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Minister Søren Pind to offer new research policy - UCPH hopes for new commitment

Investment or cost? — Minister for Research Søren Pind has invited representatives from the country's universities and research foundations to a meeting. They are to discuss a strategy and vision for Danish research.

Minister for Higher Education and Research Søren Pind (V) is about to take a step towards designing a new Danish research policy.

He has invited the top of the Danish research community to a meeting in late March to discuss a strategy and vision for the future of research policy before he himself offers a proposal.

At UCPH we really want the government to yet again consider research as an investment in society, and not just an expense.

Thomas Bjørnholm, Prorector for Research and Innovation

At the same time the government has set up an inter-ministerial committee headed by Permanent Secretary Agnete Gersing to examine the societal benefits of investing in research.

A group of recognised scientists will also be associated with the committee, according to a press release.

See research as an investment

Thomas Bjørnholm, Prorector for Research and Innovation at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), will be at this meeting at the end of the month.

He already has a message for the Minister:

“At UCPH we really want the government to yet again consider research as an investment in society, and not just an expense,” says Bjørnholm.

He points to the fact that the budget for 2016 marked a considerable change. The government cut DKK 1.4 billion from research appropriations and introduced an annual two percent savings cut on education. These changes led to a major round of scientist and researcher layoffs at the University of Copenhagen.

For the period 2007 to 2012, a broad majority consisting of the Liberal Party, the Conservative party, the Danish People’s Party, the Social Democrats, SF, the Christian Democrats, the Social Liberal Party and the Red-Green Alliance had earmarked DKK 42.5 billion for research, education and innovation.

This is what the committee is to examine

• Spillover effects of public research on private research and development

• The effect of research and innovation promotion schemes

• The effect of tax incentives (tax expenses) on private sector research and development

• Effect of research-based education

• A calculation of the total socio-economic effects of public research.

The goal was to make Denmark the world’s most competitive nation in 2015.

No Danish knowledge on the subject

The press release from the ministry states that the committee’s work should “underpin a better prioritization of public investment in research.”

“International research shows that there are positive economic effects from public investments in research. However, there is considerable uncertainty about the size of these effects – not least in the Danish context. Just like there is limited knowledge about how we should set up the composition of research in terms of, say, basic and applied research,” it says.

Thomas Bjornholm says he is looking forward to the outcome of the analysis with confidence, since there are already several studies documenting the universities’ contribution to the economy.

Reports: Universities create growth

One is a report from 2015 by The League of European Research Universities (LERU) – of which the University of Copenhagen is a member – showing that each of the 23 member universities annually generates an average value of DKK 23 billion – and that they together create 900,000 jobs in Europe.

An analysis by the consultancy Damvad from 2012 showed that private companies cooperating with UCPH, experienced positive effects through the cooperation – both in terms of productivity and on the bottom line. The total economic impact is estimated to be more than DKK 11 billion annually.

“We have more to give, and can generate additional value, if the politicians are willing to invest. Leading knowledge regions spend more on research, so we are far from the saturation point,” says Thomas Bjørnholm.

The working group is expected to deliver its report at the end of 2018.