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National Centre for Research in Digital Technologies
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Denmark is in front, when it comes to the “classical” IT technologies, but lags behind when it comes to use of newer, advanced digital technologies, as for example artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data etc. [3].

Digitalisation and the new digital technologies are one of the most important catalysts for

  • Growth and employment in businesses
  • Development and growth of the public sector
  • Solutions to societal challenges in general etc.

Increased knowledge and development of a considerably larger talent mass in this field are needed for Denmark to be a digital frontrunner that capitalises on the many opportunities provided by digitalisation. In other words, more experts are needed who possess the necessary skills to develop as well as capitalise on the advanced digital technologies and solutions that will benefit Denmark. 

With the strategy ’Denmark - Ready to seize future opportunities’ of December 2017 [1], the Government outlined its objectives for future research and innovation and proposed to establish a “National Centre for Research in Digital Technologies” involving the Danish research institutions. The aim of the centre is to develop and support the digital field through research in AI, Big Data, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and IT Security, based on the FORSK2025 theme of ” Denmark as a digital frontrunner” [2].  In January 2018, the “Strategy for Denmark’s digital growth” [3] was published, outlining 38 initiatives to ensure that Denmark in future may capitalise on the many new and advanced digital technologies to create growth, jobs and prosperity for all Danes. The strategy is based on recommendations from a.o. The Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, the Digital Growth Panel [4] and input from the Disruption Council [5, 6], and the goal is to make Denmark a digital frontrunner.

The first step to implement this strategy was taken in May 2018 with the establishment of “Digital Hub Denmark” [7]. A public/private partnership with the ambition to  1) support access to competences and collaborations between established universities, companies and other stakeholders, 2) to strengthen companies’ access to knowledge and experts within commercial use of digital technologies and 3) to market Denmark as a digital frontrunner with a view to attracting investments and digital competences to Denmark. The last goal is 4) to establish a centre with the purpose of solving the capacity issue by building the necessary research capacity in Denmark via excellent research of the highest international class. “Digital Hub Denmark” was established in May 2018 and in November 2018, the 2019 Agreement on Allocation of the Research Reserve was unilaterally passed by Parliament and DKK 100 mill. were allocated to activities in a “National Centre for Research in Digital Technologies”.

Objective

The main objective of establishing a National Centre for Research in Digital Technologies is to build and develop knowledge and research capacity in Denmark. The centre must embrace the relevant digital technologies, i.e AI, use of Big Data, IoT, IT Security, quantum computing, block chain, interaction design, and the structure of activities of the centre must be based on tangible societal needs, translating research into value-creating solutions and digital transformations in the private and the public sectors. When relevant, the research may include ethical and moral aspects of the new technological development and use of AI and Big Data in a Danish context.

A National Centre for Research in Digital Technologies must be anchored on “neutral ground”, so that the centre is shown to be a clearly independent organisation/entity for future collaborators. When assessing the applications, priority is given to a project plan and budget and that this anchoring will become permanent and thus exist beyond the duration of the project.

The centre must attract:

  • Further financing from private and public stakeholders,
  • more stakeholders, not already involved in the establishment of the centre.  

As part of the development, the centre, when relevant, must ensure maximum value creation through collaboration with Digital Hub Denmark [7] to bridge the gap between knowledge providers on the one hand and private companies and the public sector on the other.  Furthermore, the centre, when relevant, must strive to achieve a coordinating role and nationally unifying function across relevant environments within research in digital technologies.

Prerequisites

The application must contain a clear description of the measurable parametres (KPIs for governance, operations, results etc.) used on a continuous basis in the management of the centre’s activities, to create an overview of the status of the centre and further progression. Funds must be set aside to continuous evaluate (external) whether the centre lives up to the predefined goal. It is expected, that the applicant can explain how the goals are achieved.

Priority will be given to an efficient and independent governance model:

  • The centre must have a Board (max 9) consisting of renowned profiles with strong decision competences, for example from the research environment, private businesses and Digital Hub Denmark.
  • The board must be able to make strategic decisions for the centre and ensure optimal progress as well as ensuring finances, operations and prioritisations. The goal is to be able to make difficult choices and navigate efficiently with many stakeholders and interests, and as appropriate, work towards achieving a coordinating role and nationally unifying function across research environments.
  • The consortium must have a Centre Director and a secretariat (a further approx. 2-3 employees)  
  • The Centre Director reports to the Board and must have an international strong research background from several relevant fields, as well as considerable leadership experience. Other characteristics can be
    • strong, visionary, strategic and enterprising
    • personal competences to lead and drive a strong research team
    • strong skills to build an efficient organisation
    • inspiring and convincing communicator
  • The Centre Director and secretariat must be independent from the participating institutions/stakeholders, i.e. whenever possible these employees must be recruited externally. Likewise, the physical location of the secretariat should be placed on “neutral ground”, preferably outside the participating universities.
  • The secretariat must possess competences and knowledge within finance, law, research and business.
  • An Advisory Board to advise and guide the Centre Director and Board must be affiliated. The Advisory Board must consist of internationally renowned research profiles, R&D leaders from relevant companies and successful entrepreneurs, national or global.   

Assessment criteria

The task of the centre, in collaboration with Digital Hub Denmark and other relevant stakeholders, is to bridge gaps, promote communication and ensure that the digital technologies are brought into play in a way that creates maximum value for Denmark. In assessing the application, priority is placed on the description of how the participating parties intend to jointly attract and accommodate the increased demand for candidates and PhDs, as well as how this knowledge/research capacity can be channelled into private business and the public sector. Co-financing must be clearly stated in the overall funding model and will be a competitive parameter in the assessment.

Further, the application is assessed based on the following call-specific criteria:

  • A clear description of the governance model and decision processes
  • A clear plan for/description of how the centre plans to ensure that the digital technologies are brought into use to create maximum value for Denmark
  • A clear plan for/description of the initiatives for the candidate and PhD educations to ensure that the centre fulfils the intentions to build knowledge and research capacity 
  • A clear plan for/description of how the participating parties intent to attract and accommodate the increased demand for candidates and PhDs, and how this knowledge/research capacity can be channelled into private business and the public sector
  • A clear plan for/description of how the centre aims to ensure participation and co-financing from private companies (also long term)
  • A clear plan for/description of how the participating universities in the centre  
    1. fund activities and education themselves, and to which extent, and
    2. how they in the long term plan to build and maintain these (and retain the relevant competences)

As well as the call specific criteria, applications are assessed based on Innovation Fund Denmark’s main criteria [8, 9]. These include:

  • Excellence – Quality of science, research and innovation
  • Value creation during and after the project period
  • Efficiency of project execution
  • Implementation of results

Quality of science, research and innovation includes a.o. a clear description of State-of-the-Art of the planned research as well as innovation and the quality of the issue(s) the centre wants to clarify, as well as solutions and choice of methods. Focus of the assessment will be to which degree the described activities in the centre fulfils the expectation for increased research capacity during and after the activity period.

Value creation is broadly defined as centre activities leading to increased growth and employment, development of the public sector and/or solutions to central societal challenges in general. In the assessment, particular emphasis is given to the solutions being scalable and generic. 

Over and above IFDs general description, efficiency and implementation is defined as the expected result of mass of talent and competences achieved during the centre’s IFD project period.

Grand Solutions project duration is 5 years and the budget is max. DKK 100 mill.