Startup entrepreneur and founder of PR Digitales Anna Maria Radu from West Region Romania participated in the iEER learning camp in Southern Denmark in May 2017. In this blog post Anna Maria shares a startup entrepreneur's perspective on the camp.

I strongly believe that a young entrepreneur’s first and foremost responsibility is to grasp opportunities that can help them learn how to run and grow a successful business. This was the case for me when I  received the invitation from ADR Vest to participate in the iEER delegation in May, in Odense, Denmark. I simply had to be there.

I come from Timisoara, a dynamic and bohemian city in the Western part of Romania, with a little over 300,000 citizens. It’s also one of the most fruitful IT communities in the country—we’ve learned from each other in the past years about outsourcing, we’ve seen some really successful startups, tech meetups are the norm and, luckily, there are plenty of coworking spaces to host them, and some spirited NGOs that act as regional talents catalysts that bring opportunities in the area, too. To put things into perspective, you can have a 360 degrees overview of the recent history of the Romanian startup scene. By all means, I had a basic foundation to start with and quite some expectations to build on when heading to Denmark.

We started our first day with a deep-dive into health and social care innovation, one of the focus areas in the Region of Southern Denmark. A member of the Regional Council opened a conversation on Smart Specialisation Strategy and its impact on entrepreneurship, closely followed by an immersive learning camp on the same topic.

An especially impressive initiative is Scale-up Denmark. Wishing my country could boast with implementing even the most modest version of it, we were introduced a true national ecosystem for entrepreneurial growth. This program intends to reach out and convince the best startups in the world to make Denmark their second home—that is, one of the 12 specialized hubs on Robotics, Cleantech and so on. I was impressed to see that an agile and results-driven approach is really possible—since their launch last year, Scale-Up Denmark has assessed 1093 applications with 35 businesses already having graduated from the program.

All these sessions were hosted in the Science Park of Odense, a new-technology-friendly hub including the Health Innovation Centre of Southern Denmark. The latter is a test facility for medical products and prototypes, where researchers, engineers and doctors can build together and test prototypes. During our tour in the Robotics Startup Hub we came across the Tendo team who was working on their soft robotic exoskeleton. Loved the idea and their pitch, too.The second day was reserved to exploring the entrepreneurial system in Southern Denmark by discussing three main topics: education, business development and financing. This vast theme brought us to Cortex Park, an airy university campus that hosts some of the brightest minds in the area. Meeting reputed professors and wandering around the University of Southern Denmark was one the highlights of this experience, not to mention the SDU Cortex Lab, their innovation and entrepreneurship hub. I left the park with the impression that this is a highly fruitful environment for young entrepreneurs that learn and work today with the aim of challenging tomorrow.

Our last day was dedicated to sustainable energy and it was a truly memorable experience. We had a trip to Esbjerg, the fifth largest city in Denmark and a vivid port that acts as a hub connected to the Northern Sea. The city is highly appreciated for its support in operations in offshore oil, gaz and wind energy. The high demand for offshore wind turbines has determined an investment of 27 million euros to artificially expand the port by further 250,000m². And it will not stop there.The first question that came to my mind was ‘where does all that demand come from’? It was partially answered during the second part of the day when we headed to Edison Park, an HQ of Esbjerg where we had a short introduction into national clusters and their involvement in offshore energy business development. Offshore Energy  and CLEAN were some of the initiatives presented during the day. These clusters are massive think tanks, and also wide pools of resources, gathering companies and RDI under the same umbrella. These are not just plans and initiatives, but prodigious thinking oriented towards global scaling.

I am profoundly grateful for the openness and enthusiasm of all the people I’ve met during my time in Denmark. Special thanks go to the ADR Vest team who has offered me this opportunity. It has been an intense experience, challenging and eye-opening at the same time, that has brought me more insights into how entrepreneurship can shape the society it is active in. Now, thinking small seems ridiculous when you see that thinking big works, too.  

All pictures by Mr. Razvan Inca