Government Boosts Research Transfer


The Danish Government regards the biotechnology sector to be one of the most important pillars to sustain and develop wealth and prosperity of the Danish society. In line with that the Government recently has proposed to establish a foundation which shall boost research in biotechnology, IT and nanotechnology with some 800 million DKK (approximately Euro110 million) each year when it will be fully built up. Hopes are high that this will actually happen. The nordic country's biggest biotech cluster, the Copenhagen area, substantially contributes to Medicon Valley, the third largest Life Science cluster in Europe1. Denmark is also a main gate to a new biotechnology region in Europe - ScanBalt BioRegion, consisting of countries located in the Nordic and Baltic Sea communities (see EuroBiotechNews 3/03).

Denmark's basic biotechnology research is generously supported by government grants as well as major private industry research programmes. Innovative public-private partnerships have led to a healthy undergrowth of biotech start-up companies, and a wealth of potential for both investment and business opportunities. Denmark has world-class competencies2 - it is No. 1 in Europe in terms of most quoted publications per million inhabitants and Danish scientists are the fourth most quoted in the world per inhabitant. The Scan-dinavian country boasts 11 universities with 200,000 graduates annually, 3,200 publicly fun-ded PhDs and eight science parks (see box, p. 41).
In Denmark research in life sciences is recognized to be of very high quality but more efficient collaboration between the public and private sector is needed. Therefore the Government has proposed a number of initiatives in 2003 aiming at the improvement the commercialization of research. In particular new rules for technology transfer will give public research institutions the possibility to establish and run private companies, so the work with patents, licenses and the establishment of new research based companies can be profes-sionalized.
Competence in Research
Furthermore, the Danish Government will invest some Euro3.4 million in 2004 into the newly established Biotechnology Research and Innovation Centre located in Copenhagen (BRIC,, another Euro3.4 million in 2005 and more in the years to come. The BRIC coordinates research among all Danish universities and companies. The Center for Proteome Analysis is located at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense (
It is a leading world class research center, particularly in the area of “expression proteomics”. A staff of 80 manages numerous research projects and also helps new companies develop. A new, state of the art facility, Copenhagen BioCenter, will be built containing laboratories, animal facilities, lecture halls and conference rooms. This Euro54 million project, currently under development, will be located at the University of Copenhagen and is expected to be completed in late 2006.
Four Biotech Clusters
The Danish biotech sector is mainly clustered in the four university cities Copenhagen, Odense, Århus and Ålborg (see map). Denmark has 70 research based small and medium sized biotech companies with approximately 3,000 employees. Four of them are post-IPO (initial public offering) companies, namely Bavarian Nordic A/S, Genmab A/S, NeuroSearch A/S and Pharmexa A/S. Many more are employed in the established pharma, food and ingredient industry, with both production and research. Amongst the locomotives in industrial biotechnology are Danisco A/S and Novozymes A/S and in pharma Novo Nordisk A/S and H. Lundbeck A/S. The pharma industry alone had in 2002 an export of over Euro4 billion, up four times since 1990. Most of the companies are concentrated around the greater Copenhagen area, which successfully has been globally branded as part of the Danish-Swedish cross-border region Medicon Valley, but a growing number of companies are seen around the university cities Odense, Århus and Ålborg. Since the mid-eighties the annual number of newly founded research based biotech companies has been steadily increasing, reaching a peak in 2000 with 10 new companies3. The Danish biotech companies are organized in the Danish Association of Biotechnological Industries, FBID (
Adapting to
Financial Problems
Despite the financial problems, which on a global scale have negatively affected the biotech industry since 2001, the Danish biotech sector has shown remarkable resistance compared with other regions and countries, probably due the experience and tradition based on the existence of well established companies. However, mergers and acquisitions are also on the agenda for the Danish biotech sector in order to adapt to current financial realities.
A recent report on investments in the first quarter of 2004 from the Danish Venture Capital Association and Vaekstfonden concludes that the Danish Venture market now is showing progress, so there are reasons to be optimistic. In the past four to five years the Danish market for venture capital has undergone tremendous change. The number of investors has more than doubled, the population of Danish firms financed by venture capital has more than tripled, and the volume of investments has more than quadrupled (source: The Danish Market for Venture Capital and Private Equity 2003, Vaekstfonden, 2003). Denmark has 50 venture funds within biotechnology.
Recently the biotech company Pharmexa A/S went through a successful secondary offering at the Copenhagen Stock exchange, raising some Euro28 million, sending out a clear signal that the investment climate is improving.
[1] Ernst & Young 2001
[2] Invest in Denmark
[3] Analysis published in Ingeniøren, 14 April 2001
Søren K. Carlsen, Danish Association of
Biotechnology Industries (FBID), c/o Novo A/S



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