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A transformation on par with industrialisation

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at the conference 'Industrial Technologies 2012' in Aarhus 19 June 2012.

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Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests.

How can Europe succeed in the face of global competition? That is the central question in this opening session.

To find the answer, we need to look back in time.

Back to the start of the industrial revolution 150 years ago in England. It later spread to all of Europe, North America and finally the rest of the world. It heralded great changes in agriculture, production and transport - and had a profound effect on the economy and culture. The industrial revolution resulted in radical change.

I believe that today we face another change: a transformation on par with industrialisation. We are leaving behind the logic and mentality of the industrial age to transform ourselves into what could be called an innovation society. Where natural resources were crucial to the industrial age – creativity and knowledge are key contributing factors in the innovation society.

Today Europe is challenged. Productivity is dropping. Growth is low.
Our population is ageing.

And not least we face global competition from countries that have lower production costs and higher growth. We cannot and will not compete against low salaries and bad working conditions.

If we are to provide for Europe's future, we need to transform our society on a fundamental level.

Horizon 2020

I am confident that the next EU framework programme for research and innovation - Horizon 2020 - is a step towards such a fundamental transformation. It will be one of the world's largest research and innovation initiatives with a proposed budget of 80 billion euro.

Horizon 2020 represents a significant strengthening of independent and excellent research.

But it has also rethought the approach to strategic research.
Because the programme has a targeted focus on great societal challenges including food security, climate change and ageing populations.

Research will not only create jobs and growth, but also help solve some of our biggest challenges. The agreement contains a considerable focus on industrial innovation, including  simplification of rules and less bureaucracy.

This will ease the process for a lot of SMEs.

Horizon 2020 includes three main pillars; excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. The second pillar on ‘Industrial Leadership’ aims to make Europe a more attractive location to invest in research and innovation.

A large part of this pillar consists of activities to support leadership in enabling and industrial technologies. For example information and communication technologies, nanotechnologies, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing and processing.

The enabling technologies are crucial because they accelerate scientific and innovative development in other scientific fields. Breakthroughs in nanotechnology are game-changers for the development of medicine or management of water.

However, discovering breakthroughs is not enough. We also need to put the breakthroughs to use.

Horizon 2020 aims to ensure their utilisation through intensified public private partnerships.

I also believe that intensified corporation between industry and the public sector is the way forward for Europe. Therefore, I am very pleased to learn that this conference aims to deliver a Public-Private-Partnership agreement.

The “PPP Agreement” will commit public and private partners to seize the opportunities of industrial innovation. Governments play a critical role in funding research and innovation when market uncertainties make it difficult for industry to invest. And industry engagement in partnerships will ensure that: successful joint demonstrations lead tomassive commercial investment, which will lead to European job creation.

The Danish government supports the declaration.

And I hope that the agreement will receive similar support from the European Commission, other member states, future EU presidencies and European industry.

iNANO Center at Aarhus University

In Denmark we have had some success with sharing public and private responsibilities.

Let me give you an example.

In Denmark we have had success with strategic investments in key enabling technologies. This process began with the setup of the Danish Council for Strategic Research in 2003. Some of the very first grants went to one of our hosts today, the now renowned iNANO Center, here at Aarhus University. One of the funded projects focused on drug-delivery through nano particles.

Developing nanomedicine requires close cross-disciplinary interaction. Insight into the world of physics helps develop the advanced technology needed for nanoparticles. And biological insight is required to create the mechanisms that make the medicine reach the intended cells.

The advent of nanomedicine is very promising. To think: we could medicate patients more accurately and reduce the side effects significantly.

Here at iNANO the researchers have produced such successful results that they have formed the spin-out company Nanoference. And it's not only scientists who believe in the project – there has been substantial investment by several companies in Nanoference.

Public investments paved the way for risky science and now private investments will bring a product to the market. Denmark aims to be at the forefront of enabling and industrial technologies. We will do this by providing second-to-none infrastructure.

Denmark will co-host the European Spallation Source in the Oresund Region. And by 2020, this grand-scale infrastructure will be among the world's brightest sources of neutron-based research.

The ESS will generate long pulses of neutrons, enabling the study of a wide variety of material. From molecules and medicines to plastics and proteins.

There are also several other Northern European research infrastructures supporting the development of key enabling technologies. There is X.F.E.L. and Petra Two in Hamburg, Astrid Two in Aarhus and MAX Four in Lund.

When the Femern connection between Denmark and Germany has been completed, these facilities will be less than 4 hours away for most Danish researchers.

It shows great promise for Denmark and our neighbours to become a global hotspot for researchers in industrial and enabling technologies.

Innovation and ingenuity

A couple of months ago I was at a ministerial conference on international education cooperation in Bucharest. The American deputy education secretary said at the conference that: "Creativity is the most scarce resource of the future."

I could not agree more. And we must take this challenge seriously.
Allow me to look at the education system.

In Denmark - as I'm afraid is the same with many other European countries – we are losing our entrepreneurial spark. The longer one is in the education system, the more their entrepreneurial spirit weakens. We need to reignite that spark.

It requires innovative education programmes, a focus on career guidance and a change of mindset among students and educators. Students shouldn't just be listening to theoretical lectures and submitting exam papers.

Thoughts and ideas must be transformed into new products, processes and companies. There must be more collaboration with companies.

Students must create change, be enterprising, and be able to see through an idea to its development.

Three months ago, I launched an intensive process that will lead to Denmark's first, collective and ambitious innovation strategy later this year.

The basis for the strategy includes the grand societal challenges that also form the basis of Horizon 2020.

The innovation strategy will utilise Denmark's tradition of interdisciplinary thinking. It will improve our ability to find solutions to societal challenges and create globally-competitive jobs and companies.

It is our ambition to be a nation of solutions. And that ties in well with the Europe 2020 strategy and the flagship initiative, the Innovation Union.

Creativity and ingenuity are vital if Europe and Denmark are to be a leading innovation society. We need to increase our innovation capacity and motivate more young people to be creative, enterprising and daring.

A dynamic approach to education, research and innovation

Europe is undergoing a transformation on par with industrialisation. We are leaving behind the logic and mentality of the industrial age. And we are to transform ourselves into an innovation society.

Europe's key to success is a dynamic approach to education, research and innovation. And industrial technologies are crucial in this context.

I believe that innovative products and processes provide an excellent sustainable way for our companies to thrive globally and to continue to create jobs in Europe.

The deployment of enabling technologies is a key factor in strengthening Europe's productivity and innovation capacity.

I am very pleased that this conference highlights the opportunities for partnerships between the public and private sectors. Such partnerships have my wholehearted support.

I wish you a continued interesting and productive conference.
Thank you.

last modified Feb 10, 2013