The Novo Nordisk Foundation
The Novo Nordisk Foundation dates back to the 1920s when August
Krogh and H.C. Hagedorn established Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium and later
Nordisk Insulinfond, and the brothers Thorvald and Harald Pedersen established
Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium (later Novo’s Fond).
The Novo Nordisk Foundation was founded in 1989 by a merger
of Novo’s Fond, Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium and Nordisk Insulinfond.
The Novo Nordisk Foundation is a Danish commercial foundation
which operates independently of any other interests than those described in the
The Foundation is governed by the Danish Foundation Act, for which
reason the Danish Business Authority has oversight of the
The object of the Novo Nordisk Foundation is:
- to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of Novo Nordisk A/S, which is engaged in research, development and production within and sale of pharmaceuticals and related products and services; of Novozymes A/S, which is engaged in carrying out research, development, production and trade within biological solutions; and of any future public or private limited companies in which the Foundation’s subsidiary, Novo A/S, may hold a material equity interest or over which Novo A/S may have material influence, whether through proxy or otherwise,
- to support physiological, endocrinological, metabolic and other medical research,
- to support research hospital activities within diabetes in Denmark, and furthermore
- to support other scientific, humanitarian and social purposes.
Board of Directors
The Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of a total of nine members, of which six members are elected under the Articles of Association and three are employee-elected board members.
The six board members elected under the Articles of Association (of which two must have a medical or scientific background) are elected by the members elected under the Articles of Association for one year at a time and may be re-elected. The Board of Directors has prepared a competence profile describing the preferred competences for members of the Board. Furthermore it is the Foundation’s goal to have at least one member of other nationality than Danish and at least two members of each gender elected under the Articles of Association before 2019. On the basis of this, the chairmanship presents a proposal for nomination of current and new board members to the Board of Directors. Ordinary election of board members takes place at an ordinary board meeting in March each year. The Articles of Association stipulate that board members resign at the end of the electoral period of the member in question but can be re-elected until they reach the age of 70.
In addition, the Board of Directors consists of three employee representatives elected by and among the employees of the subsidiaries of the Foundation, Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S, in accordance with Danish law. Employee-elected board members serve for a four-year term and have the same rights, duties and responsibilities as board members elected under the Articles of Association.
The Board of Directors elects among its members a chairman and a deputy chairman at the ordinary board meeting in March who constitute the chairmanship and who plan the board meetings.
The board of directors
- approves the overall strategy for the foundation,
- grants all major awards and decides a framework for other awards where a committee identifies the recipient,
- oversees the commercial activities in Novo A/S including the companies in the Novo Group,
- supervises the performance of the foundation and the CEO, and
- ensures a proper organisation of the foundation.
The Board of the Novo Nordisk Foundation decides which areas the Foundation will support and establishes specialist committees comprising experts of the highest international calibre. The Foundation also draws on external international experts. This structure ensures that every applicant receiving a grant from the Foundation has been subjected to comprehensive peer review, thereby guaranteeing that the application is assessed on its quality, potential and viability and on the merits of the applicant’s qualifications before the Foundation decides on a grant.
The Board of the Foundation decides on the rules of procedure and every year it decides on the framework for the committees’ work, including their specific grant instruments and the amount of money allocated for these.
The committees are elected for a period of up to five years. The members can be re-elected once.
The two board members with a medical or scientific background also function as chairmen of the Foundation’s permanent committees, i.e. the Committee on Medical and Natural Sciences Research and the Nordic Research Committee.
The Board of Directors holds at least four ordinary board meetings and a number of additional meetings where more strategic issues are discussed.
The Board of Directors determines and approves the board members’ remuneration for the preceding financial year at an ordinary board meeting in March where the group accounts are also considered. The Foundation’s remuneration policy is that the board members should receive a reasonable basic remuneration for their work on the Board of Directors. The chairman of the Board receives three times the basic remuneration, while the deputy chairman receives twice the basic remuneration. The two scientific members receive a fee for their other duties in the Foundation, including as chairmen of the two committees, in addition to the basic directors’ remuneration.
In 2015 the basic remuneration was DKK 250,000, the deputy chairman's remuneration was DKK 500,000 and the chairman's remuneration was DKK 750,000. In March 2016 the Board of Directors of the Foundation decided that the remunerations in 2016 will be the same as in 2015.
Each year, the Board of Directors evaluates the work of the Board of Directors and the cooperation between the Board and the Executive Management in order to identify areas for improvement. The evaluation is facilitated by the chairmanship.
The framework for the work of the Board of Directors is laid down in the Board of Directors’ rules of procedure which are evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that they reflect the activities of the Foundation at all times.
The Board of Directors has decided who will speak on behalf of the Foundation to the public concerning which matters. The Chair speaks on behalf of the Board of Directors about the Foundation's corporate interests while the CEO speaks on behalf of the Foundation about grant policies and strategies decided by the Board of Directors as well as all operational issues in relation to the Foundation's work.
The Novo Nordisk Foundation has established a CSR policy which covers the Foundation’s funding activities.
The day-to-day management of the Foundation is the responsibility of an executive who is responsible for all operational matters of the Foundation and for implementing the policies and strategies adopted by the Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors of the Foundation approves the executive’s employment based on a recommendation of the chairmanship. The chairmanship is responsible for evaluating the executive’s performance.
The accounts of the Foundation are audited by a state-authorised public accountant appointed by the Board of Directors of the Foundation based on recommendation by the chairmanship. The appointment of an auditor takes place each year at the ordinary board meeting in March where the group accounts are also approved.
PricewaterhouseCoopers was in March 2016 re-elected as the Foundation's auditor for a one-year period.
Recommendations on foundation governance
In June 2014 the Danish parliament passed new legislation on commercial Foundations effective of January 1, 2015. The Committee on Good Foundation Governance has made a set of recommendations, 'Recommandations on foundation governance' that the commercial foundations must address and explain in their annual report if the don't comply (the 'comply or explain' principle).
The Novo Nordisk Foundation follows all recommendations except the recommendation on the election period for board members. The committee has recommended that board members are elected for a minimum period of two years and a maximum period of four years. In 2004 the Foundation's Board of Directors decided with the approval of the authorities that the election period for members elected under the Articles of Association was changed from three to one year. The Board of Directors assesses that an election periode of one year better allows for the coordination of succession in the boards of the whole Novo Nordisk Foundation Group; i.e. in the operating companies, in the Foundation's committees and in the board of the Foundation.
In 1999, the Novo Nordisk Foundation established a wholly-owned subsidiary, Novo A/S, through a contribution-in-kind in the subsidiary of a share of the Foundation’s bond portfolio. All A and B shares in Novo Nordisk A/S previously held by the Novo Nordisk Foundation were transferred to Novo A/S on 31 December 1999. Novo Nordisk A/S was in November 2000 demerged into two continuing companies, Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S.
At the end of 2014, Novo A/S held 27% of the share capital in Novo Nordisk A/S and 74.5% of the votes in Novo Nordisk A/S. Similarly, Novo A/S held 25.5% of the share capital in Novozymes A/S and 70.7% of the votes in Novozymes A/S. The figures are exclusive of Novo Nordisk A/S’ and Novozymes A/S’ portfolios of own shares.
The Foundation’s shares in Novo A/S are non-negotiable instruments and may not be sold as long as the Foundation exists. By exercising the Foundation’s voting right in Novo A/S, the Board of Directors of the Foundation shall at all times:
- hinder any capital increase in Novo A/S, by which the Foundation would
lose its majority of vote in Novo A/S
- hinder any sale by Novo A/S of A shares in Novo Nordisk A/S and/or Novozymes A/S
- ensure that all decisions made in Novo A/S are made in compliance with and respect of the provisions in the Foundation’s Articles of Association.
The Board of Directors shall ensure reasonable consolidation of the Foundation through suitable appropriation of funds, possibly in Novo A/S, inter alia to enable the Foundation to participate at the discretion of the Board of Directors, possibly through Novo A/S, in future capital increases of Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S and thus maintain the controlling interest in these companies.
To the extent deemed necessary by the Board of Directors to uphold and develop the commercial and research activities of the Novo Nordisk and Novozymes as internationally competitive businesses, the Foundation shall in connection with a capital increase in Novo Nordisk A/S and/or Novozymes A/S or in connection with, eg, a merger of said companies with other companies be entitled to waive its controlling interest in Novo Nordisk A/S and/or Novozymes A/S. Notwithstanding the aforesaid, the Foundation shall strive to maintain material influence in Novo Nordisk A/S and/or Novozymes A/S through Novo A/S.
Objects of Novo A/S
The objects of Novo A/S are to administrate the bonds contributed in Novo A/S by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, to administrate and exercise its voting rights on the A and B shares contributed in Novo A/S by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and issued by Novo Nordisk A/S and, furthermore, to administrate and exercise its voting rights on Novo A/S' A and B shares in Novozymes A/S and through this to ensure that the Novo Nordisk Foundation receives a satisfactory financial return.
This object is to be reached through Novo A/S':
- ensurance that all companies in which the company has a material influence actively contribute to the development of the Novo Group and operate their business in accordance with the visions and values of the Novo Group,
- maintenance of a material influence in Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S,
- compliance with the rules and principles which are laid down in Articles 3 and 4 in the Articles of Association of the Novo Nordisk Foundation regarding exercise of the voting rights of A and B shares in Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S, respectively, and
- investment and financing business including placing of capital in companies and in real property domestically and abroad.
All operational and strategic matters in relation to such investment activities are the responsibility of and are handled by the Board of Directors of Novo A/S.
Exercise of ownership and voting policies
As Novo A/S is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Board of Directors of the Novo Nordisk Foundation actually constitutes the annual general meeting of Novo A/S.
According to the Foundation’s Articles of Association, the Board of Directors of the Foundation shall strive to have members of the Board of Directors of the Novo Nordisk Foundation elected as members of the Board of Directors of Novo A/S.
As part of the competence profile established for the Board, the Foundation strives to always have its chairman and deputy chairman elected as board members in Novo A/S.
The exercise of ownership in Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S is handled by Novo A/S; however the Foundation will always be involved if decisions require the approval of the Foundation.
All operational and strategic matters in relation to Novo A/S, Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S, respectively, are the responsibility of and are handled by the Board of Directors of Novo A/S, Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S, respectively.
Last updated July 8, 2016 by JxpL