Danes set sights on market

January 6, 1995

Denmark should focus support for academic and public research more selectively on areas where it can be a world leader, according to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.

Technical schools and universities accord little importance to marketing, it says. Students are not made aware of the need to produce products that meet customers' needs. This means the country has difficulty turning the results of research and development into commercial projects.

An OECD team, due to publish its final report this month, recommends that marketing be an integral, obligatory part of research and development projects, and that major government financing be contingent on presentation of an appropriate marketing plan.

The OECD report recommends that the ministry of research be given the responsibility for Denmark's public research and development budget.

But the report also warns that "fundamental or strategic research which is not internationally competitive is not good value for money ".

Research minister Frank Jensen agrees. "We must make clear to ourselves where we want to be world leaders, where we want to be in the international class, and where we don't wish to participate," he said.

Minister of education Ole Vig Jensen says that the OECD report recommends a better balance between basic research and applied research.

The University of Copenhagen has already started structuring its research into selected areas along the lines the OECD recommends.

Vice chancellor Kjeld Mollgard said that research in the environment, bio-chemistry and north-south relations must get larger funding -- public and private.

Mr Mollgard has started to seek funds for these interdisciplinary research areas -- funds that will be used in part to collect the researchers in three new centres. Initially he believes that the European Union, the Danish cancer research fund, the Ministry of Research, industry, and the Copenhagen hospital service will cooperate with the university.

Mr Mollgard said that the OECD report was originally commissioned from the Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry.

It therefore deals only with research and development as a basis for industrial production and economic growth.

This makes the report "lopsided", he says. "The social sciences and the arts must be included when the course is plotted for Danish research and development -- otherwise our research policies will be too technology oriented."

The one-sided philosophy of growth in connection with the technological race between the two superpowers from the 1940s up to 1989 cannot be used in a world where peace and security are threatened by hunger and illness, Mr Mollgard says.

"The main problems of the 21st century will be explosive population growth and destruction of the environment that threaten the quality of life of the individual and lead to local or regional conflicts," he says.

"These problems cannot be solved by increasing growth, only by increased knowledge. Denmark and Danish researchers are committed to increasing knowledge -- both because we can and because our culture and welfare cannot survive in a world where illness, hunger and war are allowed to rage unabated."

"Denmark's employers' confederation agrees with the OECD report's recommendations of more formalised co-operation between businesses and public research institutions, for example by the creation of further research and development centres in connection with universities," says Peter Huntley of Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening.

"We also agree that it is necessary to focus on businesses' access to advice from the technological service institutes," he adds.

Many of the problems that we have raised undoubtedly have their roots in the socio-cultural foundation of Danish society, which is animated, in part, by a desire for consensus and a concern for sharing power and money in an egalitarian way, says the OECD panel.

"Without sacrificing these principles, it is necessary to work with determination and even obstinacy, to remove the weaknesses of the system," it says.

The OECD team was composed of Agnes Aylward, principle officer, department of tourism and trade, Ireland, Chris Freeman, professor, University of Sussex; Kaj Linden, senior vice-president, Nokia, Finland, and Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, professor, University of Cambridge.

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