On Wednesday, September 23rd, Elon Musk, charismatic CEO of Silicon Valley based Tesla Motors, was in Denmark to visit with the Danish Tesla Motors team, among other things.
Currently, Tesla is driving towards breaking its own Danish sales record in terms of the number of electric vehicles sold within a year. But despite a growing interest in electric cars, less than 1% of cars on Danish roads today are electric, according to an interview with Elon Musk by the Danish newspaper Borsen.
Wind Power Capabilities
As a country, Denmark is a leader within sustainable energy. Wind Power has a long history in Denmark and is still one of the country’s strongest industries, able to compete globally.
That’s why Elon Musk envisions Denmark as an obvious place for developing technologies within storage of wind energy in batteries in order to tap into the technological synergies that exists between the wind energy sector and Tesla Motors, a technology leader within electric cars and energy storage.
The Future of Electric Cars
Even though Denmark is a leading country within sustainable energy, Elon Musk sees great untapped potential for pairing sustainable energy with sustainable transport in the form of electric cars.
Releasing this potential is another of Elon Musk’s main objectives behind his Danish visit this week. As an obvious advocate for growing the market for electric vehicles in Denmark and elsewhere, Elon Musk met with leading Danish politicians and business people at the Embassy of the United States in Copenhagen to discuss this hot political issue in Denmark at the moment.
On the same day, Elon Musk also spoke with the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen, who tweeted that he had had a great talk with Elon Musk about working together on sustainable energy in transport and storage.
It is difficult to say what the exact future of electric vehicles will be and whether Tesla Motors will be the company driving transportation into this future. But one thing is certain though, Elon Musk is doing everything he can to convince key stakeholders that we do not have to wait any longer: the future is here.
When Danish Astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, takes flight on September 2 as second in charge on the European Space Agency vessel, Soyuz TMA-18M, he will be the first Dane in Space.
According to plan, Andreas’ mission on the International Space Station (ISS) will last for ten days, during which he will be busy applying new technology and conducting experiments connected to several European research projects in different fields ranging from electronics to biology. Andreas will also be the subject of research himself, as some of the research projects are looking into the effects of spending time in space by running tests with the aid of health sensors (for more on the interesting subject of health related technology, take a look at Henrik’s piece on wearable devices).
While Andreas is at ISS, two small Danish satellites (CubeSats) will be launched from the station. One of them was created at Aalborg University and will be tracking ships. The other, which was made by the Danish company GomSpace, can pick up flight signals and in that way enhance air traffic safety.
All of Denmark is following the mission closely, and students across the country are working on projects in relation to this great space adventure. Space exploration is an important driver of new technology, knowledge and innovative solutions, and it is a valuable opportunity for Denmark to be a part of it.
As Denmark had General Elections on Thursday June 18, Danes in the area were invited to cast their distance votes at Innovation Center Denmark while viewing live streaming from the counting of the votes as “kringle” was served in the Palo Alto office.
Innovation Center Denmark hosted members of the Danish community in Silicon Valley during two events related to the General Elections this last month.
It is a long standing tradition to celebrate with a portion of “Valgflæsk” – Election Pork – and that tradition was honored on Wednesday June 10, though making it a more American “Election Ribs”-version, as well as offering a vegetarian option.
The Wednesday event gathered more than 40 Danes from the area, and besides the chance to vote, the participants were in for a talk by the Danish researcher Jonas Hedegaard Hansen, who is currently in the Valley studying at UC Berkeley as part of his PhD. He is affiliated with the UCPH Center for Elections and Political Parties, and talked about popularity of politicians, participation percentages, and the differences between the US and Danish elections.
The election results can be seen here and included some drastic changes as well as a change of prime minister. The new members are in office for a four year term. At the time of deadline the parties were still negotiating how the new government will be constituted.
Many might associate Denmark with healthy and happy people, a horde of bikes and a sustainable energy and electricity system including wind and district heating.
Copenhagen and Innovation Center Denmark were therefore invited as representatives as some of the most remarkable cities gathered at the City Innovate Summit in San Francisco this recent week.
While the Danish capital does indeed focus heavily on incorporating innovation and technology in development of existing as well as in the building of new neighborhoods, here is an insight into the newest projects from all over the world:
The city is the new smart phone
The common denominator is that to create a city that encompasses everyone, everyone must be involved in the planning. Silicon Valley executive Peter Hirshberg compares the city to a LEGO brick, a place for building up, trying new designs, tearing down, and building up again.
Look at the city as a smartphone: the place where developers and entrepreneurs get together to test out new ideas and solutions. What if we expanded the platform for new-thinking and innovations to be not just a smartphone but an entire city?
Recent trends in Tel Aviv, San Francisco and (yes!) Copenhagen, are to invite people to get access to the city data, space, sensors, and let them use the possibilities to create better solutions. It admittedly seems as a no-brainer, and the hardest part is surely also what concrete initiatives that can be brought forth in the cities.
Let’s look at a couple of the trends:
Trend 1: Free the data!
A number of cities have created portals, where citizens and companies can go in and access a lot of the (anonymized) data generated in the city. While the opening of data can not stand alone, the will to implementation of the ideas must follow.
An example is a San Francisco Urban Hackathon (a hackathon is an event where citizens and groups are invited to “hack” the city, meaning trying to solve problems in a new way), where a group made a map of all reported crimes and visualized it to find the “worst areas”. The police greeted the map as documentation of where they should put a larger effort, and the citizens were happy that their neighborhood problems were finally taken seriously.
Trend 2: Public sector innovation
Instead of leaving innovation and competitiveness to the private sector, a number of companies have started to make innovation part of the daily agenda. A number of cities have named a city official the Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Technology Officer. Those officers have broad areas of operations, and see if things can be optimized – both in the city and within the governing body. In Oakland, California, the office hands out “Most Innovative Employee”-prizes.
An initiative that has been used in the US on both a city and national scale, is the inclusion of private sector entrepreneurs acting as “intra-preneurs” or “Entrepreneurs-in-Residence” in public departments on a year-long fellowship, in order to bring new ideas to the table. An Entrepreneur-in-Residence in San Francisco for instance developed a system to ease navigation for visually impaired visitors throughout the airport.
The Code for America projects is worth looking into, with young designers and software developers trying to solve a number of tasks via virtual services as apps or text messages for citizens and administrators. Have a look at the video below describing a project: they might be joking a bit, but also shows what kind of tools that are possible when teaming up with entrepreneurs.
Trend 3: A city that accommodates ideas
Finally, one of the most striking trends is how a lot of cities really have realized how important innovation is, for instance, this year’s US Conference of Mayors had the theme “Innovation in Cities”.
“The trick is to make people think that government is fun – not the normal adjectives as lame, boring or basically anything but fun,” explains Director of Young Adults Michael Vole from Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv is the city that is consistently ranking in top 3 when Innovation and Entrepreneurship-rankings are published. The city has invested in the entire ecosystem around creativity, including free wifi, affordable housing, startup visas, a strong gay community (which for some reasons seems to be present in many innovative cities), and in general opening up start-ups for everybody, so that also elderly, school-kids and parents can see, what it takes to turn ideas into businesses.
He explains how they have also taken city officials out to meet people where they are – that is on online platforms and by giving brief 20 minutes talks in bars and cafes. Lastly he mentions how they have taken a number of public buildings, and turned these into study halls and co-work spaces when they are not in use.
City Innovation: Where to start?
With a lot of trends and possibilities, where do you even start? Looking at Danish examples, we have found three examples:
InnoCamp: Involving students, local industry and public institutions in a innovation competition, leading to actual tools for participating case companies.
Zero-Waste City: A Danish town where citizens compete about minimizing their waste. Another version is the Californian Coolest City Challenge, where you get points if you are below similar households.
Ideas from future users [Here is no link, as you probably know better who to contact in your community]: If you have an educational institution like a school, Danish “efterskole”, high school or a university college, then try to ask if they would be willing to work on a joint project, getting the students to point out problems and find potential solutions.
For further information, feel free to contact Innovation Officer Christian Vinther: chrvje (at) um.dk
One of the most commonly used words in the educational landscape in recent years, is probably – though an abbreviation – MOOC. The Massive Online Open Course term was coined back in the late 00’es, and rose in the last couple of years exponentially with the introduction of platforms such as Coursera and Udacity.