Copenhagen Science City has one of Europe’s highest concentrations of education and research in the fields of medicine, health and natural sciences.
The development of Copenhagen Science City started during the financial crisis, 2007-2008, when the Danish government wanted to help reduce unemployment and get some power back into the economy, describes Kristoffer Klebak, Head of Secretariat of Copenhagen Science City at the University of Copenhagen.
“We saw some big investments in buildings in the area of the University of Copenhagen, the University College of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital. This is what kick-started the collaboration between these three knowledge institutions, the City of Copenhagen and a number of other key partners,” he explains.
Copenhagen Science City is centrally located in Copenhagen and hosts roughly 40,000 students and researchers, as well as 450 companies, which makes it a melting pot of innovation, science, business and cutting-edge facilities. The science city has one of Europe’s highest concentrations of education and research in the fields of medicine, health and natural sciences, centered around the three institutions.
Copenhagen Science City is based on a partnership between knowledge institutions in the fields of biotech, life sciences, health, ICT and innovation, and public and private sector players. By utilizing its unique resources in the fields of medicine, health sciences and natural sciences it aims to create a strong knowledge and innovation community and to attract business talent and investment and increase the number of entrepreneurial students and spin-outs. The Secretariat of Copenhagen Science City works with three pillars/strategic focus areas, explains Klebak.
The first pillar is branding and attraction. “Branding is about developing a narrative around what is Copenhagen Science City, what our strengths are, what we have to offer. Attraction and retention is about attracting talent from abroad who want to come and live in Denmark. Copenhagen Science City is an opportunity for them to locate here. Same thing for international companies, life science or others. If they want to be part of this innovation ecosystem then we have a lot to offer,” he says.
The second pillar, innovation, education and entrepreneurship, is about getting people to collaborate more internally. “We do this by events where people get together around a particular topic or to see a new institution or facility, thereby creating network and also awareness about what is going on within the area,” says Klebak.
Klebak and his colleagues have for example been involved in creating a new innovation center, a physical building where students who want to start their own company can come and team up with other students, get advice on whether their idea or invention is going to work or not, and get information on how you start a company, how to get finance, and so on.
“When we build new buildings and metro stations we need to make sure that you can easily get from A to B within the innovation district. It should be walkable or cyclable.”
The third pillar is called physical urban development. “When we build new buildings and metro stations we need to make sure that you can easily get from A to B within the innovation district. It should be walkable or cyclable,” says Klebak.
In their development of the innovation district, Klebak and his colleagues follow the development of other innovation districts in the world, and get inspiration from them. “One of the leading innovation districts is Kendall Square in Cambridge Massachusetts where you have MIT at the core. They have also developed an amazing innovation district together with companies and other partners in a small geographical area,” notes Klebak.
“One of the leading innovation districts is Kendall Square in Cambridge Massachusetts where you have MIT at the core.”
He and his colleagues work together with local, regional and national authorities and with private investors to strengthen the area’s urban qualities and transport infrastructure, and to create more space for innovative companies and other actors who can strengthen our innovation ecosystem.
The innovation district possesses several features that improve collaboration and innovation in the area. As an example, the campus park Universitetsparken connects several parts of Copenhagen Science City. Routes for pedestrians and cyclists through the park provide a close physical tie between the areas.
Universitetsparken offers a range of research and educational activities, and knowledge industries are strongly represented here in the form of BioInnovation Institute and Copenhagen Bioscience Park – COBIS.
Rigshospitalet, Denmark’s largest hospital, is another flagship in the Danish healthcare system. The correlation between buildings and connecting areas, such as the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen in the Panum Building, facilitates collaboration activity, and areas are adapted to promote interdisciplinary exchange.
“The tower contains both research and teaching facilities, as well as a conference center with auditoriums and meeting rooms, connected to the latest technology.”
The great landmark tower, Maersk Tower, completed in 2017, is an extension of the Panum complex. The tower is a state-of-the-art building whose innovative architecture creates the optimum framework for world-class health research and education. The tower contains both research and teaching facilities, as well as a conference center with auditoriums and meeting rooms, connected to the latest technology. In developing the scheme, architects at C.F. Møller worked closely with the Panum Institute’s researchers to create a design that reflected the university’s collaborative approach: to create a future research environment based upon openness, where open laboratories and transparent glass walls seek to enable new ways of working across disciplines. The goal of the new research facility has also been to build a connection to the surrounding society and to open the university up towards the city and society at large.
“The architecture, especially the looping layout of the research floors, the openness between floor levels and connectivity by an internal stairway, are all key points of exchange and collaboration internally, supporting accessibility from three different sides in a three dimensional setup, working side-by-side and creating the possibilities for a much more flexible way of expansion, contraction and knowledge sharing under one roof than in a conventional setup, where there is no connectivity between floors and knowledge sharing is trapped in a conventional layout with closed corridors,” said Mandrup Hansen, Partner at C.F. Møller and lead architect on the project, in a previous interview with Nordic Life Science.
The Haraldsgade area of Copenhagen Science City houses the University College Copenhagen’s health and technology programs of study and is another important feature. Surrounded by housing associations and residence halls, the streets abound with traditional and innovative small businesses, and the area is a part of the burgeoning growth environments of Nørrebro and Østerbro. The Haraldsgade area aims to integrate activities for businesses and residents and to attract innovative companies and entrepreneurs by providing facilities for collaboration between knowledge institutions and businesses.
Proximity is key
Like other innovation districts, proximity is key and a great advantage, not least to Copenhagen’s life science industry. “We co-locate, co-create and co-operate, it’s very much about the proximity of being so close to other companies like your own so that you can collaborate or recruit students and collaborate with researchers,” says Kristoffer Klebak.
“Culture is around the corner, there are very attractive residential areas in and outside Copenhagen Science City, which means that it’s easy to recruit and retain people who live nearby, and there are nearby international schools. I think the main thing, however, is the ability to be in touch with other people immediately, there is not so much transport involved.”
Copenhagen Science City is centrally located in town, contrary to many other innovation districts that have been given a piece of land further away from the city center, he says. “You can cycle to central Copenhagen in ten minutes. Culture is around the corner, there are very attractive residential areas in and outside Copenhagen Science City, which means that it’s easy to recruit and retain people who live nearby, and there are nearby international schools. I think the main thing, however, is the ability to be in touch with other people immediately, there is not so much transport involved.”
Copenhagen will for the first time host the Nordic Life Science Days event in 2023. “The event will take place at Bella Centre outside Copenhagen Science City. We will collaborate with our partners to make the most of this important event,” says Klebak.
For life science companies there are many great advantages to locating in the Copenhagen Science City and Kristoffer Klebak feels that the need for more office and lab space is just as much an opportunity as it is a challenge. He hopes that in the coming years it may be possible to create more space for the many companies that would like to locate in the innovation district, as this would be of great benefit to the innovation ecosystem. “It would also create growth and jobs, and potentially new solutions to societal challenges,” he concludes.
Featured images of Stipps Research Group (Photo: Mikael Schlosser) and Maersk Tower (Photo: Adam Mørk)