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The future of innovation and enterprise – What can we expect?

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Tue David Bak, director of Innovation and Growth for Region Zealand in Denmark, is back for a final interview with Promoting Enterprise. Today the subject is the future, what does it hold for innovation and enterprise? What can we expect? What are the trends telling us? Read on to find out…

What trends do you see in innovation?

In Denmark specifically, the public sector is embracing innovation, which I see as a positive thing. Overall, user driven innovation is increasing, as consumers and users begin to play larger roles in development, and there is a shift from only research based innovation. The current trend is disruption of society as there is a need for innovation for us to advance.

What measures/steps are you taking to encourage digital innovation in Region Zealand?

In Region Zealand we currently don’t do enough and as such we are not a front runner in the digital space. In Denmark however there have been some steps towards pushing companies to work digitally and make that digital transformation. The Danish Business Authority (which takes care of company registrations and working in the Danish public sector) took the controversial decision to make it mandatory for all companies to digitally invoice if they wanted to work in the public sector. Initially there was a lot of resistance but overall it helped – and is still helping companies – to transition to the digital sphere. As such, Denmark has no physical paper trails for monetary transactions and the public sector is going fully digital. That is truly innovative.

As director for innovation and growth, what do you see as the future of enterprise?

The same situation can be seen across all the EU countries, the public sector is under enormous strain which has and will continue to be a catalyst and driver for innovation. This in turn will result in increased cooperation and further blurring of public and private divisions. This blurring of divisions also relates to how the idea of employment is changing and evolving, which is not to say it is negative, but simply means that new working models are beginning to emerge. I see the future of enterprise as no longer including the ‘employee’ concept, I think this will be phased out. It is not uncommon now and nor will it be in future to have multiple jobs or hybrid employment models, alongside an overall merging of individuals and companies.

What does the future of enterprise look like in Denmark? Do you think it is different to global trends or where the future of enterprise will go globally?

Denmark has always had a strong focus on creating a business environment conducive to startups and entrepreneurs. So far we have been successful, but we also need to change in order to stay competitive and innovative. The new focus now needs to be on helping startups to scale up. So the big question for us now is how do we scale up in Denmark? Perhaps a larger and certainly important question is, how do we scale up in the EU?

Innovation in large companies: CP Kelco, Region Zealand

If you enjoyed this insightful interview with Tue David Bak, be sure to read his other interviews right here on the Promoting Enterprise Portal.

First interview: Innovation – What is it and how can it be fostered?

Second interview: Startup Culture – Tue David Bak shares his insights and predictions

The future is an opportunity

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In a recent interview, Jan Vanherck, a well-known Belgian entrepreneur and Dean of the United International Business Schools in Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland, took the opportunity to look into the future.

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In 1975, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation and Fairchild Semiconductor, forecast the doubling of computer power every two years. Will this continue and how will it affect the world of the future?

His prediction has proven to be accurate over the past 40 years. It has led to an ever-accelerating progression and miniaturisation in all chip-based technologies, and this evolution has huge consequences for the world of tomorrow. Experts have forecast that computer hardware will match the human brain, in terms of creative design and analytical capabilities, in 15 to 20 years. The interaction between brain science and information technology will create artificial intelligence, a research field crucial to future generations.

Already, this increased computing power is delivering better understanding of the human body, and DNA sequencing is a good example.  In 1970, Nobel laureate, Jacques Monod, said: “The molecular size of DNA prohibits, without any doubt, modification of the genome. The sequencing of the human genome is impossible, or, anyway, unreachable in three to five centuries”. How wrong he was! Only six years later, the first genetic manipulation took place and in the first years of this century, the first full sequencing of human DNA was achieved. Just ten years later, the consumer genomics company 23andMe began offering genome sequencing for $999 and soon it will be available for as little as $100. This is the gateway to personalised medicine, particularly for the treatment of all hereditary diseases, and cancer.

Do you see other technologies having a similar effect?

Absolutely! For example, nanotechnology.  Nanoscience and nanotechnology are the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering. To give you an idea of what a nano size is, the thickness of printer paper is about 100 thousand nanometres. On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometre, then one metre would be the size of the earth.

Nanotechnology will allow us not only to develop medicines that act on the level of our cells and tissues, repairing defects on an inconceivably small scale, but also to build micro engines and micro sensors.

The technology will be widely available in a few years time and will extend our life expectancy dramatically. Neuro-genetic scientist, Laurent Alexandre, in a now famous TED-talk entitled,  “Le recul de la mort” (“The retreat of death”), summarised this evolution by saying that he believes that the first person who will live to be 1000 years old has already been born.

What about globalisation and entrepreneurs?

Globalisation is a term that has been politicised so let’s talk about global networks instead. They already exist, facilitated via the Internet and, from the point of view of society, it will make us interact with a lot of people, spread over the world, exchanging ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Political power will shift and emerging countries, such as China and India, will take a dominant role. New players and new markets will emerge. We’ll need to cope with different cultures, each with their own set of values.

Internet technologies, another area for innovators and entrepreneurs, are causing rapid changes in the world with the rise of Big Data. The world is becoming dominated by an all-knowing network. The fact that it gathers an enormous amount of data and, more importantly, has the computing power to actively process it and get information out of it, will force us to rethink a lot of things, privacy, for example, and freedom, family, friendship, love, and honesty.

Intellectual property is another issue. Billions of people thinking, generating ideas, writing papers, books, songs… Inventing new applications, offering new commercial services and products. Can individuals or companies claim the knowledge and decide whether they will use it, or simply put it in the fridge? Should we allow organisations to gather and process our individual data? How will we define ownership and plagiarism? These concepts were developed in the last century by a world where communication was done using handwritten letters, then wired phones and facsimile machines. Are these concepts strong enough to overcome the tsunami of the Internet and Big Data?

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What is the role of business education in all this?

We need to make sure that future entrepreneurs can handle the big, unknown challenges. Let me quote Gordon Moore again: “The technology at the leading edge changes so rapidly that you have to keep current after you get out of school. I think probably the most important thing is having good fundamentals.”

Learning does not stop. Only a few decades ago, the teaching of students was considered complete when they graduated. In the best case, people took a few refresher courses during their professional life and that was it. Today, with the vast amount of new knowledge in front of us, learning is a continuous activity. It doesn’t stop today, it simply goes on. It is important to realise that every theory and model we teach is only a statement of current knowledge and is only true in certain circumstances and those circumstances are subject to radical change at ever increasing speed. We need to teach our students – the entrepreneurs of the future – how to think because they are going to have to answer questions we’ve not yet even thought of. We need too re-think ourselves and our environment, and challenge everything.

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