Is intrapreneurship the key to rescuing Danish growth?

Entrepreneurship is increasingly becoming an element of the education programmes at CBS. Entrepreneurship applied within existing companies is known as intrapreneurship and it can contribute to future growth if properly used, says CBS President Per Holten-Andersen, who has some useful advice.


Innovation is the driving force behind development of the Danish economy. The latest figures from "Global Entrepreneurship Monitor" are thus cause for concern. "Opportunity perception", in other words the aptitude to spot opportunities for innovation, is decreasing in Denmark to a level below comparable countries. On the other hand, however, Denmark ranks high when it comes to "improvement-driven entrepreneurship". This means initiative driven by the desire to renew or improve existing products or services, i.e. bring out a new version of something. Together with other Scandinavian countries, Denmark is also in a strong position when it comes to "entrepreneurial employee activity". Here lies one of the great strengths of Danish (and Scandinavian) business culture: intrapreneurship – employees who take the initiative, develop something new and boost the business.

Save homeless innovations
In a predominantly manufacturing economy, company size plays an important role. Sectors are dominated by large companies, which make use of economies of scale, and industrial policy is largely devised in a dialogue with the largest companies. Since the early 1980s small and medium-sized companies have come to play an increasingly important role in Denmark. They account for high-growth businesses and new jobs. For this reason the economy needs more startup businesses and more growth in medium-sized companies. The key here is innovation.

Inventions are important – but they are not sufficient. Good ideas have to be developed, and an organisation has to be created with people, resources and funding and be given legitimacy. The difference between an invention and an innovation is entrepreneurship (or intrapreneurship). An innovation is an invention with a market, customers who pay and the opportunity for profit.

Innovation not only furthers the growth of existing companies, but a culture of innovation driven by intrapreneurship is also the layer of growth from which new companies emerge. Innovative companies experiment with ideas outside the company's strategy. In Denmark we have an aptitude for intrapreneurship. However it is also important for our future and our growth that "homeless innovations" are translated into new businesses.

Useful advice for a nation of intrapreneurship
How can Denmark create more startups from innovation in companies? How can Denmark evolve into a top-ranking nation of intrapreneurship? My advice is as follows: 1) Do not weaken the strong support for innovative activities in companies. 2) Foster a culture in which failure is considered all right. 3) Pump more money into research and development in small and medium-sized enterprises. 4) Recruit greater numbers of highly qualified people to small and medium-sized enterprises. The government has a lot of right things on its agenda. CBS trains both bachelor and masters students in and for entrepreneurship and more steps are taken each year, such as establishing a new chair in entrepreneurship and a new, strategic Business-in-Society platform, which coordinates cooperation on entrepreneurship with industry across the CBS departments. The Study programmes increasingly include entrepreneurship as an element, and more and more students are receiving support via the CBS Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) for setting up their own businesses.

These activities give the students an idea of how to start up a new company. Most of them never become entrepreneurs, but take up a post in an existing company, from where, using their knowledge about innovation and entrepreneurship, they competently and single-mindedly focus on developing new business avenues. This is intrapreneurship and it has the potential to ensure significant growth in Denmark.

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The page was last edited by: Communications // 02/03/2015