Søren Madsen has been the Executive Director of a world-renowned food park in Aarhus, Denmark, for the past 10 years. The park is a commercial innovation ecosystem for agriculture and food comprising 75 companies and R&D institutions, with over 1,000 employees. Aarhus is a city of excellence for food manufacturing in Denmark. Additionally, he has been 'clusterpreneur' since the Danish Food Cluster was launched in 2013 in conjunction with the international dairy company Arla Foods, Aarhus University, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, Region Midtjylland and Aarhus Kommune (municipality).
Prior to Aarhus , Søren was in regional economic development creating innovative business systems with international companies such as LEGO, DONG Energy (largest energy company in Denmark), the confectionery firm Gumlink and several Scandinavian universities. Earlier, he was a R&D Manager for yellow fats, functional foods and special products at Arla Foods.
Denmark is regularly rated as one of the top innovative countries in the world along with its Scandinavian neighbours Sweden, Finland and Norway. The Economist refers to Denmark as a country of "Socialists driven by innovation" which isn't far from the truth! Danes are innovative in how they live, in their design and how they market their businesses and food products around the world. They are particularly adept at adding value to basic food commodities such as milk, meat and grains.
Denmark's population of 5.7 million is similar in size to Alberta (4.2 million). Some of the most dynamic economies have small populations, especially when combined with a well educated and a highly skilled workforce. They can quickly change course and pursue new opportunities with gazelle like agility perhaps reflecting that, in history, they have been driven to add value to commodities because of lack of scale. Danish baked goods and pastries and processed pork products are leaders in global export markets. Denmark is also a major player in specialty food ingredients with 15% of global sales. Three out of four yogurts in the world contain enzyme cultures from Denmark. The top three global ingredient companies (Chr. Hansen, Novozymes and Danisco (DuPont–Dow) are all based within a 35 km. radius of Copenhagen. These global ingredient leaders spend 10-15% per annum on R&D, which is at pharmaceutical levels and stands in stark comparison to the 1% spent by the food industry globally. Agriculture and food products account for 25% of total Danish exports.
More recently, Danish food in particular and Scandinavian fare in general has become very fashionable in gourmet culinary circles. NOMA, a Copenhagen restaurant known for its reinvention and interpretation of the Nordic Cuisine, was rated as the ‘World's Best Restaurant' four out of five years (2010-2015). Unrelated to food, “Nordic Noir”, dark TV crime series from Scandinavia have, also, become globally fashionable. Alberta shares a similar geographic latitude to Denmark – ensuring long, dark Winter nights ideal for intimate eating and drinking of fine food and watching gripping albeit gory detective programmes. Alberta and Denmark should cozy up more often!