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Research and innovation is crucial for green solutions

The Minister for Higher Education and Science Sofie Carsten Nielsen's speech at the conference "Energy and environment for the future" 24 November 2014 in Copenhagen

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Research and comet exploration

I believe there are many who have been following the Rosetta European space mission.

Space history was written two weeks ago when for the first time ever, a spacecraft successfully landed on a comet. It really is quite impressive. Rosetta was launched more than 10 years ago. It has travelled billions of kilometers. And passed the sun five times.

Hundreds of researchers in Europe collaborated on the Rosetta mission which will help our understanding of how the solar system was formed.

The mission is a shining symbol of some of the fundamental characteristics of research.

Firstly, that research can be a long and complex process.

Secondly it shows that international cooperation strengthens research.

Finally – and crucially – it shows that research helps provide answers to some of the great questions and challenges.

These are characteristics that are also relevant to energy and climate research, which is our focus today. And I am honoured to help open this important conference.

Green Government

Blue, red or grey! Many talk about the colour of the Government. But should we not just agree that the Government is green.

We take responsibility for global climate. We will ensure clean energy for the future. And we will strengthen the Danish economy while doing so.

Because by being leaders in green transformation, we also gain a strong position in the global green market. And we cannot ignore that research plays a key role here.

The Government is ambitious. In recent years, we have maintained an investment level of approximately DKK 1 billion in R&D in the energy and climate area.

In 2015, a significant share of these funds – about a fourth – will be allocated through the Innovation Fund Denmark.

I will return to the fund in a moment.

Firstly, I would like to stress that the Government sees research as a top priority. And luckily there is broad support from the public.

Danes trust that research contributes to creating solutions to our challenges.

In a recent Gallup poll, nine out of ten Danes believe that research and new technology have crucial importance to solving the great challenges of society.

And three-quarters believe that research has crucial importance to creating economic growth in Denmark.

It is good to hear there is the necessary support.

You also know that we have high ambitions for the energy area. In 2050, Denmark's energy supply should be based 100 per cent on sustainable energy.

In the short term, this transformation will require a significant reduction in the gross energy consumption and increased use of wind energy.

In the long term, there is a need for technological development. We do not know today which technologies will make the transformation possible tomorrow.

Maybe it will be facilitated through an intelligent energy net, increased use of biofuel and electricity in the transport sector.

To find out which technologies are the most user-friendly and cost effective, we need research, development and demonstration.

Export of energy technology

Denmark is naturally not alone in needing these kinds of technologies and solutions.

The rest of the world has the same need.

And we are noticing that effect in Denmark. Last year we exported energy technology with a value of DKK 67.6 billion. Which is an increase of 10.8 per cent from the previous year.

Denmark is the European leader in this area.

The commercial success is a result of the long haul approach.

For many years, Denmark has supported the energy sector through the whole process from basic research to demonstration.

Meanwhile, we have also created a demand for sustainable energy. We have taken the whole chain into consideration to ensure we realise its potential.

Danish researchers are highly sought after

Danish research in the area has a good international reputation.

Denmark is an international hub for energy and climate research. We attract talent who contribute to the Danish research environment.

We can also see this today where there are many international participants and speakers present.

And there is further evidence through our ability to attract EU funding. Denmark is an attractive partner. There are quite a lot of foreign researchers who prioritise Danish partners when assembling a good team.

And our success is also noticeable in Brussels. When looking at successful applications under the EU's 7th framework programme, Denmark has received the most funds per capita within energy research from 2007 to 2013.

It is clear that Denmark has very competitive environments in this area.

Denmark also compares favourably against other OECD countries in energy and climate research.

Out of all OECD countries, Denmark is number two in relation to citations per publication.

I believe one of the reasons for the strength of Danish research environments is that we do not earmark research funds for specific technologies or areas. 

We allow research in hydrogen and fuel cells to compete with smart grid research. This results in stiff competition.

And means that support for individual technology areas can vary from year to year. But it also means that the best, most relevant and effective research is supported.

I believe that helps ensure we have internationally renowned energy research environments. I think we can all agree that Danish research is at the top of its game.

But when all is said and done, we are still not global leaders in translating new knowledge to economic growth and new jobs. This is despite good evaluations. And despite many citations and international recognition.

We are still lacking more examples of research from a Danish knowledge institution creating the foundation of a Danish Fortune500 company.

The large Danish companies with billions in turnover and thousands of employees are still the old reliables like Novo and Danfoss, which were established more than 50 years ago.

When will we see the new large Danish companies founded on Danish research? When will the new generation of innovations develop into great Danish companies? These are important questions.

I do not have the perfect answer – but I hope and believe that Innovation Fund Denmark is part of that answer.

Great expectations

The establishment of Innovation Fund Denmark is the greatest reform of the research and innovation system in two decades.

Support for strategic research, technology development and innovation is now gathered in one fund.

This offers brand-new synergy opportunities when supporting research, innovation and technology development projects throughout the whole process – from idea to implementation.

This better synergy will help make it easier to secure financing for researchers.

It will provide opportunities for good ideas that stem from research projects to secure support and find an easier path to commercialisation.

The energy area is a central one for Innovation Fund Denmark. Because in this area, we have the ingredients to realise the visions behind the fund.

We have strong Danish research environments. And we have strong Danish companies.

I have great expectations for Innovation Fund Denmark. And it's not out of place to compare Danish energy and climate research to the Rosetta mission – and its historic landing on a comet billions of kilometers away.

Because we must be ambitious. We know that it takes time. And we know we have a long road ahead of us.

But there is no doubt that research and innovation is a crucial factor for achieving a vision of a fossil free society and a clean environment.

I hope that this conference will bring greater visibility to energy and climate research.

And that it will be a launch pad for more cooperation and even more synergy in the area.

Thank you.

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Ministry of Higher Education and Science
last modified June 25, 2024