Danes unveil research plan

August 25, 1995

Danish research should in future concentrate on the environment, health, information technology, the social sciences, the arts and other areas that will ensure sustainable development based on environmental considerations, according to Frank Jensen, Danish minister of research.

Recommendations for a new advisory and funding structure for research were published earlier this year, and proposals for a new national research strategy are imminent.

Mr Jensen is to hold talks with representatives of higher education, industry, trade unions and other interest groups to discuss the new direction for Danish research.

Ove Poulsen, director of research at the ministry, explained: "We are good at pure research but weak on innovative research. Although industrial research is very competent, the connections between the universities and industry have been poor - a mixture of academic self-sufficiency and the inability to find a common language."

Mr Poulsen wants to create a mechanism to make that co-operation attractive. He points to his own background as an example: professor of physics at Aarhus University until 1991, then director of a national research and development centre for advanced micro-technologies in semi-conductor materials, affiliated to the Technical University of Denmark, until he was given the ministerial post earlier this year.

"We have industry in need of research; universities can supply it. But you will only get the best if you generate cooperation that involves commitment from both sides - the universities must cede a little of their freedom and get industrial input in return."

Ove Poulsen believes industry's research can only be increased if industry is prepared to pay. In implementing many of the main programmes in the forthcoming research package, industry must match state funding.

"We have proposed the creation of a virtual research centre for information technology. The state will give 30 million krone (Pounds 33.43 million); private interests will give 40 per cent of that. But the state's money will not be made available until industry's money is on the table," he said.

"I feel we're not creative or dynamic enough. We can learn something from the United States. The US is dynamic, innovative, entrepreneurial. We must be careful not to become too sated with our own situation. We must not become operators who produce good papers, do real work - but get no ideas. The Danish system is too conservative, devoted to maintaining the status quo."

Mr Poulsen would like to see the research councils give funds to young people. "They have the ideas, but they don't have the opportunities. The money goes to the older, senior researchers, the 50-year-olds doing the same thing they've always done. They get results - career trackwork, uninteresting. Give money to young people and you stand a chance of getting a proper breakthrough."

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