Danish companies invent like never before

Recent years have seen unrivalled levels of productivity from Danish inventors.

Danish companies invent like never before
Novozymes' lab in Bagsværd. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

An enzyme that breaks down dead cells in the stomachs of chickens so that they don’t need as much feed.

An algorithm that stabilizes the swaying of a wind turbine so that it can be built with a little less steel.

These are examples of products that two Danish companies, Novozymes and Vestas, have developed and been granted patents for.

Danish companies are now among the most active in developing new products, according to a report published on Tuesday by the European Patent Office. In the report, Denmark was listed as number 3, after Holland and Switzerland.

In 2018, Danish companies applied for 2,390 patents in Europe, a 14.4 percent increase compared to the year before, and the highest amount Danish companies have ever applied for in one year, the report stated.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI), a private interest organization made up of approximately 10,000 Danish companies within manufacturing, service and trade, said the report reflects an investment on developing new ideas and transforming these ideas into real solutions.

“Danish companies are highly innovative. They are willing to invest large sums of money in order to be the first ones to come up with new solutions,” DI’s head consultant Lars Holm Nielsen said.

“The largest companies invest a lot of money in research and development, but there are also many small and medium-sized companies that are ahead in their respective fields when it comes to the development of new products,” Nielsen added.

Several of Denmark’s largest companies are amongst the most active in finding and developing new ideas. Last year, Novozymes was at the top with 192 patent applications. Vestas, Novo Nordisk, and Oticon were all close behind.

Claus Crone Fuglsang, research director at Novozymes, said that patents are crucial if the company is to continue to develop new products.

“Novozymes is a company that is driven by innovation. Patents ensure that the company finds a legitimate market for the products we develop. Patents also help us to maintain earnings to cover the costs of the development process,” Fuglsang said.

“Without patents, technology makes it very easy for others to copy our products. We have to make sure that we that we are compensated for the costs of research and development,” he added.

READ ALSO: Four ways Copenhagen is leading on innovation

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Four ways Copenhagen is leading on innovation

Danes’ willingness to be early adopters of new technology is an important factor in Copenhagen’s reputation for high liveability.

Four ways Copenhagen is leading on innovation
Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

Voted Monocle’s most liveable city three times, Copenhagen is known for its excellent work-life balance and streamlined, digitised public services.

Over the last few years, a number of innovations have either been developed or embraced by Greater Copenhagen, and there are more in the pipeline. Many of these innovations mean that Copenhageners can enjoy more of their free time whilst taking the environment into consideration.

Green Wave


With 62 percent of Copenhageners commuting by bike every day, the city has been work-ing to develop ways to ensure cycling is a top priority in the city. Cycle superhighways have been developed on the busy routes into the city, giving cyclists high priority in traffic flows.

A number of measures have been introduced to make cycling easier and safer including free air pumps, foot rests for waiting more comfortably at traffic lights and safety measures at intersections. The Cycle Superhighways are easy to spot: look for the white-on-orange 'C’ painted on the road.

The Green Wave is an innovation to improve cycle flows, especially during rush hour times on busy streets, by coordinating the traffic lights so that a cyclist riding at 20 kilometres per hour should only encounter green lights all the way into the city. The implementation of this traditional Green wave system means cyclists can ride up to 3.4 kilometres per hour faster, according to figures provided by Copenhagen Municipality.

Automated car parking

BLOX. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Scanpix 2018

It’s not all about bikes in Copenhagen. BLOX, a new state-of-the-art architecture complex located on the harbourside, houses a fully automated public parking garage for 350 cars. The underground car park frees up at least 3,500 square metres of street-level space.

The system uses a ‘park and hide’ principle. Inside the parking cabin, there is a lifting platform on which the customer parks her car. After leaving the parking cabin, the roller door shuts and the automatic parking process begins. Before the lifting mechanism lowers the platform, a combination of scanners ensures that there are no people or animals on the platform. The car is then lowered down to the level where the vehicle will be parked.

The Shifter, an extra-flat robot, moves beneath the vehicle and gently lifts it by the wheels to transport it from the lift to a transfer vehicle and, finally, to the parking garage. The combined speed of the Shifter and the transfer vehicle system allows the parking cabin to be used again immediately. Because it is a drive-through cabin, the vehicle can simply be driven out once it has been presented on the platform. The system only takes an average of two minutes to retrieve the car.

This is the fifth automated parking garage in Denmark but the most innovative, leading the way for more in the future.


Amager Bakke. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Copenhagen is not blessed with many natural high spots for recreation, while its residents love the outdoors. Danes are also keen on practical solutions, partnerships and making the most of what is available. Enter Copenhill, also known as Amager Bakke, an artificial ski slope and recreational area. Although the ski slope, currently scheduled to open in spring 2019, has suffered from delays and an increase to its budget, it should be an asset to the city once complete.

The area is located close to town and will provide a 500m ski piste with a summit height of 85 metres, overlooking the inner harbour and the city centre, as well as hiking paths, climbing walls and après ski opportunities.

That might sound good, but there is more. Copenhill is situated on the top of a waste-to-energy plant with emphasis on sustainability. The plant, Amager Resource Centre (ARC), operates an environmentally friendly incineration of waste with with a catalyser to remove nitrous oxide. This helps make Amager Bakke one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly energy plants in the world.

Autonomous vehicles

DTU's self-driving minibus Olli. Photo: Mads Joakim Rimer Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is the home to Autonomous Mobility, an innovator in autonomous technology. They currently have two different models of autonomous vehicles: Arma, which carries up to 11 people, and Olli, a slightly smaller vehicle, carrying 8 people.

The two shuttles can travel up to 40 kilometres per hour but they generally only go at around 23 kilometres per hour. DTU has already seen tests of the vehicles on its campus.

Working in partnership with other stakeholders in Denmark, Autonomous Mobility has developed pilot projects that make an impact on communities. A recent trial project included the use of Arma at Zealand University Hospital in Køge, a municipality in the Greater Copenhagen area.

READ ALSO: More investment in green innovation needed: Danish clean energy conference