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Tale ved åbningen af Innovationscentret i Hong Kong

Afholdt den 26. november 2011.

Secretary Lam, distinguished designers and members of the business community, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Less than two months ago, Denmark got a new government.                              

A government dedicated to show the world that Denmark is an open country – open to new ideas – open for international trade – open for investments and open for people. We welcome all of you to visit our country for business and for pleasure. But you do not need to go all the way to Scandinavia right away. The distance between Denmark and Hong Kong may be quite far, but through our people on the ground here in Hong Kong and all over China, we make sure to bridge the distance and simplify our collaboration. Today we are gathered here to officially inaugurate the newest member of the family of Danish innovation centres around the world. To paraphrase the American astronaut Neil Armstrong, when he sat foot on the moon in 1969, then I would say that today’s opening of Denmark’s innovation centre in Hong Kong is one small step for Hong Kong, but it’s a giant leap for Denmark. And a big step for me as well. This is my first visit to Chinese soil after taking up my position as Minister for Trade and Investment last month. In view of the thriving economy and enterprising design environment existing here, I have the distinct feeling, however, that it will not be my last visit to this fascinating region.  


And it shouldn’t. Because ever since Denmark established relations with Hong Kong more than 160 years ago, trade has been the very foundation of our cooperation. Hong Kong was already then, a gateway to China and this has remained the case, more than ever for the past 20 years. Today, Hong Kong still serves as a door-opener for Denmark to the Mainland, but it also holds enormous appeal for Danish companies in its own right, due to its steadily growing financial sector. The fact that more than 90 Danish companies are present in Hong Kong today is a testament to the economic importance of your region. And the growing importance of Hong Kong as the gateway out of China is just as interesting. The Special Administrative Region has established itself as the centre for the internationalisation of Chinese corporations who manage their overseas investments from Hong Kong.


To me, this city is an instructive example of what people can achieve by the sheer force of their ingenuity, their commercial talent and their hard work. You went from food shortages, rationing and hyper-inflation during the Japanese occupation in the 1940’es to become one of the most prosperous places on earth measured by GDP per capita. In the process, you - the people of Hong Kong - have shown a remarkable capacity to reinvent yourself in a dynamic and creative way in order to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Much the same can actually be said about Denmark. And looking towards the future, I firmly believe that to combine these qualities – ingenuity, commercial talent and hard work – as Hong Kong and Denmark have been able to do in the past, will serve us equally well in the future. Because innovation and economic growth really do go hand in hand. And growth – Ladies and Gentlemen – is what Denmark needs more than anything else today.              

As a consequence, innovation is also a fundamental part of my Government’s strategy to get the Danish economy back on a healthy growth track. Fortunately, Denmark already has several important assets working in its favour.
To mention a few could be Denmark’s highly skilled workforce, our flexible labour market, our modern infrastructure and an excellent co-operation between the research environment and the private sector.

But looking more closely at the future – it is also my firm belief that for economic growth to be sustainable in the longer term, it must be smart growth. But what exactly is smart growth? Some would ask. Is smart growth just a new fancy buzzword or a disguised attempt to introduce more taxes and levies on industry in a time of crisis? No it is not. In a nutshell, smart growth is about delivering solutions to the World’s emerging problems – such as; the shortage of clean water, climate changes, a growing elderly population, an increase of obesity and lifestyle related diseases, as well as the urge for entertainment from a growing pool of people simply being bored. By combining the pools of excellence already existing in Denmark within strategic sectors, with the need for global solutions, the potential for success is high. We can observe today, that the demand for clean water, clean energy and a clean environment in emerging economies like China, India and Brazil, as well as in other big economies, is increasing heavily.


The global competition for natural resources is becoming ever more intense each day – yes, by the hour almost – and that is also reflected in the steadily increasing commodity prices on world markets. This demand is likely to keep growing in the future. The good news, however, is that Denmark finds itself at the cutting-edge internationally in terms of research and innovation within these areas. It is my ambition that the Danish Government in a much more robust and comprehensive fashion helps Danish industry to unleash this potential which already exists. This does not mean that the Danish Government should adopt a “pick the winners”-strategy pure and simple. That will be too crude to work in practice. But it does mean that the Danish Government should ensure the best possible framework conditions for Danish companies operating in these areas. It is my mission as Minister to help Denmark thrive in today’s globalized economy by way of adopting a smart growth-strategy.


The targeted areas will be characterized by three things: Prospects for an increasing global demand, existing pools of excellence in Denmark and the possibility to render products and services to the wider society that we already prioritize. The targeted areas could include environmental protection and water, health and welfare solutions, climate and energy and the creative industry.


I am fully aware that the road towards implementing this vision of smart growth will not be easy and that it will not be possible to take any short cuts. But I do believe that it holds significant potential to pull the Danish economy back on a solid growth track. I for one will work hard to make it happen.    


Ladies and Gentlemen, it pleases me enormously to see that Danish companies know that they have to focus on innovation and be one step ahead of their competitors. One step ahead, in terms of finding new ideas, in terms of improving their business model and in terms of bringing new technology to the marketplace. They are fully aware that they need to be at the cutting-edge, when it comes to innovation, if they want to be successful in the globalized economy of the twenty-first century.       


This is especially true with regard to the huge Asian market. As you know better than most people, however, merely finding a great idea or knowing what is takes to succeed is not enough. You also have to go out and do it. And to do it, you need presence. You need to be present in order to meet the right people, convince them of your idea, shake hands with them and ultimately start doing business with them.


You cannot argue with presence, and Danish companies in general and Denmark’s small and medium sized in particular must be present where you find the right cocktail of creativity, innovation and venture capital. That is why the Danish Government has innovation centres in Silicon Valley, Munich and Shanghai, and that is why we are proud to open an innovation centre in Hong Kong today.

 

Our innovation centre in Hong Kong will be the first with a very specific focus - namely design. Of course, several options were looked upon before we took the decision about where to open our fourth innovation centre. What made the choice easy in the end, was the fact that Hong Kong has been a leading design center in the Asia-Pacific region for years. You have become a creative hub for product and graphic design, fashion and interior design as well as new business areas like design management and consulting services. 


In addition, your experience with building a strong design community and viewing design as a strategic growth sector for your economy, resembles our own experience with design in Denmark. The Danish Government supports an ambitious design-approach within public services and health care solutions.


In the capital – Copenhagen – the creative industries are today forming the largest business cluster. Consequently, the creative industries play an ever more important role in the Danish economy.

 
Let me also use this occasion and the attendance of Secretary Lam specifically to acknowledge the important role played by the Hong Kong Government in driving the development of the creative industries and launching a string of visionary initiatives aimed at helping the local design industry to thrive.

Of course, protection of intellectual property rights is a fundamental issue for anyone involved with design. Your Government has an excellent track-record in this context. In terms of the more design-related initiatives, I was very impressed by the establishment in 2009 of “Create Hong Kong” and the three funding schemes: the “CreateSmart Initiative”, the “DesignSmart Initiative” and Film Development Fund. These are clever and visionary examples of how you can attract creative industries to a city. I cannot promise you – Secretary Lam - that I will not try to emulate them, when I get back to Copenhagen. I hope that you haven’t got a copyright on devising intelligent government schemes to help the design industry?.....

 

But as you all know, one of the most significant events on the international design calendar is the “Business of Design Week”.  Only a few days ago, Denmark signed an agreement to become a partner country in 2012 for what is undisputedly Asia's leading annual event on design, innovation and brands organized by the Hong Kong Design Centre. We are very proud to have been selected as a partner. We look forward to connecting Hong Kong designers with their Danish colleagues.


I am convinced that the design week will create perfect networking opportunities for designers, business leaders and educators, as well as for small and medium sized enterprises in general.


Coming to the conclusion of my remarks today, I would like to stress that Denmark’s innovation center which opens today is a two-way-street. On the one hand, we want to learn as much as possible from you. On the other hand, we hope to attract your attention to the things that Danish designers have to offer. The mission walks on two legs so to speak. On a more fundamental level, however, the center is first and foremost about looking for new ideas and searching for new inspiration. About being curious and striving to succeed.


Let me therefore quote a man, who knew a thing or two about design, innovation and success – the late Steve Jobs. He said this about the importance of being curious, and I quote: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.” - I fully agree!

Thank you.