The path to the world goes through cluster collaboration
Together we are stronger. Companies that work with life science and welfare technology have better possibilities to have an impact on new foreign markets if we collaborate in a cluster.
Photo: Through an internationalisation project in a business cluster, Wellness Nordic gained contact to potential customers, a German network and to a professor with the latest knowledge on the field of dementia. Photo: Ard Jongsma.
It is far easier for companies to enter a new international market if several companies do it together. Studies show that the degree of internationalisation increases significantly for small and medium-sized companies that participate in activities with business clusters. Suppliers to the care and healthcare sector, in particular, have a greater probability of getting a foot in the door in a new country if they are part of a group or delegation. Project Manager in Cluster Excellence Denmark, Kaspar Nielsen explains:
- It is a huge job taking on a new market which perhaps has a whole other structure than what you are used to. The care and healthcare sector, in particular, often have a different structure in other countries than in Denmark. Therefore, it is a clear advantage to make use of others' experience and to work together with a cluster in relation to the new market, explains Kaspar Nielsen, who has more than ten years' experience with internationalisation. Cluster Excellence Denmark is the national support function for innovation networks and clusters in Denmark.
A cluster is a group of companies that collaborate with other companies, organisations and knowledge institutions to create development, innovation and value.
The South Denmark European Office recommends collaboration as the path to international markets. The office assists companies, public authorities and other institutions to create international development projects, partnerships, competencies and networks.
- It is clear to us that small and medium-sized companies in the healthcare sector that want to cultivate an international market, get added value when they collaborate with the Danish business clusters, says Allan Nordby Ottesen, EU consultant at the South Denmark European Office.
Groups open doors
The Danish division of Prolog Development Center A/S - PDC, can confirm that the care and healthcare sector is certainly different in other countries. PDC A/S develops and delivers planning and optimisation solutions to the healthcare sector, among others. In 2019, Ole Grønskov participated in an internationalisation program with Welfare Tech, which is a business cluster where 200 public and private members collaborate on the development and implementation of health technology.
- If we had been on our own, it would have been even more difficult to get a foot in the door in the German healthcare sector. Here, the welfare area is research-based and there was a mountain of knowledge on the organisation and contacts which we only obtained on the strength of our visit to Germany in collaboration with a business cluster, explains Sales Director of PDC A/S, Ole Grønskov.
The company, Wellness Nordic, which works with assistive devices such as the therapy rocking chair, has achieved extra sales, networks and knowledge by being a part of an international cluster project.
- In any event, we have sold at least ten sensory chairs to German care centers as a direct result of participating in an internationalisation project. Moreover, by way of the project, we have gained contact with a German dementia professor who can give us the latest knowledge. By way of Demantec, we have also joined a German network which has contacts to the care centers we want to do business with, explains Bent Bonde, director of Wellness Nordic.
Find the right stage
Among other things, the Danish clusters organise match-making, knowledge sharing, collaboration projects and internationalisation projects. In 2018, 4,758 companies participated in the most important Danish clusters' international activities.
Kaspar Nielsen from Cluster Excellence Denmark applauds the internationalisation process in several stages, in which clusters like Welfare Tech offer companies within care and welfare technology.
- It's not enough to go on a study trip or to have a contact or two in a country. Companies that want to expand internationally need a broad partner like a cluster, that can offer both knowledge, contacts and perhaps even development projects, says Kaspar Nielsen.
For a number of years, the technology cluster, Welfare Tech, has specialised in a three-stage rocket within internationalisation in the field of care and healthcare. International coordinator, Karen Lindegaard, explains that the cluster ensures that members obtain, in part, advanced knowledge on international markets and, in part, can participate in match-making and networking trips. Finally, Welfare Tech manages a number of innovation projects where the goal is to develop welfare technological solutions across national borders.
- Before you throw yourself into a new market, there is a need for a thorough analysis of both your own company and the healthcare sector in the country in which you want to do business. Therefore, we recommend that you participate in a clarification process or a pre-seminar before you go on a study trip or invest in expensive consultancy hours, explains Karen Lindegaard.
Directly from pre-seminar to meeting in Norway
The company, Applikator, is a good example of how a pre-seminar can create value. Applikator participated when Welfare Tech and Norwegian Smart Care Cluster, in collaboration, invited the company to a pre-seminar on Norway's healthcare sector as a lead up to the Danish-Norwegian cluster collaboration, NorDen 3C, in 2017. Applikator develops app-based welfare technology for communication to municipalities, regions and citizens.
The meeting about the Norwegian market for health and care technology became the kick-off for Applikator's way into the Norwegian market. At the pre-seminar, a tender that was in progress in Stavanger Municipality was presented and Andreas Melson, a partner in Applikator, immediately saw the opportunity.
- It was so relevant that I booked a flight while I was still at the function, remembers Andreas Melson, partner in Applikator. He literally jumped from participating in the function and onto a plane to Stavanger.
Hospital visit gave new possibilities
The project, Digital Health & Care 4.0, in which PDC participated, is a Nordic cluster-to-cluster collaboration under Welfare Tech. The goal was to support SMEs in bringing Nordic health and care technology onto the German market by way of market insight, networks and product presentations.
Prior to market validation with German experts and networks for other Nordic companies, the participants were also given direct contact to decision-makers when they visited a German hospital.
As a result of the meeting, PDC was invited to several follow-up meetings in Germany where they demonstrated their digital planning solution.
In Digital Health and Care, more than 150 Nordic companies have actively participated in activities and, in doing so, clarified their opportunities on the German care and healthcare market.
The project, Demantec, of which Wellness Nordic was a part, was a Danish-German dementia collaboration. Here, more than 400 people from companies and public institutions participated for over three years in networking activities and conferences.
International focus can give a lead
It is important that the Danish business clusters continue to have a keen eye on foreign countries. The international focus in the Danish clusters can also help to make Denmark a leader in new technological fields, believes Allan Nordby Ottesen from the South Denmark European Office.
- Previously, telemedicine and health-promoting apps were some of the new technological fields in the healthcare sector. Today, artificial intelligence, for example, is an exciting field with great potential. But it can be difficult for smaller companies especially to gain an overview of their possibilities to participate in innovation projects and to get funding, believes Allan Nordby Ottesen.
- Business clusters can boost this task by, for example, communicating knowledge, holding events, match-making, etc. A good example is the AI Conference in September 2019 in Odense. Besides plenty of knowledge sharing, there was also advice on funding and innovation projects from, e.g. the projects VIND - Welfare Innovation with Useful Data and the South Denmark OPI pool, which are both under Welfare Tech. In addition, participants could also obtain knowledge about EU funding options from us at the South Denmark European Office, says Allan Nordby Ottesen.
In 2020, Welltech Tech is inviting participants for internationalisation projects aimed towards the care and healthcare sector. The project, Access & Acceleration is aimed towards Germany, the project Danish Healthtech is holding several activities that will assist SMEs to get into the Scottish market, as well as activities that focus on the Nordic region, the Netherlands and the USA. Digital Health & Care 4.0 will continue the strong Nordic/German cluster-to-cluster collaboration.
- More than 18,000 Danish companies participate every year in activities in Danish clusters and innovation networks.
- Companies that participate in the clusters' activities achieve four times as high innovation power and 3.6% increased productivity in comparison to other companies.
Source: Cluster Excellence Denmark.
The international activities are co-financed by the Ministry of Education and Research and the European Fund for Regional Development, Nordic Innovation, Interreg 5A, Region Syddanmark (formerly South Danish Growth Forum) and Erasmus +.
The article was published in Greater Copenhagen Life Science Yearbook.