Tech, talent, and sustainable futures

The Place2Place podcast brings together two place leaders from around the world for an insightful, honest discussion about how city, region, and nation brand and marketing organisations can tackle their biggest challenges. We’ve synthesised the key points of discussion from a previous episode to give you top-line access to these discussions. This conversation was originally released on June 23rd, 2021.

On paper, Copenhagen and Auckland are very different cities. They’re half a world apart, speak two different languages, and vary wildly in terms of size: Auckland is more than three times as large as Copenhagen, although they have very similar population sizes. However, there are a lot of commonalities between the capitals and their countries as well. Shelley Watson, Head of Marketing for Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, spoke with Asbjørn Overgaard Christiansen, CEO at Copenhagen Capacity, to understand Copenhagen’s success at attracting top talent and how Copenhagen’s sustainable values have proven such an asset.

Rethinking your core focus sectors

Shelley began the conversation by asking Asbjørn about their work redefining their focus sectors, noting that they’re quite similar to Auckland’s own strategy. In short, Copenhagen have three overall sectors. The first is life sciences, as Greater Copenhagen has strong biotech areas such as microbiomes, as specialised area within life sciences which crosses over between bioproduction and food. The second is that Denmark is already a leader in digital systems, allowing citizens and companies to process everything from tax returns to buying a house on their phones. This naturally provides a lot of opportunity for companies delivering services and products in this area. And finally, green transition.

“We’re now in the midst of a really interesting transition of Copenhagen as the world’s most sustainable capital,” shared Asbjørn. “We have quite ambitious targets and it’s an area where we actually have a lot of experience already and we believe that we have some quite good solutions for urban design, cities, and climate resilience where we can develop solutions here that can work in a lot of other places in the world as well.”

Developing a communication strategy as the ‘World’s most sustainable capital’ allows Copenhagen to invite the world to join them in helping them realise this ambition and develop solutions that will help worldwide.

Attracting international students and connecting them into your community

Shelley also wanted to probe deeper into Copenhagen’s strategies regarding international student attraction, and critically, what they do to keep them on shore once they’ve arrived so that their investment in the students doesn’t walk away again. “In the tech [and] STEM areas, we are all lacking these bright minds. Of course, we try to do the best with the young Danes that we have, but we need to attract international talent as well because we can see that companies flourish better and get more creative, more innovative, and have higher exports when they actually have diversified staff,” Asbjørn explained.

One area that Asbjørn highlighted is working with Danish universities to deliver online campaigns to target international students, as well as attending physical and digital events such as the MIT European Career Fair. Most important is their work to retain students. There is a big difference in what Copenhagen can offer to EU and non-EU citizens, since EU citizens are offered the same conditions as are offered to Danes, which means that not only is it free to study, there’s a monthly stipend available of close to €900. While this makes studying in Denmark very attractive for international students, it can create some political tension regarding that investment when those students return to their home country.

“We have a Young Professionals in Denmark programme where we work with the students that are here – very handheld, actually – trying to help them integrate in Denmark when they here, help them get relevant student jobs where they get into the Danish labour market,” shared Asbjørn. There are also a number of challenges and competitions to connect students with Danish companies and inspire them to stay on in the country.

Fostering industrial symbiosis

When you talk about green transition and tech, it is by nature a highly interconnected space. Increasingly investors are looking to ensure that their setup will be carbon-neutral and to have access to renewable energy – something that Denmark excels at, an advantage of being a very windy country. However, the question is how do you ensure that new businesses are able to tap into not only this energy infrastructure but also all the other aspects of green industrial production?

“That’s where we have created this ‘industrial symbiosis’,” Asbjørn stated, continuing on to explain that many facilities produce excess heat during production, most of which is lost to the air. Now, this heat is contained and funnelled into the city’s combined heat and power systems where it is used to heat homes. Another example Asbjørn offered is that often spillover water can be used from one production to another. By looking at the companies you have in close proximity to each other, you can see what is being wasted, what is still needed, and look for companies that will help you plug those gaps and complement the existing symbiosis.

Copenhagen has challenged itself to be the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025, and while they’re not there yet, the solutions being developed are putting the city well on the way to achieving their ambitions.

If you’d like to learn more, you can listen to the full conversation between Shelley and Asbjørn at Place2Place | Episode 3: Auckland & Copenhagen – Tech, talent, and sustainable futures.

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