- Access to finance
- Employment incentive
- Fostering innovation
- Support of companies' growth
- Support of SMEs
The 'industrial PhD' and 'industrial post doc' schemes are investment types under the public Danish Innovation Fund targeting the business sector. In both cases, a candidate with a university-level education is hired in a private company (including SMEs) and at the same time enrolled in a public research institution at university level.
As far as the eligibility of candidates is concerned, an industrial PhD must have a master's degree, while an industrial post doc must have obtained a PhD degree within the past three years. The candidates work on the same research projects both at university and at the participating company. The Innovation Fund invests in research projects within all research fields, provided that the research project is of a high quality and is commercially relevant to the company. Seen from a restructuring perspective, the industrial researcher and the research project must offer the company the possibility of carrying out specific research and development tasks that create growth and employment - thus anticipating negative aspects of a possible restructuring.
The aims of the scheme are:
- to establish a more direct link between companies and research and development centres, such as universities;
- to stimulate the use of R&D in Danish companies, including SMEs;
- to support companies with a wage subsidy when hiring a researcher;
- to place a researcher in companies, thereby helping to solve specific internal problems or needs, thus anticipating or managing a possible restructuring, as well as establishing a bridge between the companies involved and R&D centres.
It is the private company that applies to the Innovation Fund for financial support for the project. The candidate who is then hired receives a wage from the company throughout the project, which is set to three years with possibility of prolongation. The company in question receives around DKK 17,000 (€2,280) a month in wage subsidy from the fund for the same period (three years, with a possibility of prolongation).
Both the company and the research institution provide a mentor as sparring partner for the industrial researcher (PhD or post doc).
In October 2019 the Innovation Fund has updated the guidelines for industrial PhD and industrial postdoc with a number of small clarifications to increase transparency in assessment criteria.
In addition, for industrial PhD candidates, the fund introduced a simplification of the rules for dispensation with regard to grade requirements.
- National funds
The Innovation Fund.
One of the targets of this instrument is that, in projects co-financed by the Innovation Fund, 8 out 10 of the companies should find it attractive to cooperate with research institutions at university level. According to the fund, this objective has so far been achieved.
Nonetheless, the Innovation Fund points out that it is difficult to obtain a direct measurement of the effectiveness of the support provided by the fund to the several and extensive projects supported, including the ones supporting industrial researchers.
The fund undertakes considerable investments, but does not have part in the profits. Thus, the Innovation Fund does not have a bottom line in the balance sheets.
The fund is cooperating with the OECD in order to find an effective tool to evaluate the projects more closely.
The opportunity to have an industrial researcher has been positively received by companies, universities and researchers, who now recognise an enhanced scope for the use of research funding. In a restructuring perspective, hiring an industrial researcher should contribute to securing innovation regarding products or processes in the company and thus anticipate unforeseen restructuring.
In 2018, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, Danish Agency for Institutions and Educational Grants asked for an international evaluation of the Innovation Fund Denmark (IFD). In the spring of 2019, the report of the selected team was published - Innovation Fund Denmark - Report of the International Evaluation Panel 2019. In general, the panel found that 'IFD has managed to create appropriate programmes that target the correct groups of applicants. All in all, the evaluation panel finds that IFD represents a well-functioning and agile addition to the Danish innovation system'.
About the industrial researcher in particular, the panel concluded the following:
'The industrial researcher programme is valuable for both the researcher employed through the programme and for the companies and universities involved. For the researcher, the programme offers a great starting point for a career in industry. For companies and universities, the programme offers an opportunity for better integration between academia and business. The industrial researchers are valuable knowledge brokers in this interaction'.
Some concern has been raised at university level on the fact that research could become too dependent on the interests of the businesses concerned, which would be in contrast with the principle of independent research in higher education institutions.
However, the panel behind the evaluation mentioned above concludes that 'Innovation Fund Denmark (IFD) is a key component of the Danish knowledge-based innovation system and is well on its way to meet the great expectations from policymakers and stakeholders that were set out when the fund was created'.