Peter Kristensen

"Innoexplorer fills a clear need"

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Peter Kristensen is head of the Innovation Fund's panel committee for Innoexplorer. He has a doctorate in medicine from the University of Copenhagen and during a long career in health science and innovation has, among other things, been director of development at Novo Nordisk and researcher at Rigshospitalet and director of a biotech company. Today he is a consultant in his own company. Peter Kristensen has been the head of the Innoexplorer committee since April 2020.




In a series of interviews, Innovation Fund Denmark focuses on the experts who assist the Fund in assessing the several thousand annual applications for funding for research and innovation projects.

Read about the Innoexplorer program here

Why have you chosen to be part of the committee?

I think the program makes a big difference. For the applicants, it is about using their knowledge to make a difference through the creation of a company. And that is what we in the panel committee try to help with.

I have been through the entire journey myself. I was a researcher at the national hospital for eight years before I was employed by Novo Nordisk, where I then worked across the entire value chain from research to development to product portfolio administration.

I think it is really important that this opportunity for risky investment exists. There is a good opportunity for universities to help researchers take the first step towards commercialization.

There are a lot of researchers with good ideas. And some of them think; this must be able to be used for something in society. This must be able to become a business. But then they need a little support and help to move on - and they need some money.

They are all incredibly enthusiastic. It is one of the funnest and best things about being part of the panel selection on this program. That there are so many passionate applicants who want to make a difference.

There are also incredibly many talented panel members. Smart, skilled people with lots of experience.

All in all, being part of the panel committee for Innoexplorer is both incredibly exciting, incredibly fun and a really important job.

Where does the Innoexplorer program make a difference in the Danish research and innovation system?

Innoexplorer is first and foremost a risk-averse investment. We are quite aware that here we are helping someone on the road to commercialization, but with very high risk. The program comes in at a time when you usually won't be able to find a private investor.

Innoexplorer only invests in projects where the aim is to create a business. But the researchers may lack knowledge, data, contact with others or help to take the decisive step, so that a sufficient basis is created to found the company.

So an Innoexplorer investment contributes to the researchers being able to take the next step in generating more knowledge, testing a prototype, exploring the market and investigating the possibilities for commercial exploitation of the research.

Time has shown that there is an important place for Innoexplorer. There is a clear need.

Over the last four years that the Innoexplorer program has been in existence, the quality of the applications has increased significantly. It is clearly a consequence of the fact that the universities, hospitals and other knowledge institutions have seen that here there is an opportunity for the possible solutions that otherwise have not really been able to progress.

The collaboration with the knowledge institutions has also been strengthened over the last four years. It has become very clear that the universities and knowledge institutions have developed their focus on helping the researchers.

This is also reflected in the fact that the Innexplorer program has granted an increasing amount year by year.

What does it mean to be the front person for the Innoexplorer committee?

In addition to reading a great many applications very thoroughly, my role as a person in charge is, among other things, to create good joint decisions about which applicants should receive grants, which assessment is the basis and which feedback the applicant should have.

I have to ensure that all points of view in the panel come forward and that everyone is heard. We have to talk ourselves out of it.

The second part of the role as front person is to ensure that we keep the same line across panel meetings.

We have 30 panel members, and at a given panel meeting there are only four present in addition to the person in charge. So my task is to ensure uniformity and consistency in requirements across disciplines and panels - and based on the foundation's decision criteria.

We assess each application in its own right. What is the quality of the idea? What impact could the solution have commercially and socially? And do we believe in this team and their plan? Is it realistic and sensible to implement over the year in which the investment is made.

The projects we assess range from engineering, health, biology and food to the humanities and design. It's a lot of very different things. That is why we also have panel members with very broad knowledge and experience.

The Innovation Fund's employees sort panel days according to topics as best as possible. So we have panel days that are more engineering-based and technical, and days that focus on health etc. But of course each panel day still covers a very broad area.

Therefore, it is also important that the universities help the researchers to formulate their applications so that they can be understood by a wider circle than experts from the subject at hand.

The Innoexplorer program comes into play before starting a business. So applicants' next step will often be to start a business and attract financial investment. And there they will very much need to be able to articulate themselves, so that someone who does not know their specific problem and solution understands the idea. It is necessary to be able to explain your product and your plan.

When you as a researcher have to step into this world and have to go from invention to innovation, an important step is that innovation starts from a problem. The researcher may well have made very important inventions at the university, but in this context it is crucial that it is linked to the problem that needs to be solved.

What would you describe as your most important expertise in relation to research and innovation?

Of course, I know something about pharmaceuticals specifically, but in general my expertise lies in assessment in projects and project plans, management and project management.

At Novo Nordisk, I was also a researcher and project manager for development projects where we created new medicines. And then I was director of development at Novo Nordisk for 10 years.

So my main expertise is assessing whether there is a good project plan and whether there are the right skills in a team. Then you can ask; can you do it if it is about software and you do not have specific experience with software development? Yes, I think you can. It's a matter of asking the right questions about goals, risks, stakeholders, and so on—all the things that are essential to assessing the project's chance of success.

If you had to give applicants to the Innovation Fund's Innoexplorer program one piece of advice, what would it be?

Start by writing a resume that your mother and father can understand. Then build on the details: Why is this a better solution and how does it become a reality?

Find Peter Kristensen on LinkedIn

About the Innovation Fund's expert committee:

When researchers, entrepreneurs and companies apply to Innovation Fund Denmark, their applications are most often assessed by research or innovation experts from the fund's so-called expert committee. The specialist committees are set up by the foundation's board and supplement the foundation's employees in the assessment process. The committees come with professional expertise from various sectors and either have research expertise, experience with business development and commercialization of knowledge and innovation.

The Innovation Fund's expert committee plays an important role in supporting Danish companies, startups and knowledge institutions in converting knowledge into economic growth and value for society - and thus helps to promote the innovative ideas that Denmark must live on in the future.

The criteria for being appointed to the Innoexplorer committee are that the members possess the latest knowledge in their field of expertise, have a minimum of five years' professional experience in their field of expertise, have significant insight into the commercialization of research, have significant insight into entrepreneurship and/or business development and master English and Danish at a professional level. The overall committee has also been set up with a focus on ensuring diversity in both societal and professional terms.

See other members of the Panel Committee for Innoexplorer here