Denmark: champions of green innovation & IP

Denmark is a frontrunner in Europe when it comes to green innovation, fuelled by recognising the important role of IP, as Sidsel Hauge and Mikkel Roed Trier of AWA explain.

“Green” energy has been a top priority in Denmark for decades. The government has set ambitious goals which mean that 50% of electricity in Denmark is now supplied by wind and solar power, and it aims to have the country’s electricity system completely independent of fossil fuels by 2030.

A thriving culture centred on green innovation has emerged in Denmark, not only in energy, but also hardware and software innovation related to green products or processes, pollution prevention, waste recycling, green product designs and corporate environmental management.

Playing a defining role in this green innovation culture is the country’s recognition of IP rights and, in particular, patents.

Role of patents

In September 2019, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) published a joint report, “IPR-intensive industries and economic performance in the European Union”, that revealed that climate change mitigation technology (CCMT) industries accounted for 2.5% of the EU workforce and 4.7% of its gross domestic product.

Denmark leads the way in Europe—approximately 13% of all jobs are generated by patent-intensive industries, according to the report. In the EU, the salary level is 72% higher in patent-intensive industries and 93% higher for CCMT industries when compared to wages in non IP-intensive industries, the report reveals.

Following the report’s release, the director general of the Danish Patent and Trademark Office (DKPTO) Sune Stampe Sørensen said: “Patent rights play a crucial role in the competitiveness of green transition companies because they ensure companies have the right to their inventions and can safely export their green solutions to the rest of the world.”

Lars Holm Nielsen, leading senior policy adviser at the Confederation of Danish Industry said: “Patent rights are the foundation of the next generation of solutions and are decisive for the growth of startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”


Helping green technology

A myriad of organisations such as Green Innovation Group support green innovation in Denmark. The organisation started by hosting the Green Tech Challenge in 2015 which taught startups how to pitch to investors and navigate legal issues including IP rights. It now focuses on matching the needs in the private and public sector with green solutions.

Another initiative is the High Tech Summit series from the Technical University of Denmark which explore how leading digital technologies can change energy, transportation, manufacturing, construction and food and health to create a more sustainable future.

Green technology is an important part of Danish industry and this support mechanism encourages future development.

Boosting green innovation

Denmark holds a unique position on the global stage and has the knowledge to help other countries with their green transition journey. Its success is due to several factors, but the country’s early recognition of the important role IP plays to encourage innovation has been key.

Danish SMEs and startups are among the top performers in Europe in terms of IP activity. However, according to the report “Denmark’s Strong Green Position” from the DKPTO, they lag behind larger Danish companies that are more active in IP.

“Denmark holds a unique position on the global stage and has the knowledge to help other countries with their green transition journey.”
Sidsel Hauge and Mikkel Roed Trier, AWA
Sidsel Hauge
Mikkel Roed Trier

The country is developing ways to help close that gap, and this necessity has been recognised at the highest political level. In a press release, the Danish Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, Simon Kollerup, said: “Our future green patent activity must continue to ensure a strong foundation for new green business adventures.”

Innovation frequently originates from smaller companies and there is an urgent need for innovative and sustainable solutions that tackle global environmental and climate challenges. It seems there is a consensus, at least in Denmark, that increased IP knowledge and improved funding for startups and SMEs play a crucial role in reaching the Danish and global green goals.

Innovation is also needed in how to approach these needs, and interesting activities are beginning to surface in Denmark. For example, the Confederation of Danish Industry is pushing for tax benefits for IP advice especially for green technology SMEs, and the DKPTO is launching social media IP awareness campaigns directed towards SMEs and startups.

Fact File
  • 47%: percentage of Denmark’s electricity created by wind power in 2019.
  • 2050: the year Denmark targets to reach carbon neutrality

An example of this includes sharing case studies concerning IP experiences from Danish SMEs and information on how SMEs can benefit from utilising all aspects of the IP system on the DKPTO’s LinkedIn page.

In addition, the Danish newspaper Børsen has published several stories this year about patents and SMEs with quotes from the DKPTO, showing the office’s efforts in elevating the issue to Danish mainstream media have been successful. Sidsel Hauge is a patent attorney, chief executive of AWA Denmark and vice-president of the AWA Group. She can be contacted at: sidsel.hauge@awa.com Mikkel Roed Trier is a patent attorney and partner at AWA. He can be contacted at: mikkel.roed.trier@awa.com

Images (from top): Shutterstock.com / fokke baarssen

Issue 3, 2020

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