Archive for the ‘Denmark’ Category

There’s something about San Sebastian

October 30, 2012

Report from TCI’s 2012 global conference

This year’s 15th TCI annual global conference was held in the Basque Country from 16-19 October.

It was a highly successful event with around 450 delegates representing 67 countries. (Unfortunately I was the only Australian this year). The theme of the conference was “Place based competitiveness in times of global change”, underlining the need to be focused and strategic in promoting the competitive advantages of regions and localities.

There’s something about Sans Sebastian! One of the many workshops was dedicated to understanding the bleak situation with the Spanish economy – however one would have thought Spain a much rosier place walking the streets of Sans Sebastian. The pounding of the Atlantic around the headland of the old town, the surf beaches and pintxos (Basque form of tapas) bars on every corner make for a wonderful setting. In fact San Sebastian was voted one of Europe’s top food and wine cities by Trip Advisor in 2012, boasting more Michelin star restaurants than any other European city.

The success of the Basque country in weathering the economic storms over Europe was palpable. Tours to various Basque clusters further highlighted the fact. Basque was one of the early adapters of a competitive cluster policy and their clusters are performing and centrepiece to the Basque economy.

Cluster policy pioneers such as Antonio Subira, Catalonia; Jon Azua, Basque Country; Ifor Ffowcs-Williams, NZ; Gerd Meier zu Kocke, Germany; Alonso Ramos Vaca, Mexico, took to the floor to discuss the past 15 years of TCI and cluster policy. The session, facilitated by Christian Ketels, current TCI President, resulted in a celebration of the vision and commitment of the Basque people to their economic development policy of ‘clusterisation and strategic thinking’.

Michael Porter summed things up – by a video-conference – saying we no longer need to understand the ‘why and what of cluster policy’, we just need to get better at doing the ‘how’. Michael Porter has recently developed a Microeconomics of Competitiveness (MOC) program as a platform that can be taught at universities around the world to improve understanding of competitiveness and clusters.

I presented the views of Australian women cluster Managers in the “Gender and Diversity in Clusters” workshop with three other brave women from Denmark, Germany and Austria. The audience grew as we went along and by the end we felt we had hit on a topic that resonates. There seems to be a quiet swell of renewed interest in gender and diversity issues.

The issue, in Europe and elsewhere, is that plenty of women are in the top jobs, including managing clusters, but few are on Boards. Norway has just implemented a 40% compulsory inclusion of women on Boards policy apparently.

Also an issue of representation of women in engineering and design sectors. They are at universities, but this is not translating to the industries. Great case study presented by Kersten Hindrum, an engineer from the Danish maritime sector, about a ‘women only’ designed pleasure craft which received rave reviews and media at this year’s Danish boat show. The point was that women use the indoors of the craft and therefore should design them!

Expect to see more on this subject at the TCI annual conference in Kolding, Denmark in September 2013.

For more info on the Sans Sebastian conference or the TCI network Also contact Tracy Scott-Rimington (Brisbane) at

Collaboration – with the support of the tax system

October 18, 2011

In our experience, the best outcomes in regional and business development result from people clicking with other people. They find others with the same passion and view of the world – agendas develop from there.

 When these relationships develop across international borders, the results can be particularly rewarding. Accordingly, over the last decade, the Cockatoo Network has put lots of economic development professionals in face-to-face contact with their international counterparts.

However local councils and development agencies rarely fund their ED professionals to undertake such networking because of likely criticism about taxpayer-funded junkets. Similarly, a lot of federal and state programs specifically exclude expenditure on international foreign travel.

 Well we recently sought the advice of a nice lady at the Australian Tax Office. After describing the work we do in identifying leading edge industry innovation, we explained that we’d uncovered the Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster (see below) and that we’re looking for the ATO to allow our members to claim collaboration with that cluster as a personal income tax deduction.

 There was silence. So we further explained that most people find it difficult to separate work from leisure, and it’s no different while on holiday. In this case, a Cockatoo member might, while his/her spouse is shopping inCopenhagen) be comparing notes with local cleantech experts and inspecting wind turbines. Or a few days later our member might be in Saint-Paul (near Nice) getting a guided tour by a local council staffer of the artists’ colony, asking lots of questions, writing a report for the Creative Arts Committee back home. Our intrepid member might spend 30% of his/her trip on work-related activities and should thus be eligible to claim 30% of travel and accommodation expenses as a tax deduction.

To our delight, the Tax Department lady agreed subject to evidence that the work had been planned and the proper recording of the work undertaken.

 We would surmise that the tax systems in other countries are similarly geared to allowing such deductions. If they are, this might be a great way to trigger more cross-border collaboration!

Copenhagen’s Cleantech Cluster – a good model

July 4, 2010

Copenhagen is a European hub for cutting-edge cleantech companies, R&D and test facilities. It obviously has global prominence too in things environmental. There are numerous reasons for this, including:

  • A pervading philosophy of being an ‘early adopter’.
  • The national goal of being 100% free of fossil fuels.
  • The Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster – basically there to coordinate resources.

This cluster is “one stop cleantech shop” offers access to cleantech sector networks, cooperation between members, workshops, seminars, research projects, and insights to the political environment. It also wants to join up with other leading clusters worldwide.

Another player is ‘Copenhagen Capacity’ (part of inward investment agency) – provides information, access to companies, associations, research institutions and assists with investment and business opportunities.

Angles for Cockatoo members

  • This is one of the agencies we want to collaborate with via the Sunrise Program. 

Universities must engage in regions, says OECD

May 14, 2009

 A very interesting OECD report “Higher Education and Region’ has landed on our desk, written by Cockatoo member and ‘Oz-phile’ Patrick Dubarle, Paul Benneworth et al. It should be compulsory reading for every Vice-Chancellor, university academic and regional development practitioner in the civilized world. It draws on findings from 14 regions across 12 countries.

 The basic message is that higher education institutions (HEIs) must do more than educate and research – they must engage with others in their region, provide opportunities for lifelong learning, and contribute to the development of knowledge-intensive jobs.

 The report synthesizes the main developments, and provides scores of examples of best practice. Some that attracted our attention are:

  • The ‘Knowledge House’ in NE England – addresses the reluctance of SMEs to go anywhere near a university by providing a nifty, common entry point to the five universities in the region.
  • University Jaume I in Valencia – helping to transform the SME-based ceramic tile industry.
  • University of Sunderland – helping to make Nissan’s new plant the most productive in Europe.
  • Provincial University of Lapland – reaching out to remote communities.
  • Aalborg University (Denmark) building its education program around Problem Based Learning.
  • Monterrey International Knowledge City (MICK) in north east Mexico.

 The book can be purchased on-line at the OECD – ISBN 978-92-64-03414-3. Patrick Dubarle is now a freelance consultant, living at beautiful Meudon – contact him at

Aussie helps transform Denmark’s investment outcomes (BEST PRACTICE)

October 17, 2008



Over the past 2 years Rodin Genoff has been lead consultant for the Central Denmark Region’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) Cluster Project.


This is one of Denmark’s major industry cluster initiatives, for which Rodin’s company has carriage.


The project, due for completion in March 2009, has led to a number of research outputs including:

§ Denmark’s most comprehensive industrial audit of the innovation capacity and capability of 50 leading AME companies in the Central Denmark Region, resulting in an understanding of the region’s leading and lagging companies.

§ Supply chain integration analysis that identified key suppliers and customers of the companies audited, leading to a global database of 500 companies. The research mapped the region’s “connector companies” to target to fast-track joint ventures and business collaborations.

§ The ‘Engineering the Future’ report featured in Børsen, Denmark’s version of the Financial Times.

§ Training ED officers on cluster strategies and establishing collaborations and joint ventures.


The investment outputs include:

§ 35 companies of the 50 interviewed participating in business networking/company collaborations, joint ventures, mergers and R&D projects, bringing together around 200 companies across the EU, USA, China, India and Eastern Europe.

§ 20 joint ventures, mergers and R&D partnerships, involving around 100 companies and universities across the European Union, leading to new investment opportunities, jobs and exports.

§ Joint ventures creating new industrial design arising from innovative collaborations between engineering and industrial design companies.

§ Regional authorities initiating 10 lean manufacturing projects with individual companies.


The project also led to changing the image of the Central Denmark Region from traditional manufacturing to an innovative hub in Scandinavia. After the release of the ‘Engineering the Future’ report, Børsen branded the region the “Smart Centre” for the level of innovation identified by the research. There is now a new focus on the 300 dynamic companies located in the region that are leaders in Denmark and the EU, rather than on those companies negatively affected by globalisation.


The Central Denmark Region will be funding a significant new cluster and business networking programs in 2009 arising from the AME Cluster Project. 


Postscript: This successful project spun out of international connections developed through the Cockatoo Network and Clusters Asia Pacific. Rodin Genoff and Associates have been an inaugural member of the Cockatoo Network – so it does pay to be part of the action!


For further information see


Legoland…exemplar for Denmark…and the world

February 6, 2008

Danish toymaker Lego now outsources most of its manufacturing to Eastern Europe and Mexico – only 300 blue-collar jobs remain at Lego’s HQ in the town of Billund.

Union leaders say “It was the best way to keep as many workers’ places as possible…to make sure that they make money and we make money.”  In Denmark, 76% of respondents recently said globalization was a good thing.

Why? Living standards in Denmark are high – per capita income trails that of the U.S. but is distributed far more equally. Unemployment is just 3.1%. The country exports more than it imports. Although only two Danish corporations (shipper A.P. Moller-Maersk and the Danske Bank) are on the FORTUNE Global 500 list, Denmark has many smallish, nimble, outward-looking firms in growth areas – alternative energy, health care, high-end furniture etc.

 The World Economic Forum says Denmark is the world’s 3rd most competitive economy – the 2nd highest tax burden, generous welfare state, heavily unionized workforce…but it’s all part of a trade-off, the Danes say. Corporate and capital gains taxes are low. There are few restrictions on trade.  

Employment Minister Claus Hjort Fredriksen says “the model we have found here – free education, free health care, a good financial situation if you lose your job, together with a flexible labor market and the size of Danish companies – somehow has struck something that is the answer to the challenges of globalization.” 

Denmark is now a darling of European social democrats, but it’s been overrun lately with visiting journalists, academics and politicians looking for insights. Another thing is its size and homogeneity – 5.4 million people, most of whom are of Danish ancestry. It is basically a clan – and informality, disputation and disrespect for authority are core Danish traits. A few clear goals and lots of leeway to achieve them.     

Source: IEDC 

Lego – exemplar for Denmark

December 16, 2007

Last year Danish toymaker Lego announced plans to outsource most of its manufacturing to Eastern Europe and Mexico – only 300 blue-collar jobs remain at Lego’s HQ in the town of Billund. 

Union leaders at Lego said “It was the best way to keep as many workers’ places in Denmark as possible…we want to make sure that they make money and we make money.”  

In Denmark, 76% of respondents in a recent poll said globalization was a good thing. And why shouldn’t they? Living standards in Denmark are among the highest in the world. Per capita income trails that of the U.S. but is distributed far more equally. Unemployment is just 3.1%. The country exports more goods and services than it imports.

And while only two Danish corporations (shipper A.P. Moller-Maersk and the Danske Bank) are big enough to make the FORTUNE Global 500 list, Denmark has more than its share of smallish, nimble, outward-looking firms well positioned in growth areas ranging from alternative energy to health care to high-end furniture. 

According to the latest rankings from the World Economic Forum (WEF), Denmark is the world’s third most competitive economy. It also has the second highest tax burden in the capitalist world, a generous welfare state, a heavily unionized workforce and at least five paid weeks off every year. It’s all part of a trade-off, the Danes say. Corporate taxes are low, and capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than ordinary income. There are few restrictions on trade.  

Employment Minister Claus Hjort Fredriksen says ‘the model we have found here – free education, free health care, a good financial situation if you lose your job, together with a flexible labor market and the size of Danish companies – somehow has struck something that is the answer to the challenges of globalization.” 

Denmark is now a darling of European social democrats and the country has been overrun lately with visiting journalists, academics and politicians looking for insights. Another thing is its size and homogeneity – 5.4 million people, of whom all but 478,000 are of Danish ancestry – are crucial to how the economy works.  

It’s basically a clan – and informality, disputation and disrespect for authority are core Danish traits. There are a few clear goals and lots of leeway to achieve them. 

Source: IEDC 

Danish view on clusters

November 14, 2007

Hi Rod, I just checked into your new blog for the first time.

It was a very positive experience. In particular I found the front page extract from John Houghton’s report to be very insightful, capturing the essence of what a governmental cluster strategy must be capable of achieving to get the expected outcome – improving linkages and generating investments.  

Here in Denmark clusters draw a lot of attention these days, recognising that cluster can be nurtured in order to improve capabilities, knowledge-sharing, research, and faster and better innovations. This requires government and knowledge institutions joining forces with private enterprise to drive the agenda.

However, much too often there is no regional framework to make sure that policies are being coordinated across various administrative levels, rendering the cluster efforts isolated and random.  When sharing insights on clusters, it is crucial to recognise the specific policy situation.

For instance, the uptake on clusters in UK was very powerful when the Regional Development Agencies came into place 7-8 years ago. Previously there had been next to no coordination of regional development, so the RDAs filled a policy vacuum. In this situation, and with substantial funding, RDAs had great impact.  

This is a very different situation from Scandinavian countries, where regional industrial policy has existed for many years, and where the level of coordination and political involvement in regional industrial policy making is substantially greater. Here, any attempt to introduce cluster building successfully as an industrial policy approach must recognise the organisational and political structures already in place. It should be recognised that a high level of coordination between a substantial number of public bodies and agencies as well as a high level of focus on industrial policy at a political level means that new approaches and ideas cannot be expected to be implemented overnight, but tend to be implemented incrementally. 

The skeptics claim that clusters are merely networks.

The network approach, so distinctly the main approach in Denmark, has its focus on the sharing of knowledge and experiences between companies. It gives the companies the opportunity to learn from each other across different sectors and on very specific issues. 

However, compared with the cluster approach, the network approach has clear limitations. There is no value chain linkage between the participating companies – hence there tends to be little or no strategic business focus. Obviously, this limits the amount of commitment by companies and only creates limited synergy. 

Your blog is excellent in distilling key findings from many qualified sources. The country pages are as yet limited, random and possibly outdated. But maybe this will encourage people to file updates!

All the best, Bjarne Jensen – Secretariat for REG LAB

We are THE experts in international networking
– for more information, contact us at or ring 61-2-62317261

Investment and innovation? See these EC and Canadian examples

November 10, 2007

From our archives, we have retrieved a very instructive note from Tijs Creutzberg, editor of the slick OREDI newsletter – part of the Program on Globalization and Regional Innovation Systems, Munk Centre for International Studies, Univ. Toronto. He gives some good examples of collaborative industry initiatives in Europe and Canada that could stir the interest of readers.  

Multimedia pole in Montbeliard in Franche-Compte (France) – Over the last decade, a territory better known for its automotive industry has developed competencies and employment in multimedia. Each year, over 150 international designers and artists are hosted in the Montbeliard area to develop their projects. The local universities support developments in the engineering of virtual applications. This is a good example of economic modernisation of existing activities by exploiting synergies.

Global Village in the Arcadian Peninsular (Canada) – the economy of the Acadian peninsula (francophone rural region) depends on seasonal activities. The population lives in small villages with very few services. An ICT-based program offers “intelligent integrated services” concerning the economy, education, governance, health services and francophone networking in Canada and beyond.

ICT for development of peripheral regions (Denmark) – the Danish Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation launched the “North Digital Program” to develop the ICT industry – 89 projects have been selected, covering digital administration, e-learning and qualification, culture and multi-media, industrial development. The program has helped make the region a dynamic learning territory.

Naval industry, Haute-Normandie (France) – 24 vertically linked enterprises decided to join forces following the loss of their principal client company in 1999. With the support of the trade unions and public authorities, they created the Industrial and Naval Centre of Normandie. The collective structure allows them to exploit the knowhow acquired by their employees.

Biotech cluster (Germany) – in 1996, the Federal Ministry for Research launched the Bio Regio program, and the Rhine Neckar triangle (Bade Wurtemberg Länder) has benefited. On the basis of its scientific resources and of existing enterprises, this cluster has now become one of the most creative in the field of biotechnology.

Mechanical sector cluster – transnational partnership between Tunisia & Languedoc Roussillon (France) – cooperation is underway between enterprises in the Metal Alliance Club for Industrial Development (CAMDIB) of the Beziers Region and some Tunisian SMEs. Mutual advantages derive from the sharing of markets and through the development of new opportunities on emerging markets.

See Tijs’ newsletter at 

Contact us at for further information

Denmark’s networking program

October 16, 2007

The program was inspired by the industrial districts in Italy. It was based on the idea that, together, enterprises can overcome obstacles and conquer markets beyond their reach and that external assistance can play a role in facilitating cooperation.

The program was designed by the Danish Technological Institute, funded by the central government, and implemented by the National Agency for Industry and Trade. The key player have been network broker, who helps to identify opportunities, brings participants together, and assists in implementing new ideas and projects. 

Cooperation between enterprises has been promoted through skilled external assistance and the leveraging of public resources. Over the five years of the program’s existence, 5,000 enterprises became involved in forming networks (out of a target group of 10,000) – 75 percent of participating enterprises expressed that the networking was making them more productive and raising their ability to compete, and 90 percent of respondents expressed their willingness to continue the practice of networking beyond the subsidy period.

The success of the program has positively impacted on the Danish business culture, and networking has become a natural option.  

In conclusion, public policy or government intervention can be a catalyst for creating clusters and networks.  

Source: Etienne B. Yehoue, IMF