The world's need for new knowledge and new solutions seems greater and more decisive than ever.
The great and complex societal challenges of the time constitute a strong, current need to strengthen and release the Danish research and innovation power.
Fortunately, we stand on a good foundation. In Innovation Fund Denmark, in the past year we have granted DKK 1.9 billion to researchers, entrepreneurs and companies with ideas and projects that have the potential to create great value and solve some of the aforementioned challenges*.
The Fund's employees have processed over 2,500 applications across programmes, with great help from the many experts in our six specialist committees as well as recognized researchers and international experts who assist the Fund in the evaluations.
Thus, at the time of writing, the Innovation Fund's active portfolio consists of 1,938 active grants, which range from foundational research to solutions that are ready to be implemented in society.
In the past year, investments from Innovation Fund Denmark have contributed to launching a number of promising research and innovation projects.
As for example the large quantum project, DanQ, which establishes one of Europe's largest open quantum computers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and must contribute to getting Denmark well in the international quantum race. Or the research project EAT, which will develop edible food packaging that can be smoked in the pan and become part of the meal – and thus reduce both waste and CO2 emissions.
Innovation Fund Denmark covers a wide range of the value chain and can both lift early research project ideas into concrete solutions that are close to the market. Half of all Grand Solutions projects, of which the above are examples, start e.g. as early research projects (TRL 3 or lower).
At the other end of the scale, we have also seen important concrete results from a number of the projects that have been helped along by investments from the Fund.
Like the company MyDefence, which has helped save lives in Ukraine with its anti-drone systems that detect and stop drones. And Teton.ai, which has developed a system based on artificial intelligence that helps the nursing staff at Regionshospitalet Nordjylland to watch over the patients and free up busy hands for other tasks. Or the company Bioomix , which this year launched a biological seed treatment that can replace the use of chemicals in agriculture.
Precisely the return on society from the Innovation Fund's investments is a focus that we have stepped up in 2023 and will intensify further in 2024, when the Fund will also present its new three-year strategy.
We must be clearer about our impact. Over the years, the foundation has collected large amounts of data, and we are sitting on fantastic knowledge of what is going on in many different areas. Now we really want to upgrade our analysis and use of data, to be able to use it to learn more about what works and adjust accordingly.
In order to create even greater impact and societal value for Danish innovation funds, Innovation Fund Denmark will also in the coming year play an active role in ensuring that the Danish research and innovation system is well connected and that efforts are thought out together.
Innovation Fund Denmark is the public fund in the system that covers the widest range, and we are very aware that the mandate is binding.
With a view to "leveraging" the public funds, creating coherence in the funding system and the greatest effect for society, Innovation Fund Denmark will, among other things, seek opportunities for and interest in partnerships and co-investments with some of the many public and private investment players who make a major effort to secure the basis for and the release of innovation power in Denmark.
2024 also offers many other exciting, new efforts in the Fund. Among other things, we look forward to having to cash in an extra DKK 100 million for AI projects.
Innovation Fund Denmark has already for many years invested in research and innovation projects that use or develop AI-based solutions and build Danish capacity in the field. Specifically, a third of the fund's tech investments since 2020 have been AI projects or projects related to AI.
Artificial intelligence has the potential to create decisive societal value, and Danish research and innovation must take part in the international competition for technology development in this field. If we fail to apply, understand and develop these technologies, we will lose both the race and competitiveness compared to other countries. Having said that, it is of course absolutely crucial that we as a society relate to the ethical aspects of using the technology. The new pool of funds must, among other things, help to shed light on this.
Quantum technology is another technology genre with the potential to solve some of the major societal challenges. In 2024, Innovation Fund Denmark will invest an additional DKK 100 million in a strategic research program within quantum technology in line with the government's national strategy in the field, just as the Fund in 2024 is at the forefront of an international search opportunity within applied quantum technology under EUREKA.
The many applicants for this year's call "Quantum Technologies Call" have just received answers to their applications, and we look forward to launching the first projects from the pool.
There has been great interest in the call, and the quality has been high in the 40 applications received, which range widely from quantum computers and chips, communication, cryptography and cyber security, algorithms and education for new medicine and quantum chemistry. This bodes well for future efforts in the area.
The overriding climate crisis will also mean in the coming year that Denmark's green missions and the four mission-driven green partnerships – INNO-CCUS, MissionGreenFuels, AgriFoodTure and Trace – are very high on the Innovation Fund's agenda.
The idea and strength of the mission-oriented approach lies in bringing together actors from the entire value chain around common goals. The climate challenge cannot be solved by one good idea or one company - it requires many new initiatives in different areas that point in the same direction
The four major partnerships' prerequisites for carrying out real mission-driven innovation have received a significant boost in the course of the year. In the coming year, the missions will face, among other things, a number of concrete capacity-building activities that will help to ensure that the partners are even stronger in terms of following the joint roadmaps and bringing the missions to their goals.
In all four mission areas, we have succeeded in establishing solid and committed partnerships across companies, universities, GTSs and public actors. In total, the four mission-driven partnerships now involve more than 350 partners.
A solid foundation has been laid, on top of which the additional DKK 320 million earmarked for the four green missions in 2024 builds.
Innovation Fund Denmark is ready again in the new year to support the strong innovative power among Danish researchers, companies and entrepreneurs. Innovative power that gives faith in the future.
Here we would also like to take the opportunity to thank the foundation's many committed employees who run the foundation's programs every day and put in the effort to handle the many applications correctly with the right eye for both important research and innovation, which we must not miss - and rules on state aid, equal treatment, party hearings and peer reviews and a large number of other statutory processes.
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.
*All figures are calculated in mid-December and adjustments will occur in the last days before the turn of the year