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Seven cardinal sins when applying to the Innovation Fund Denmark

Some researchers lack ambition and preparation, says the Innovation Fund Denmark’s regional employee René Damkjer. He recently met Health's Business Committee for some straight-talking about the most common misunderstandings – and the unknown InnoBooster and Talent Business Researcher programmes.

René Damkjer has agreed to help identify the seven most frequent 'cardinal sins' – we call them this because they can in practice give an application the kiss of death – though naturally with the addition of Innovation Fund Denmark's recommendations for what to do instead.

During the comming months, Health researchers with the courage to collaborate on one of the challenges that society is facing in a way that generates growth and jobs, can apply for some of the DKK 148 million Grand Solutions government funds that are earmarked for better health and clinical research. Not to mention the funds that can be applied for via entry points such as InnoBooster and Talent Business Researcher, which almost no Health researchers appear interested in.

"I have two general messages for researchers at Health; firstly that Innovation Fund Denmark is more than just Grand Solutions. There are other possibilities. And secondly, that when you as a researcher apply to Grand Solutions, you must address the specific requirements that are attached to the instrument. Otherwise your application will not be considered," says Senior Consultant René Damkjer, who is Regional Program Manager at the Innovation Fund Denmark office in the Central Denmark Region.

At the end of November, René Damkjer was invited to a dialogue meeting by Health's Business Committee, who wished to explore how researchers within the healthcare area could increase their chances in relation to a foundation that was launched in order to support the development of knowledge and technology which in turn leads to strengthening research and innovative solutions that benefit growth and employment in Denmark.

Since the Innovation Fund Denmark came into being in 2014 through a merger of the Danish Council for Strategic Research, the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation and the Danish Council for Technology and Innovation, the number of applications from Health have been relatively few and the benefits similarly modest. Possibly because some researchers have difficulty seeing their justification in a universe that refers to concepts such as investment and growth and also demands new workplaces.

For the same reason, René Damkjer agreed to help identify the seven most frequent 'cardinal sins' – we call them this because they can in practice give an application the kiss of death – though naturally with the addition of Innovation Fund Denmark's recommendations for what to do instead. Please note that cardinal sins 1-5 relate to the Grand Solutions instrument in particular.

Cardinal sin #1: Not addressing the requirement for growth and value sufficiently

Some researchers turn a blind eye to the requirement that research and innovation projects under Grand Solutions must lead to measurable value creation of social and/or monetary art. This is a sure way of ending in the ‘rejected' pile, so think broadly and address the requirement. Value creation can be the development of new products for sale and export (and thereby also jobs and possible profit), but it can also be fewer hospital admissions, reduced sick leave for patients, reduced pressure on practitioners and many other things. Think creatively!

Cardinal sin #2: Omitting an explanation of excellence

Some researchers believe that the most important aspect is the h-index, but the h-index does not have top priority for Innovation Fund Denmark. On the other hand, a prerequisite for consideration is being able to provide a crystal-clear description of the excellent research level – also in a global perspective. "We like to see the work lead to research publications, but you should not make publication the project's objective. Rather, read what we write about the requirements for scientific excellence," is René Damkjer’s advice.

Cardinal sin #3: Not having a recipient

Some people think that creating new knowledge is ‘enough’ in itself, but Innovation Fund Denmark does not generally invest in projects without a defined recipient that can invest in, take over, or sell the new innovation. As a rule, the recipient is a company, though it may also be e.g. a hospital. René Damkjer’s advice is: "Try and explore whether you can, for example, take the project to other countries. Whether there could be a business opportunity that a company can earn money from."

Cardinal sin #4: Forgetting about your users

Some applicants do not mention the project's or medicinal product’s users at all. Unwise! Both when applying for money for innovation projects designed to make people self-supporting through technological solutions – but also in general. In René Damkjer’s words: "It may well be that you can develop some kind of technologically smart telemedicine, but what use will it be if the project does not find out whether 76-year-old Karen can operate the equipment? Perhaps what she needs are only two buttons that are either green for 'everything okay' or red for 'call the doctor'. Always remember your users. This also applies when the users are surgeons or any other kind of professional in the healthcare sector."

Cardinal sin #5: Only looking at Denmark

Only thinking 'Danish' and 'Denmark’ does not work in a globalised world. Think globally, says René Damkjer, both when it comes to companies and partners from other universities. "If the healthcare sector in Denmark and France have the same issue or deficiency, then show in the application that you have vision and insight and that you are therefore able to get the right people involved in your research and innovation project," he says. "Remember that foreign companies and universities are covered by the same conditions in our projects."

Cardinal sin #6: Letting Copenhageners have InnoBooster for themselves

Hardly any AU researchers utilise the InnoBooster instrument, which provides the opportunity to apply for between DKK 50,000 and DKK 5 million towards the start-up of small and medium-sized companies. Whether failure to take an interest in the almost DKK 300 million available in the scheme qualifies as a cardinal sin depends on how you look at things, but René Damkjer recommends that researchers at Health also take a closer look at InnoBooster: "There are opportunities that researchers from Aarhus must also be able to utilise. For example, a private company can get a third of its development project financed, so it can then pay you to do research on the project," he says.

Cardinal sin #7: Not exploiting Talent Business Researcher

Talent Business Researcher covers the Industrial PhD / public Industrial PhD, as well as industrial postdocs and InnoFounder for students. According to René Damkjer, the figures tell their own story: In the past year, Aarhus University has only secured ten Industrial PhDs, while the University of Copenhagen has got fifty. René Damkjer acknowledges that one reason could be that the majority of the companies who wish to employ an Industrial PhD are found in the greater Copenhagen area. In that case the problem can only be solved by redefining our view of transport time: "If geography is such a big challenge, perhaps you should also ask yourself whether you should even be doing research. I think that in the long term a PhD student will run into bigger mobility challenges than a period of working in a company in Copenhagen," says René Damkjer.

René Damkjer ends by mentioning an unfortunate and widespread myth about researchers not being allowed to contact the foundation. Which there is no truth in. Applicants are welcome to ring if they need clarification about the application they are considering or have already begun preparing it. Employees at AU Health are always welcome to contact René Damkjer directly or to contact one of the foundation's Scientific Officers. All employees are listed with contact information on the foundation's website.

Lise Wogensen Bach: This is about us, too!

At Health, Vice-dean for Talent Development Lise Wogensen Bach is grateful that René Damkjer can clearly point out some of the mistakes and misunderstandings that happen again and again when researchers from the healthcare field apply to the Innovation Fund Denmark.

"There is no doubt that the paradigm shift which became very clear with the establishment of the Innovation Fund Denmark has for a period left some Health researchers with a feeling of 'all that talk about growth and more jobs has nothing to do with us'. Which is directly reflected in the modest number of applications," says Lise Wogensen Bach.

"With René Damkjer’s explanations and easily understandable approach, it is hopefully clear for most researchers that this is an incorrect assumption. And my hope is that in 2018 many more researchers will have the courage to apply, and not just to Grand Solutions, but also InnoBooster and Talent Business Researcher. Because we need it. Both at Health and in society in general," says Lise Wogensen Bach.

The deadlines for applications for Grand Solutions are 20 February and 14 August 2018. You can apply to InnoBooster on an ongoing basis, while Talent Business Researcher has 6 February, 2 May and 25 September as deadlines. Find out more at www.innovationsfonden.dk



Regional Program Manager and Senior Consultant René Damkjer
The Innovation Fund Denmark office in the Central Denmark Region
Email: rene.damkjer@innofond.dk
Mobile: (+45) 6190 5007

Vice-dean for Talent Development Lise Wogensen Bach
The Dean’s Office, Health
Email: lwb@au.dk
Direct tel.: (+45) 8715 2012
Mobile: (+45) 2548 8522