17 August 2016

Denmark: Probably the Best Biotech Sector in Europe

For the second year running, Denmark’s biotechnology sector has been awarded a top three ranking by Scientific American in their annual Worldview Report, which assesses countries worldwide according to their biotechnology innovation potential.  This global ranking puts Denmark ahead of all its European contemporaries, who are left wondering what gives Denmark its competitive edge?

Predominantly focussed around the Greater Copenhagen area, Denmark’s life sciences sector employs more than 40,000 people.  Many of these highly skilled employees are located in Meidcon Valley, home to almost 400 biotech and medtech companies.  Combine this with generous public sector investment of around €5.6 billion as well as a drug trial application process characterised by speedy processing (~6 weeks) and a high approval rate (~95%), and all the factors for success are present .

Central to the strength of all R&D and biotechnology companies is a strong intellectual property portfolio.  Not only are Danish biotechnology companies actively innovating, but they are also highly effective at recognising the value of their inventions.  The World Economic Forum has ranked Denmark 8th in the world for the number of International Patent Applications (PCT Applications) filed (as a function of population) in its 2015-2016 global competitiveness analysis .  Impressively, Denmark boasts 215.4 International Patent Applications filed per million of the population.    When compared to the four largest European economies, Denmark’s prolific patent filing puts them ahead of the UK, France, and the Netherlands, second only to Germany, who lead by a slender margin (see Figure 1).

Owing to convergence of all of these factors, it is no surprise that medical products account for Denmark’s largest export category estimated to be worth approximately 17 billion Euros per annum. Denmark’s biotechnology industry thus continues to serve as a role model to other countries operating under the current economic challenges faced by the Eurozone.  In the wake of Brexit, the UK would do well to follow Denmark’s lead.