The Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, Jesper Petersen, writes to Discover CleanTech to explain why and how his country is investing heavily in green research, technology, and education.

If you visit Denmark, we have many green sights to show you. If you go hiking or sightseeing in the countryside or along the coast, you will notice that wind turbines have become a natural background to many of our scenic views all over the country. If you visit one of our cities, you will probably notice how many Danes have the bike as their preferred mode of transportation. And if you need a snack break, you will find a big selection of organic groceries and vegetarian dishes on the menus in the country’s numerous restaurants.

The green transition is happening all over Denmark. From carbon capture projects in Copenhagen on the east coast to Europe’s largest offshore wind port in Esbjerg on the west coast. From large EU funded research projects on green jet fuel in the south to an interdisciplinary energy research centre in the north.

The Danish general election of 2019 was a green election. The Danish people wanted a new green direction and they chose a new majority and government to deliver it. And we have been working on it ever since.

In June 2020 we passed The Climate Act, which sets the goal to reduce Denmark’s emissions by 70 percent in 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. And the Prime Minister started off 2022 by setting the goal that all domestic air transport in Denmark is to be climate neutral by 2030.

We’re a small country and our contribution to the fight against climate change needs to reach beyond our own borders via global export of technologies and ideas. Research, innovation and education play a key role in achieving that.

Denmark invests almost 3.5 million Euro in public funding a year in research and innovation. That makes us one of the few countries that has a public research budget of 1 per cent of our GDP. In September 2020 we launched Denmark’s first national strategy for investments in green research, technology, and innovation. The strategy sets a long-term direction for green research and innovation accelerating the development of new green solutions and technologies. The development is centred around partnerships between universities, businesses, and other stakeholders, so that we bring together the people researching and developing new solutions and the people making them viable in the real world.

At the same time a lot is happening in our education system. A recent analysis shows that 65 per cent of Danish higher education programs are working actively with sustainability and the green transition. This will hopefully translate into talented graduates with green skills ready to work in the growing green industry. An industry characterised by inspirational businesses like Ørsted, Danfoss and Vestas, an abundance of green start-ups, and a brand new 170 million Euro Power-to-X-strategy.

Everything happening in our education and research sector – I hope and believe – will lead to new cutting-edge green technologies and solutions, which will help us reach our ambitious goals and lead the way for the rest of the world.

As I mentioned, Denmark is a small country and if our approach were solely to lower our own carbon footprint, it would not make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Instead, we want to be a frontrunner and a green inspiration worldwide. We want to work across borders and find international solutions. The Esbjerg declaration – where Denmark together with Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands committed to making the North Sea a green power plant of Europe – is the latest great example of what we can achieve if we work together across borders.

We want to show the world a green economy that is thriving and provides its citizens with a high quality of life. A green transition that does not come with painful side effects like unemployment and inequality. We want to show the world that a green investment is a great investment.

Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, Jesper Petersen. Photo: Morten Fauerby / Montgomery

Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, Jesper Petersen. Photo: Morten Fauerby / Montgomery

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