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Health science researchers should (also) be entrepreneurs

The School of Health Innovation has been educating researchers in Sweden and Norway in innovation since 2017. Now a grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation will expand the School to include Denmark with the aim of helping researchers to become more entrepreneurial, strengthen the Nordic networks and enable at least five new commercial projects to emerge.

Researchers in Denmark and the other Nordic countries should become more entrepreneurial. This will create a stronger bridge between university research and industry’s development of new medicine to benefit patients, the healthcare system and society. Therefore, the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Copenhagen is now joining the School of Health Innovation, which aims to provide healthcare and life science researchers with tools and insight into how innovation can be put to work.

“We want to accelerate the very first part of the innovation value chain inside the universities. It is therefore essential to offer researchers access to knowledge and skills, now also under the School of Health Innovation, so that we can diffuse more of the commercially relevant research into companies. We need to do this across the Nordic region and across Denmark – from PhDs to professors,” says Trine Winterø, Vice-Dean for Innovation and External Relations, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

The School of Health Innovation is the first and only Nordic initiative to offer courses in innovation as a postgraduate programme for the academic disciplines in the health and life sciences. The target group is researchers and clinicians at all levels – from PhDs to professors. The School was established in 2017 as a collaboration between the University of Oslo, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. During the first 3 years, 200 researchers have completed one or more of the three courses offered.

Participation is free of charge
The modules at the University of Copenhagen will be developed this spring and will focus on the strengths of Danish innovation in health, including pharmaceutical development processes, industrial collaboration and the ecosystem for entrepreneurs. The School is open for applications, and the first courses will begin in the autumn.

“The School of Health Innovation provides health science researchers with tools and competencies to improve our society. They learn how to commercialize their research and improve clinical practice. We are delighted that with Denmark joining the collaboration will produce an even stronger School of Health Innovation,” says Hilde Nebb, Professor and Vice-Dean for Internationalization and Innovation, School of Health Innovation, University of Oslo.

The School of Health Innovation offers 100 places annually, distributed equally among the three participating countries. The teachers, representing Norway, Sweden and Denmark, are competent and experienced professionals, including teachers from business schools and mentors from life science companies.

Participation in the courses is free of charge for health science researchers, and the School also pays travel costs for modules offered in other Nordic countries. The goal is to expand the programme to offer 140 places in 2023. Participants will be selected based on a motivational letter or descriptions of specific research projects.

More commercial projects
In addition to the overall desire to increase awareness of innovation, another ambition of the School of Health Innovation is that researchers develop specific innovation projects. Participants from the School have already taken the initiative to mature several projects in incubators, including SPARK Norway.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation therefore aims that course participants will initiate at least five new commercial projects by 2023 that either are included in accelerator programmes or have raised significant funding. The underlying principle is that the Nordic countries conduct world-class health research and have untapped potential for transforming the research results into new products and solutions.

“With this project, we want to contribute to strengthening the entrepreneurial culture among health science researchers and to improve their opportunities for a broader focus. Patients and society will also benefit from new medicine and treatments as a result. In the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, researchers are quite commonly involved in several start-ups. We want to contribute to this culture in Denmark,” says Mikkel Skovborg, Senior Vice President, Innovation, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The Foundation has awarded a grant of DKK 10.2 million to support the expansion of the programme from 2020 to 2023.

Fact box:

Courses offered by the School of Health Innovation

  1. Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    Content: Introduction to health innovation, hands-on experience with innovation processes and understanding funding and development opportunities. The course takes place in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
    7.5 ECTS points.
  2. Entrepreneurship in Healthcare
    Content: Developing a business plan, mentorship and milestone plan and translational research projects. The course takes place in Denmark, Norway or Sweden on a rotating basis.
    5 ECTS points.
  3. Innovation for Professors
    Content: Introduction to health innovation, business plans and commercializing research. Tools to identify research with commercial potential. The teaching takes place in Norway (2020), Denmark (2021) and Sweden (2022).
    Duration: 2 days.

Further information, including how to apply for the courses, is available at:

Further information

Anders Rosendahl, Senior Communications Partner, +45 7730 1532, [email protected]