Technical University of Denmark: Innovation—the lifeblood of our welfare society

Viewpoint Innovation is a prerequisite for progress and prosperity in Danish society. But innovation does not happen on its own—it requires a conscious effort in order to flourish.
Innovation is vital if Denmark is to be a global competitor, and if we are to maintain our high standard of living. Companies need to be innovative to survive—they must constantly develop products and processes that outperform the solutions offered by, for example, lower-wage countries.

Companies need innovative employees, making it vital for young people to learn to think creatively and translate their knowledge into useful ideas during their studies—and, above all, to be encouraged to put those ideas into practice, either as part of pre-existing companies or new start-ups.

This also means that DTU has a special responsibility to create and support an innovative mindset—first and foremost among the engineers we educate for the Danish society, but also among established researchers.

In 2013, DTU was the first Danish university to create an environment dedicated to student innovation, and it quickly showed its enormous potential. The students flocked to the workshop hall, which had been rebuilt for the purpose. And already the following year, DTU Skylab opened the doors to an even bigger facility with more laboratories, workshops, and inviting meeting places.

From the very beginning, the key words were openness and user control. The space needed to be high-ceilinged—both physically and figuratively—with room for testing wild ideas, lofty ambitions, and for collaborations—both inhouse and with the outside world. Throughout, the mantra has been: Skylab is the users’ house; they must help define the content to create the best framework for innovation.

And it has turned out to be the perfect cocktail. The space and its spirit encourage creativity and cross-disciplinary collaboration. The students have a wealth of ideas that the many laboratory and workshop facilities make it possible to develop on, and with start-up coaching, innovation courses, pitch events, and hackathons—where students solve challenges posed by companies—a fair share of those ideas reach beyond the University’s threshold and benefit users in the surrounding community.

The success was so great that more space was quickly needed. And in 2020 a generous grant from the A.P. Møller Relief Foundation made it possible to expand Skylab with a new building, so that innovative souls now have 5,000 m2 of inspiring space available.

This has also made it possible to invite researchers to become part of the innovative environment and to further strengthen external collaborations. Among other things, small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups will get the opportunity to become part of the Skylab Pilots collaboration project for the next three years—a project which will support partnerships and accelerate technological development in the companies.

As an elite technical university, DTU is committed to promoting innovation and to motivating both students and researchers to develop new solutions and technology that contribute to the sustainable development of our society. DTU Skylab has proven an excellent physical setting for this, and we in the management team further support the work by signalling that it is not only a good thing but also quite essential to spend time testing your ideas and contributing to innovation in society.

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