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Danish universities are among the top in the world. But how do we get more research translated into new technology, start-ups and large companies for the benefit of society? We asked four experts.

Christian Vintergaard, CEO, Foundation for Entrepreneurship

1. Why do we need more students and researchers to embark on a startup adventure?

Entrepreneurs and innovative employees are crucial for Denmark and the world to solve the huge challenges we face. For example, we will not solve the green transition or our health challenges without new ideas and solutions to avoid food waste, help patients and healthcare workers or make new healthy food through sustainable methods. Students and researchers play a crucial role here, as it is their innovation, research and ability to act on ideas and create new businesses that will take us forward as a society.

This year, I will be reviewing around 700 applications to our Microgrants scheme from students seeking capital to start businesses based on ideas developed during their studies. Among these are solutions that advance Denmark and the world.

What is the role of established industry in this context?

The established business community plays a key role in bringing students’ and researchers’ ideas from the drawing board to reality. Every talent or idea needs mentoring, role models, capital and collaboration, which is why we at the Foundation for Entrepreneurship always work to involve the established business community in our work with students, researchers and educational institutions.

Anders Sahl Hansen, Head of Innovation at Aura

Why do we need more students and researchers to embark on a startup adventure?

Being an entrepreneur or working in a startup is hands-on learning at speed. As an entrepreneur, you learn to cut corners and focus on delivering tangible value. It fits perfectly with theory and immersion in your studies or life as a researcher.

It is certainly not for everyone, especially at a time when young people are experiencing greater pressures, but the opportunity to combine study and entrepreneurship has until recently been very difficult or at worst invisible.

I think many people only find out what their studies are about when they solve real problems for startups. It gives extra motivation to become sharper in your studies/research and a broader and sharper perspective on the direction you choose afterwards. Conversely, it can also provide clarification on whether you want to go all in on research.

What is the role of established industry in this context?

We have huge untapped resources such as data, sales channels, brands, infrastructure and a lot of customers with challenges that require completely new approaches to solve them. Entrepreneurs can bring that to us.

This is the intersection we want to contribute to in AURA, where we are both a case and thesis company at Aarhus University, through our involvement in The Kitchen and as an investor in startups via AURA Ventures.

Morten Ugelvig Andersen, CEO, Venture Cup Denmark

Why do we need more students and researchers to embark on a startup adventure?

I believe that there is great latent potential for innovation and entrepreneurship among students and researchers at Danish universities. By activating and cross-pollinating their knowledge and skills, we can create a catalyst for growth and innovative solutions for a better society. To realise this, we need to strengthen the framework conditions for entrepreneurship at universities and create more opportunities for both students and researchers to engage in entrepreneurship. Thus, students need to be introduced to entrepreneurship both curricularly and extra-curricularly, so that more are inspired to embark on a start-up adventure.

What is the role of established industry in this context?

Learning in practice is increasingly used in Danish universities, where business is invited as case companies or sparring partners. This linkage is important to reduce the distance between teaching and business, while giving students an understanding that their solutions can make a difference in society. By highlighting current market opportunities and providing resources, companies can offer a stepping stone that can turn students into successful entrepreneurs much faster. To succeed in this interaction, it is important to also lift up national entrepreneurship initiatives, where universities collaborate and learn from each other to create better opportunities for researchers, students and startups.

Lars Spicker Olesen, Head of FutureLab, Grundfos

Why do we need more students and researchers to embark on a start-up adventure?

Denmark is a relatively small country with fewer inhabitants than Madrid. Alongside well-established companies, we need to promote entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in general, to create new business and keep us relevant as a country. As part of this, students and researchers can play an important role, helping to inspire, think more freely and perhaps raise the novelty and innovation level of the businesses that can be tried out. Conversely, looking specifically to create business can be an excellent driver to both challenge and guide parts of the research towards specific goals and, not least, towards applications that can provide value. Successful or not, the start-up journey itself is valuable for those involved and the experience, battles and rollercoaster ride(s) hugely skills building in ways that may be hard to find elsewhere.

What is the role of the established business community in this context?

Alongside the energy and fresh breath of inspiration that naturally comes from following start-up companies and environments, the established business community could have different roles to play in the other direction towards entrepreneurs. In some areas simply by being a customer. In other areas, as development partners or in the form of sparring and mentorship. Finally, as potential investors and scaling partners when and if start-ups need to take the next step towards growth.