Business and education leaders are joining forces to lobby for an increase in Denmark's research spending. Dansk Industri (DI) has joined forces with Danish universities and Akademikernes Centralorganisation (AC), an umbrella organisation for graduates of universities and other higher educational institutions, to lobby for a bigger budget to increase Denmark’s international standing in research and development.
“We need to invest further if we want to compete on the international stage,” Lars Goldschmidt, the director of DI, told Berlingske newspaper.
The current percentage of public GDP that has been set aside for research and development is one percent, but DI and AC want that figure to increase to 1.5 percent over the next seven years, an increase that would equate to billions of kroner.
Goldschmidt and the Erik Jylling, the chairman of EC, insist that the increase is a necessary investment to ensure that Denmark maintains a strong global stature within R&D.
“It’s a question of whether we lead the pack or get left behind,” Jylling told Berlingske. “[Denmark’s] raw material is knowledge and education, and we’re competing on an international level.”
Recognising the limitations on the extent to which a country the size of Denmark can compete on the international stage, Goldschmidt said putting future targets into perspective is more important than focusing on country rankings.
“It’s unreasonable to see ourselves as direct competitors to countries like Germany as a whole,” Jylling said. “We are a small rich region of the EU, so we should aim to contend with other regions, not countries.”
One such region that Jylling has in mind is the southern German region of Baden-Württemborg, which currently invests a total GDP (a combination of private and public funding) of 4.5 percent into its research development scheme. Other regions mentioned by Jylling included the US state of Washington, and the South Korean city of Chungcheong.
Denmark’s total public and private GDP expenditure is at three percent, and it is the hope of Jylling that private funding will follow suit if the government chooses to increase public investment.
Jylling and Goldschmidt suggested that the increase in research spending could be financed through labour reforms.
While the minister for research and higher education, Morten Østergaard (Radikale) agreed with the notion put forward by DI and AC, he said he couldn't simply write a blank cheque for research without the assurance that such a heavy investment would result in financial growth.
“I can see their point,” Østergaard told Berlingske. “If you want to compete at the top level, you have to be among the best."
He added, however, that there has been some scepticism about whether research projects have delivered the right kind of results in terms of job growth and economic development.