Meet Lars Kristensen

Lars Kristensen © Erhvervshus Fyn, 2021

Lars Kristensen © Erhvervshus Fyn, 2021

He works at Erhvervshus Fyn (Business House Funen), where he manages the Industry 4.0: DigitizationBoost project. Lars and his team help to initiate collaborations between businesses who want to strengthen their online presence and experts in the private sector and academia. It’s part of an EU-funded digital initiative run by the Danish Business Promotion Board

Digitalisation dreams

The project’s popularity has soared during the pandemic. Only 18% of companies in Denmark had a strong online presence before the crisis. When the country went into lockdown, businesses realised the importance of digital skills to remain competitive and resilient to economic shocks. 

“There is no doubt that the situation for many companies changed during the coronavirus crisis and they need to think in new innovative ways,” says Lars.

When the EU granted an additional €1 million to expand the project, there were twice as many candidates in the next application round as before.

Digital success stories

One company that benefited was Copenhagen-based CanopyLAB. They have developed an e-learning platform based on artificial intelligence that was invaluable for online teaching during lockdown. They even had to hire 11 new employees to manage the workload.

“2,500 primary schools, colleges and universities from all over the world joined our waiting list,” says CanopyLab founder and CEO Sahra-Josephine Hjorth.

Looking ahead, the Industry 4.0: DigitizationBoost project expects businesses to bring at least 20 new digital products or concepts to a stage where they can be commercialised. A large part of its success is due to the mentorship offered by the collaborations. The project is expected to increase the annual turnover and exports, and create 280 new jobs.

© CanopyLab, 2020

Sahra-Josephine Hjorth © CanopyLab, 2020

Strengthened business at street level

“Strengthened business at street level” is another initiative funded by the EU and the Danish Business Promotion Board. It runs in four municipalities of South Funen in southern Denmark.

The project has helped over 200 local businesses train employees in e-commerce and online marketing. Each company has received personal mentorship and a tailor-made digital business plan for the future. And instead of sitting back during the lockdown, many began to see the potential to expand their business online.

Two men using laptop © European Union, 2020

Two men using laptop © European Union, 2020

Meet Martin Fischer

Martin Fischer and his wife Line © Strengthened business at street level, 2020

Martin Fischer and his wife Line © Strengthened business at street level, 2020

He’s the co-owner of a kitchen equipment store called Køkkenfreak in Svendborg. Thanks to emergency EU support during the crisis, he was able to expand his business online by strengthening the social media strategy, producing YouTube videos and establishing commercial collaborations with other traders.

“It is crucial to have a link between a physical store and a webshop. It has become very pronounced after COVID-19. We have never been so busy as now. In July 2020, sales increased by 70% compared to July 2019.”

Preparing for a digital future

EU support also helped another 50 companies to develop digital competencies. A designer clothing store in Rudkøbing is one of them. Together with the project mentor, the store owners devised a social media marketing plan that helped sell clothes much faster and with higher profits. They are now planning to build a permanent webshop.

The mentorship and training sessions available through the “Strengthened business at street level” project have helped to mitigate the short-term consequences of the pandemic, but also to secure jobs for the future. It’s expected that 46 new positions will have been created and extra turnover will have been generated.

“EU support for the project has been paramount” both before and during the pandemic, affirms Helge Padegaard, the project manager. The groundwork has been laid to make structural changes to the future of work for the “benefit of businesses, cities and local communities.”