Innovation Cities

The next city aiming to become a high-tech boomtown

Holly Ellyatt and Anmar Frangoul
Why Copenhagen is an innovation 'hotspot'
Why Copenhagen is an innovation 'hotspot'

Copenhagen's high-tech industries are poised to boost Denmark's economy as the capital city sets its sights on becoming a hub for innovation and green living, with two companies looking at overhauling healthcare.

"We have an ambition put forward by companies and the authorities who really want to turn Copenhagen and Denmark into something new," Claus Lønborg, chief executive of investment agency Copenhagen Capacity, told CNBC Monday.

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"We have a really talented pool of people round here with high educational skills and highly trained people here embracing new technologies," he added.

With a population of 560,000 people, Copenhagen might be one of the smallest European capitals, but the Danish government has been looking to promote the city as a hot spot for green technology and living as it looks to become fully carbon neutral by 2025.

Copenhagen's climate plan aims to show the world that "it is possible to combine growth, development and increased quality of life with the reduction of CO2 emissions," according to the plan's stated objectives.

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The country has already made progress in generating power from alternative sources of energy with 28 percent of its power generated by wind turbines while, in Copenhagen, water-saving mechanisms and solar-panelled buildings have become a common sight.

"Right now we're building a waste to energy power plant in Copenhagen, that basically turns your household waste, like a typical bag of three kilos of trash… into four hours of domestic [electricity]… and five hours of heating," Bjarke Ingels, founding architect of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), told CNBC Monday.

"It has become sort of a given that if you're doing any urban project it has to have a social agenda and an environmental agenda," he added.

The Danish government is working closely with the city's educational institutions, business community and citizens to reach its aims. It has said that embracing green technology could also spur economic growth – an important factor for the country as it is only just recovering from the financial crisis of five years ago.

Like its Nordic neighbors, Norway and Sweden, Denmark is not part of the euro zone but it still managed to get caught up in the region's economic slowdown. After contracting by 0.5 percent in 2012, however, the Danish economy is expected to grow by 0.7 percent in 2013, according to the European Commission.

Despite the downturn, a large number of Danish companies have been focusing on exploiting new technologies -- something the government and industry leaders are keen to promote.

One area in which Danish companies are leading the way in terms of innovation is hearing aids. Danish manufacturer GN Resound has teamed up with Apple to create a 'made for iPhone' hearing aid, which will connect directly to iPhones using technology similar to Bluetooth.

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"We are making products that a number of people need, but nobody wants to wear them, because it's related to a stigma…we try to de-stigmatise it with the technology that we have," Lars Viksmoen, CEO of GN ReSound, told CNBC.

"You're now able to stream directly to a hearing aid without…[a] dongle around your neck...and now you will also be able to stream directly from an iPhone, so you can pick up the call on your iPhone and use your phone as everybody else uses their phone," he added.

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Another Danish company embraced the design world in order to develop one of its most successful products now in use throughout Europe and the U.S. Danish pharmaceutical manufacturer Novo Nordisk and design company, Designit, worked together fifteen years ago to create the prefilled insulin pen, a device that has become commonly used by diabetics in Europe and U.S., largely replacing the traditional syringe delivery device in the former.

Mikal Hallstrup, chief visionary officer at Designit said that the design company worked with the healthcare industry as well as the automotive, energy, financial services and telecoms industry. "Design is not about decoration, it's basically about having the right foundation…We think this cross-pollination [of design, technology and industry] is really good," he said.

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