News in Digest: Is more research the answer?

Denmark is among the world leaders for patents per capita, but the export figures don’t always follow the script

A record number of Danish companies are turning to research and education in their hunt for success, according to Danmarks Statistik figures for 2016, which reveal they shelled out 43 billion kroner – up from 39.5 billion kroner in 2015.

However, while R&D investment has increased by 15 percent since 2010, Sweden (18 percent) and Norway (32 percent) have seen bigger rises, and it is feared not enough smaller Danish companies are getting involved – partly due to the state cutting 700 million kroner from Innovation Fund Denmark.

Patents = success?
Nevertheless, Denmark is not short of talent. According to the 2017 annual report published by the European Patent Office, it ranks third in the world (behind the Swiss and the Dutch) for patent applications per capita – 377 patent applications per million citizens – following a 13.1 percent rise in volume last year.

The three companies responsible for the greatest share of the 2,114 applications lodged last year in Denmark were Novozymes (193 applications), Novo Nordisk (144) and Vestas (82). Some 65 percent stemmed from the Capital Region

Meanwhile, Parliament has passed a law to ensure that confidential consultancies stay between the company and its patent consultant – a move that will safeguard Danish companies’ secrets in the US where most of the world’s patent cases are processed.Current legislation forces Danish companies into risky and costly processes to avoid their business secrets being revealed during trials.

Exports = jobs?
The government has also unveiled a new strategy for economic diplomacy to boost growth and employment in Denmark.

The strategy hangs its hat on increasing exports and attracting foreign investment into Denmark, as well as tackling the challenges associated with protectionist trends that are emerging in the world today.

However, while the number of people employed in Denmark grew by 2,000 to 2,721,000 over the course of December 2017 – just 1,100 below the highest level ever – Danish exports are falling, according to Danmarks Statistik.

The rate fell 0.3 percent in January – a consequence of the fall in interest among mainly EU countries such as Germany and the UK, most particularly in the food and machinery sectors – capping a three-month decline of 0.8 percent on the same period a year earlier.

Exports to Germany, the country’s biggest market, fell over 5.2 percent the three months.

Revenue = success?
Danish companies are continuing to report mostly rosy results. Pump manufacturer Grundfos and shoe manufacturer Ecco posted record turnovers of 25.6 billion and 9.5 billion kroner.

Less delighted, however, was Lego as both its turnover (35 billion) and its profit (7.8 billion) fell by around 10 percent. Confirmation that it has started producing a new line of sustainable bricks made from plant-based plastic checked its disappointment slightly, though. Lego aims to be completely sustainable by 2030.

Progress was steady at Bavarian Nordic and SAS. The biotech company saw turnover soar 40 percent to just over 1.4 billion kroner, but was disappointed with the performance of its cancer vaccine Prostvac. And the airline made an expected quarterly loss (239 million Swedish kroner) as streamlining continues.

Finally, dairy giant Arla is taking nothing for granted. It will shortly implement a savings plan to cut costs incurred in travel, meetings, recruitment, marketing, R&D and consulting, after an efficiency program last autumn failed to have the desired effect. The exact details will be confirmed in April.

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