Move business and research closer together

President Anders Bjarklev in Frederiksborg Amts Avis: New research must be put into practice in the business world to achieve the climate goals.

Research is one of the most important ways of addressing the daunting climate crisis facing us. We hear this regularly in the media, and it’s true. But it’s important to add a word of caution: New research must be put into practice in the business world to achieve real results.

And this requires close and early collaborations between universities and businesses. Not only does this create new jobs, products, and economic growth, it is also a condition for moving quickly on the government’s ambitious climate plan. Most recently in the agricultural area, where CO2 emissions must be reduced by 55-65% by 2030.

The tool to achieve those goals isn’t ‘just’ new technology. Rather, it is to develop the right technological solutions, make them scalable, and implement them in society within the foreseeable future. This can only be achieved through close interaction across sectors. But who will build the bridge?

So far, we at DTU have come a long way on our own initiative. The latest figures from 2020 show that DTU has 1,794 ongoing collaboration agreements with companies, which makes us the leading Danish university in this area. We’re proud of this because it shows that research is being put to use in and to the benefit of society.

One example of this is that researchers from DTU have entered into a collaboration with companies such as Radius Elnet, Danfoss, and HOFOR to create a green energy laboratory in the Copenhagen district of Nordhavn. The project, EnergyLab Nordhavn, tests the smart energy system of the future on a local scale, and puts the knowledge into practice. This is the first step on the way to developing a nationwide energy system based on 100 per cent renewable energy.

Another is example is DTU Skylab—a living laboratory for innovation and entrepreneurship which offers students the opportunity to develop new green technology and meet potential collaborators from the business world at an early stage. This has resulted in many green investments and early partnerships because the innovation is made visible, accessible and attractive to companies.

There are many good initiatives. But we can still become much better at using the research commercially. To succeed with this, politicians should prioritize green business collaborations and help promote the desire to innovate at the country’s universities, so we reap the greatest possible benefit.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Denmark’s new Minister for Higher Education and Science, Jesper Petersen, when we held the Education and Research Policy Summit at DTU in Lyngby on 6 October. Here, the Minister mentioned the great potential he sees in the green technology being developed at DTU, and himself pointed out that even stronger links must be created between education, research and the business world.

I look forward to seeing this message shine through in the specific support plans and strategic initiatives that the Minister will present. Because time is short, and the responsibility is great. To live up to that responsibility, researchers, companies and decision-makers must work together.

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