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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

Startup Culture – Tue David Bak shares his insights and predictions

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Promoting Enterprise is proud to welcome back Tue David Bak, director of Innovation and Growth for Region Zealand in Denmark. In his second interview with us, Tue sheds some light on startups, accelerators and incubators in Region Zealand and Denmark, current trends and the regional influences on startup culture.

Do you have many accelerators and incubators in Region Zealand? Are they successful?

In Denmark we have actually worked to avoid having too many regional accelerators and incubators, we prefer to have these bodies on a national level so as to keep them open to all Danish and even global companies. Global companies are not excluded from accessing our incubators and accelerators. As long as they have a Danish license and a physical presence in Denmark they can access all the resources. Through this openness we hope to facilitate a link between the Danish and global markets, thus making Denmark just as attractive as the Silicon Valley and other innovation hubs.

What trends are you seeing on the startup scene?

There is an increasing acknowledgement from startups that they do need help. The old idea of two guys in a garage doing everything on their own and not needing any support is starting to be replaced by the realisation that getting a startup to take off is difficult and that there a multitude of resources to draw from and that they are there for a reason. This links to another trend which is an overall change in mindset regarding partnerships. Similar to the collective realisation that they need help, startup founders are specifically beginning to value the need for partnerships with mentors, larger companies etc.

What trends are you seeing in startup culture? For example, does geography play a role?

Absolutely, just looking at the differences between Northern and Southern Europe is an illustration of the role of geography. I have more experience and expertise in Northern Europe, and overall I have seen that there is a strong entrepreneurial culture in Northern Europe, including acceptance of changes of career as a ‘normal’ part of professional life.

Even within countries geography is a big influence, a startup or company located in a rural area will not behave in the same way as an urban counterpart. Rural startups are more traditional working on the idea of being your own boss and are often less aggressive in their approach to scaling up. They are also more in line with the traditional Danish culture which means not standing out or drawing attention to yourself. In contrast urban areas are experiencing an aggressive growth of entrepreneurs.

Innovation in startups: Synchrotron-based microscopy at laboratory scale (Xnovo)

Tue David Bak will be back next week on Promoting Enterprise for his final interview on the future of innovation and enterprise and what Denmark and the EU need to focus on to stay competitive.

Read his first interview: Innovation – What is it and how can it be fostered?

Build strong foundations to scale up

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You’re not on your own: Business Incubators and Accelerators are there to help you develop a sustainable model that will help your business not only survive, but thrive.

SurreyCentre

Castles built on sand have the tendency to find their foundations washed away and the same applies to companies.

A quick look at the stats shows that 46% of business failures in the first three years are due to incompetence, and a further 30% are a result of unbalanced or lack of managerial experience. This suggests that obtaining management training and good advice should be at the top of an entrepreneur’s ‘to do’ list. There are many who have a great idea and then rush into production, start hiring lots of people, pay themselves a large salary and then find themselves with a failed company. But this decline and fall is entirely avoidable if the business is built on strong foundations.

Business incubators could be the answer. Incubators and accelerators are organisations established to provide space, training and business services to startups to ensure that they’re properly run, adhere to relevant regulations and have access to experienced management advice. So successful have these incubators been that just about every country in the EU has them, often associated with universities or funded by local authorities. The incubator success rate is impressive: around 87% of businesses that have been incubated survive the difficult first three years and go on to scale-up successfully.

A recent University Business Incubator conference revealed the top ranking European incubators and reported that “Europe’s business incubators have attracted a total of $2,4b in investment, meaning each of the 117 incubators has received an average of $20m each. With regard to deal flow, Europe as a whole receives 15.3k applications per year, equating to an average of 131 per incubator. In the last five years Europe’s business incubators have created 40,500 jobs (346 jobs per incubator) and over the same time period generated $5.6b in sales, equating to an average of $47m in sales per incubator.”

The vast majority of startups that survive the first three or four years then scale up, often still with the help of an Incubator or Accelerator, while others set their sights on becoming a publicly owned company trading on a stock exchange.

However, as Eric Forest, Chairman and CEO of EnterNext, a subsidiary of the EuroNext markets dedicated to SMEs, says:

An IPO is a very important step for any company, large or small, and has to be meticulously prepared. The listing process brings the opportunity for the management to step back and formalise the company’s perspectives. It requires a re-examination and a clarification of the company’s business and strategy. Communication and reporting obligations also imply structuring efforts that are extremely valuable for the company’s management. It is, moreover, key to unify the internal teams around the project and to sharpen the equity story to convince investors about the company potential.

At EnterNext, we decided to provide the means to help companies entering the market in the best possible ways. For instance, in 2015, we designed the programme TechShare, which is a unique one-year pan-European course to familiarise non-listed innovative businesses with capital markets and gives them the information they need to take their companies to market. Although the listing obligations are often considered as “constraints”, they actually help entrepreneurs to build their castles on the rock.

R2I-Surrey-Phase2_2015-03Going public is definitely not a step to be taken lightly since one of the first things that happens is the entrepreneur has to give way to the professional business manager, which effectively means losing control of the company, or at least, the spirit of the company. If the scale-up has been successful, then this may not be a problem but recognising when to hand over the reins is always difficult. Again, this is where Incubators and Accelerators have a major role to play: they are not just for start-ups but generally have expertise in scaling up businesses and can guide the entrepreneur towards making the right decision before putting them in touch with the appropriate professionals.

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