FoodNavigator spoke with Søren Madsen about Denmark’s first ever Food Cluster, intended to unite companies to share talent and innovation, and to come together to boost the image of the Danish food industry. Madsen goes by the title of ‘clusterpreneur and inspiration manager’ at Agro Food Park, a company park for food and agriculture innovation.
“We have been working for the past year to create the Danish Food Cluster,” he said. “We are a little bit frustrated that when you sit outside Europe and try to see where to put European activities, Food Valley and Wageningen are the only places you see.”
That said, a recent report from Wageningen – this renowned hub of cutting edge food science – put Denmark ahead of the Netherlands in terms of innovation.
“I think it’s because Denmark has pretty large companies, like Arla Foods, Danish Crown, Dupont and Chr. Hansen, and they all have their own strategies to conquer the world,” he said. “We have five universities all fighting to get a platform within agriculture and food. …We are a big exporter, and when you are a big exporter, you need to be innovative. Food ingredients are one of the Danish strengths.”
Indeed, agriculture and food account for more than 20% of Danish exports. However, Madsen concedes that this plurality of companies, universities and innovations could be part of the reason Denmark lags behind The Netherlands in attracting international talent.
“One reason we are not well branded as a food innovative country is we are extremely fragmented. Things are not connected in any way. Some of our companies may be branded [internationally] but we are not joined together.”
Therefore, one of the main goals of the Danish Food Cluster is to get Denmark noticed on a global level. When international companies are considering where to base their European operations, Madsen is keen to stress that Denmark is an attractive option.
“The Danish Food Cluster has to do two things,” he said. “Maybe the most important is trying to attract companies, talent and investment to Denmark. We hope over the coming years to be more visible outside Europe…We should be able to make it much more visible that we are a very attractive place to work within agriculture and food.”
He added: “The other thing is to try and get a more coordinated innovation effort in Denmark.”
Madsen sees the success of the Danish Food Cluster as critical for the long-term success of the Danish food industry on a global level, pointing out that many of the companies that people think of as Danish are actually owned by international companies.
This means that it is up to people outside Denmark where they choose to place their investments.
“We need to make the owners of our companies realise that they are not isolated islands in the world but are actually part of a very interesting food culture,” he said.