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Denmark frequently ranks as one of the best places in the world to start a business (Forbes, CopCap). But what’s key to creating a thriving startup country? What policies can make your country an entrepreneur-friendly one?

We spoke to Danish Minister for Business and Growth, Troels Lund Poulsen. Minister Poulsen has been instrumental in championing entrepreneurship in the country. Here, he talks about his digital priorities and the right policy environment for growth.

Troels Lund Poulsen

“We need to eliminate barriers for digital innovation. Our welfare is dependent on our ability to generate growth and now more than ever national growth is closely linked to global trends. I see digitalisation and new technology as key factors to enable us to increase growth in the coming years.

As the Danish Minister for Business and Growth, one of my key priorities is to help Danish businesses exploit the new opportunities and take the lead in the fourth industrial revolution that we face today. Increased use of big data, Internet of Things, robots and automatisation enables our businesses to increase productivity and compete on the international markets. With Industry 4.0, I also believe that we will see many more disruptors and scaleups in the market than previously seen.

Understanding digitalisation

Solid knowledge of the consequences of digitalisation must be in place in order to create the right framework for enterprises to fully explore the opportunities of Industry 4.0. This entails both comprehensive international analysis, as well as political appropriations of the consequences of digitisation and automatisation for business models and the workforce. Therefore, I have effectuated a fact finding mission in 2016 that aims to provide more comprehensive knowledge of the digital society, which can be utilised to eliminate barriers for our businesses competing on a digital international market.

In Denmark we already have a well-developed digital infrastructure, but we need to help SMEs and startups using digital opportunities, and not just in the big cities but all over the country. It is important to me, that we make sure that entrepreneurs and businesses in every corner of the nation have equal conditions for growth and development. That is why our recent growth plan focuses on the framework conditions in the rural areas. As an example we have allocated more than €26 million to targeted areas with poor broadband coverage, so that we can ensure there is high-speed internet throughout Denmark.

But there is only so much we can do on a national level to pave the way for successful digital innovation and growth. The businesses of today often operate on an international market from day one, and therefore the game changing efforts must be made on an international level.

Scaling up start ups

A stronger and more coherent digital single market can be a great driver for growth in all of Europe. It will facilitate cross-border e-commerce and the scale-up of digital startups in Europe. To reap the benefits we need to adapt our rules to the digital age, be open to new business-models and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and obstacles, which burden our businesses.

The curiosity and courage to try something new and start your own business are very important components for creating growth in a society. We are good at this in Denmark. We have a high rate of new businesses being created each year and it is relatively easy to start and run a business in Denmark. This is, in part, due to a continuous focus on minimising red tape.

But when it comes to scale-ups there is room for improvement. Most of the iconic global Danish businesses are more than 30 or even 50 years old. My ambition is to do something about that. This means that we have to encourage strong competition, digitalisation and automatisation, and we have to make sure that startups have access to necessary resources, in terms of capital as well as competencies, in order to meet the global markets.”