Nurturing the inconvenient ideas

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Prompted by the Innovation Leadership Management program created by ICDK in Silicon Valley, DTU Business and Stanford Universtiy, Denmark’s largest university hospital, Rigshospitalet, has now launched IdéRiget (A Wealth of Ideas) a new program that ensures all innovative ideas are heard and considered – short circuiting the hierarchy of management in the process. “Exceptional” is the verdict from innovation experts.

In describing the challenge facing Righshospitalet, Executive Director, Torben Stentoft, asks a question:

“What happens when one of our employees comes to us saying I have this great idea, why don’t we change these things around, get other departments involved and perhaps get some external assistance from the private sector?”

Executive Director at Rigshospitalet, Torben Stentoft.

Before launching IdéRiget the answer to this question was hard to come by. There simply wasn’t any dedicated forum where innovative ideas could be submitted, vetted and perhaps developed.  This was the challenge that Stentoft and some of his colleagues brought with them to the Innovation Leadership Management course, dedicated to assist health executives address and realize their “innovation intent”, that in Rigshospitalet’s case later turned into IdéRiget.

Also participating in the Innovation Management Leadership Course was Hjalte Aaberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Capital Region, the administrative body that owns and operates the hospitals in the Greater Copenhagen area:

“We have successful processes around turning medical research into treatment, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into other organizational improvements. Good ideas are often inconvenient in that context.  The Innovation Leadership course was instrumental in getting us to realize how exciting and rewarding it can be to apply innovative mindsets to our every-day scenarios.”

Hjalte Aaberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Capital Region,


In collaboration with Stanford University, UC Berkeley and the Business School at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), ICDK Silicon Valley developed the Innovation Leadership Management program that takes public and private health care executives through an innovative process tailored around the concrete challenges they face in the work environment.

“The course wasn’t just fluffy “inspiration” it was a hands-on tool enabling us to make a difference. One of the important lessons was that if we really want to achieve this, we have to provide a framework that nurtures and allocates the necessary resources for this to happen,” says Stentoft.

Tough elimination
When he returned from Silicon Valley with this team, they were ready to execute IdéRiget and issued a hospital wide call for innovative ideas and input. The feedback received was overwhelming; in a very tough elimination process, the ideas were narrowed down from 71 to 30, finalizing at 10. The employees behind the chosen 10 projects have now been reassigned from their regular jobs for six months to focus on realizing the ideas to be presented to a juried panel in September. Professor and innovation expert at DTU Management Engineering, Per Langaa Jensen, calls the project exceptional.

”It’s not unusual that the hospital sector focuses on innovation, but I’ve never before seen such a consistent, systematic effort that places the ideas and input of the employees front and center.”

Torben Stentoft calls it short circuiting the management hierarchy:
“In an organization with 8,000 employees and an annual budget of 6.5 billion DKK (US$1.2B) a certain organizational hierarchy is obviously needed, but IdéRiget has really succeeded in reaching across this and impact the work environment to a degree where everybody feels empowered to bring their ideas out in the open.”

One of the ideas arose from the desire to be able to weigh fragile, bedridden patients without having to lift them out of bed.  The solution currently being developed is a “bed scale” that will give the exact weight of the patient in bed without having to move them, resulting in both time saving and optimized patient care.

“This is a project with an idea that seems pretty straight forward, but actually turns out to be a very complex challenge that also involves collaborating with external vendors,” says Stentoft.

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Brainstorming at Stanford University

No need to reinvent the wheel
The head of the Capital Region, Hjalte Aaberg, welcomes stronger public-private partnerships:

“Participating in the Innovation Management Leadership Course was a unique opportunity to include other industries in this challenge. We can also learn from premium airline management; for example, how to implement more efficient ways of servicing customers,” says Aaberg.

During the course, he worked with a group whose innovation intent was to create a management system within psychiatric treatment, spotting new trends quickly while finding methods of increasing staff involvement in this.

Aaberg sees projects developed during the course as easily transferable to other hospitals:

“There’s no need to reinvent the wheel 27 times at other hospitals. If a project from our group or others like IdéRiget end up producing the ideas that we successfully implement, then it’s obvious that we can take the lessons learned from this process and use them in other locations too.”

 IdéRiget – A Wealth of Ideas

The aim of the strategic project at Copenhagen’s University Hospital is to further groundbreaking innovation. The project consists of three  main elements:

  1. Support of entrepreneurial ideas. Management will listen and screen ideas, choose and invest in ideas, support and lead the way to collaboration across the organization and sectors as well as carry the best ideas to the citizens/the market.
  2. Support innovation in smaller companies outside the hospital by demanding products and services benefitting the patients.
  3. Further the development of ideas and innovation in the individual wards in close dialog with the employees

The Innovation Leadership Management Course

The Capital Region’s investment in the course is based on the realization that a strong leadership focus is imperative at all levels and that this necessitates a departure from “business as usual” in order to allow innovation to happen.
The course was developed at Innovation Center Denmark, Silicon Valley by executive director Camilla Rygaaard-Hjalsted in collaboration with DTU Business, Stanford University and UC Berkeley. The course was offered 2012-14 with a new class each year of the program which also had participation from industry representatives such as Siemens, Radiometer, Coloplast, and Novo Nordisk as well as hospital executives from the Northern Region in Denmark and Bornholm

Participants in the course start out with modules at the Business School at the Danish Technical University (DTU Business) where the “innovation intent” is defined. The concrete project is then then taken to Silicon Valley for an intense seminar with innovation thought leaders at Stanford and UC Berkeley Universities as well as with industry trailblazers such as Gravity Tank, Augmedix, Twitter and the design company IDEO. Each module in California is tailored to further develop the specific innovation intents of the participants


The dilemma of leading organizational innovation


Why is corporate innovation so hard when start-up innovation is so intuitively right and intrinsic? Because the upside is smaller for the corporation than the start-up.

As the famous author of bestseller “Crossing the Chasm”, Geoffrey Moore, states “corporations are conservative because they have something to conserve”. The Danish healthcare system is no exception. According to an OECD Review of Health Care Quality on Denmark from April 15, 2013  “The Danish healthcare system is decentralized and predominantly publicly run, with successive governments and regions having prioritized equal access and responsiveness to community needs”. Healthcare is for all Danish citizens and largely paid over the tax. So there is certainly something to conserve. Now why doesn’t the entire Danish healthcare system lean back and enjoy the ride?

As with a lot of organizations, challenges are plentiful and just round the corner. During the recent economic crisis the budgets have been cut in the public sector and at the same time patients have become more demanding; we live longer, we need more long-term treatment. The question becomes the famous “how to do more with less”? On top of this challenge lies the fact that the industry today relies on products and services that are based on IT and health-IT is being disrupted by new innovation at a speed that the old hospitals are far from able to absorb.

Hospitals spearhead innovation

On the flip side, a lot of new innovation is precisely happening at the hospitals, so it only seems natural for the hospitals to develop their own solutions from within and perhaps one day capitalize on their ideas or at least spread to the other regions to the benefit of the citizens. The driver can be capitalistic –“how can we make money in return of the years of investment and the huge human capital put into these new hospital solutions? And it could be purely socially driven “how can we ensure that not only our region benefits from this new treatment, but that we help advance healthcare in all of the country or even globally”? Either way, there is a clear call for innovation management, particularly by the executives leading hospitals or special care programs in Denmark

Stung by the Silicon Valley innovation bug

“Innovation is always up against the status quo”. This is a citation from Professor John Danner, Berkeley University at day two of the Health Innovation Management Program that Innovation Center Denmark took the initiative to design for the largest healthcare region in Denmark, the Capital Region. Over the course of 3 years, Danish executives from the different regions and suppliers to the hospitals came for innovation management training in Silicon Valley – to defy the status quo of their working environment. They did this to challenge the known and often slow procedures of their large organizations and to be on top of new technology. To be inspired by the speed and ease at which technology is developed in their sector in this part of the world. Some of these executives simply got stung by the Silicon Valley innovation bug.

The executives had formulated their challenges and so-called innovation intents even before they arrived to the US. They had all gone through training at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and knew what to focus on during their 5-day training program at Berkeley University.

Innovation Center Denmark had hired the San Francisco based consultancy Gravity Tank to do a work-shop around fast prototyping where the starting point was these innovation intents. Over the course of 2 ½ hours participants were guided through ideation, prototyping, fast failing, selection and finally presentation of the best ideas to the entire group.

Case Bornholm: The new mobile hospital






Denmark is a very small country compared to the US, yet patient transport from the remote island of Bornholm to the University Hospital of Copenhagen remains a challenge today. They are 150 km. apart, most of which is water. Heli-transport is expensive, ferries are slow. Patients need safe, fast, inexpensive transport with preferably onboard, instant and professional care.

This is what one group developed. The mobile hospital. Bornholm’s patients are divided into two groups: Those well enough to sit for the duration of the travel time are upstairs in the mobile bus with a screen in front of them, either entertained, taking control of the treatment themselves, or perhaps in dialogue with a caregiver. Those who are too ill to sit get a bed downstairs with the appropriate equipment and facilities. The chauffeur is trained as a caregiver and perhaps retired from the hospital service itself.

This solution is both new and aligned with the vision of Bornholm’s hospital: To be an innovative hospital and improve patient safety.  At the same time the mobile bus is also embracing the new corporate strategy of the Capital Region where there is an emphasis on: Focus and simplification, coherent patient flow and that the patients control the course of treatment.

Two months after the program is finished at Berkeley University and all participants are back to normal in their respective organizations, Bornholm hospital CEO Kurt Espersen says: “This program has been an eye-opener for me. We need to focus on an innovation management system to have the capability to transform all the ideas from the employees and patients into real innovation. Our project is a good example of that.“

May Denmark stay atop

Back to the OECD review mentioned above, the executive summary opens with “Denmark is rightly seen as a pioneer in healthcare quality initiatives among OECD countries. Over many years, it has developed a sophisticated array of quality assurance mechanisms. Yet, like all other countries, it faces a number of healthcare challenges including increasing public and political expectations around the continuity of care; increased specialization in the hospital sector, which translates into shorter stays and earlier discharge back into the community; and a rise in the number of elderly patients with multiple long-term conditions, requiring safe and effective co-ordination of care and avoiding unnecessary hospitalization”.

Another extract from the same review states that “Seven out of ten Danish people rate their health as being good or very good. Life expectancy at 81 years in 2010, and mortality from all causes are in line with OECD averages. The share of obese adults in the population was only 13.4 % in 2009, among the lowest in the OECD, and smoking rates have been cut by nearly 40 % in the past decade, highlighting the success of health prevention and promotion initiatives. Mortality from ischemic heart disease for both men and women and prevalence of diabetes in the adult population (5.7% in 2011) fall below OECD averages, and Denmark also features low admission rates for some preventable conditions”.

It is our hope at Innovation Center Denmark, Silicon Valley that this Innovation Management Program brings clarity to the leading executives on how to solve the challenges and continue to care for some of the most satisfied and healthy people in OECD.

Camilla Rygaard-Hjalsted, June 12th 2014

SCALEit Digital Health – September 23-27

SCALEit Health

At ICDK Silicon Valley we are already very busy planning our next SCALEit Ignite. We are looking for early stage companies working at the intersection between technology and health – SCALEit Digital Health.
The program will take place from September 23-27 2013; right before the industry leading Health 2.0 conference so there has never been a better time for Danish digital health start-ups to come to Silicon Valley.


The potential of Danish Digital Health companies

Development in Health IT
The graph above says it all. The Digital health industry is happening and that is why now is the time for the best Danish companies in this sector to come to The Valley. The SCALEit team sees great potential in a rapidly growing global market and Denmark is uniquely conducive to digital health start-ups. The Danish healthcare system is world-renowned and the Danes make savvy consumers quick to embrace new opportunities. We think that enabling Denmark’s best and brightest digital health entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Silicon Valley’s ecosystem is a recipe for success.
Read more about our program on our website.

Denmark: a BioTech frontrunner

Bio Tech_2013The Danish Consulate General hosted an Executive Roundtable on ‘Drug Development in Denmark’ at the BIO convention in Chicago to promote the Danish biotechnology cluster as an area of business excellence of Denmark. Danish representatives of Novo Nordisk, AbbVie and Eli Lilly presented case studies to the key stakeholders of the industry.

As the European leader in drug development, Denmark offers attractive business solutions for foreign biotech companies. This includes R&D collaborations with Danish universities and research organizations, establishment of European headquarters or strategic partnerships on fast development or approval of product for the European market.

The key challenges faced by the pharma industry is that regulatory authorities, patients and healthcare professionals all want pharma companies to discover and develop efficient and safe drugs that improve patient quality of life. They also expect new drugs to be more cost effective than alternatives. However, pharma companies need to produce sustainable revenues and return on investment for shareholders. Therefore, speed, quality and cost have become a mantra for all drug discovery and development activities.

Three case studies on Clinical trials, Centers of Excellence and Public-Private Partnerships were presented to the key stakeholders of the industry to emphasize how the Danish strongholds can help the pharma companies to cope with the challenges of speed, quality and cost in drug development.

The cases presented answered key questions such as:

  • What makes Denmark one of the highest quality countries in the world for delivering on clinical trials?
  • Why do human resources represent R&D opportunities in Denmark?
  • How to develop public-private partnerships in Denmark?


  • Denmark has the 3rd largest pipeline in Europe.
  • Danish pharmaceutical companies rank amongst the absolute world elite in areas such as cardiovascular and metabolism, oncology, CNS, inflammatory and infectious diseases.
  • Denmark ranks 2nd internationally by number of publications based on clinical trials and pharmaceutical research.
  • Denmark has high recruitment and retention rates in clinical trials facilitated by world class patient and civil registries of the entire population.
  • Efficient public authorities – all new trial applications must be approved within 60 days. 97% were replied to within 30 days in 2011.
  • Tradition for close public-private partnerships.
  • Excellent opportunities for public sector funding of public-private research partnerships.

New Addition to our team in Silicon Valley: New Director of Health IT


Henrik Bennetsen has joined Innovation Centre Denmark, Silicon Valley, in March 2013. Henrik will be responsible for bringing talented Health IT start-up’s to ICDK, Silicon Valley, SCALEit accelerator program.

Henrik has an entrepreneurial background, and comes with expertise in early stage development, and a unique skill in managing products and teams, customer/business development and event production. Prior to joining ICDK, Silicon Valley, Henrik was associate director at Stanford University leading product teams to develop bleeding edge research technology and building products built on modern web technologies. Recently, he was the co-founder of Katalabs, Inc, located in Palo Alto, launching, an HTML5 marketplace and API for sharing 3D content.

At Innovation Centre Denmark, Henrik will leverage his entrepreneurial background in his work through participation in existing projects such as SCALEit and in development of Health IT companies. Henrik has a master in Media Technology from IT University of Copenhagen.

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