. And Big Science can be very powerful. 

And it can be big business.

There is a great potential. The Big Science Secretariat estimates that by 2020, the Big Science industry in Denmark has the potential to provide an annual turnover of DKK 1 billion.

But of course business opportunities do not just land in the laps of Danish companies.

That is why I am pleased that the Big Science Secretariat is supporting their opportunities.

The concept of the Secretariat has actually drawn international interest. Similar organisations have or are in the process of being established in Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland and Belgium.

Therefore, the Danish concept must continue to be developed to ensure the Big Science Secretariat continues to help benefit the competitiveness of Danish businesses.

I also hope that all of you here today will be more informed about the many business opportunities there are in Big Science. And not least in ITER.

I wish you all a very productive conference.

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last modified June 03, 2024