In March 2019, the Danish Government published its (Denmark, 2019). The Danish strategy sets out the goals and visions for AI development in Denmark, it presents the challenges to be addressed and it identifies specific policy initiatives and priority areas.
It aims at putting Denmark at the forefront of responsible development of AI and sets out four objective to achieve this goal:
- Develop a common ethical and human-centred basis for AI;
- Prioritise and support research in AI;
- Encourage the growth of Danish businesses by developing and using AI;
- Ensure that the public sector uses AI to offer world-class services for the benefit of citizens and society.
The strategy originally contained 24 initiatives for which EUR 9.2 million has been reserved by the Danish Government for the period 2019-2027. The budget has since been reprioritised and lowered to EUR 5 million. The government plans to evaluate the strategy in order to determine future actions regarding AI.
In addition, the 2019 national budget earmarked EUR 39.5 million for research in new digital technologies. An additional EUR 26.8 million has been earmarked for an Investment Fund (2019-2022) to help municipal and regional government authorities develop and adopt digital welfare solutions and new technologies. Technological possibilities, such as AI, also play a role in the research funding established via the 2020 budget.
The outlined policy initiatives below also include those presented in the (Denmark, 2018), a policy report setting the direction for how Denmark can seize the opportunities of the digital transformation. The report contains 38 initiatives, some of which relate directly to AI or provide initial policy steps that will push the development of AI technologies.
In terms of formal education and training, the Danish Government has launched these programmes:
- Technology Pact: the signed by 80 participating institutions aims to attract 250 participating members and to increase the number of students choosing STEM subjects ((science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by 20%, or 10,000 students by 2028;
- A four-year test programme has been launched (2019-2021) to strengthen technology understanding in primary and lower secondary education. Various teaching models will be evaluated and efforts will be devoted to developing the skills of teachers.
Furthermore, a national action plan to strengthen digital competencies and digital learning on higher education institutions was launched in April 2019, including funding to support continuous upskilling courses for teachers (EUR 6 million in 2019).
The Danish Government is not only targeting an increased uptake of education in digital and AI-related skills, but is also promoting a culture of lifelong learning and continuous up/reskilling of the existing workforce. The government thus has set up a vocational adult education and training working group to advise new forms of vocational education programmes to target the upcoming needs of the labour market. The Government will set up a centre for the application of IT in vocational education teaching, and will support vocational courses, among others in AI.
As a consequence of COVID-19, the Danish Government has allocated EUR 16.1 million in order to create more study places in which a significant portion will be allocated to STEM- programs including IT programs. This comes on top of the in December 2019. As a result, the intake in (1,380 study places) at the 2020 summer intake.
From the lab to the market
As mentioned above regarding the national budgets for 2019 and 2020, Denmark is investing in a range of programmes to boost research and development in digital and AI research and pilot projects. Policy initiatives include:
- The creation of the Digital Research Centre Denmark (DIREC): the aim of the is to develop and support the digital field through research in AI, big data, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and IT Security. The centre was established in 2020 and the Innovation Fund Denmark has supported DIREC with DKK 100 million (approx. EUR 13.4 million);
- AI research funds: The and the financially support research into new technological possibilities such as AI.
To increase innovation in AI and foster the creation and growth of AI businesses, the Danish Strategies highlight the following policy initiatives and investment instruments:
- Investment for AI businesses: The Danish Growth Fund will launch a pilot project in the form of an investment pool of EUR 3.1 million over four years targeting companies with a business model based on AI. It will take the form of co-investments with private investors;
- – a coordinated scheme to support the digital transformation of Danish SMEs, which can benefit their ability to innovate in AI. The aim of this policy is to promote the digital transformation of SMEs by using agile design sprints to develop and test new digital solutions and business models.
The Danish AI strategy foresees the following four priority areas:
- Energy and utilities;
Besides policies directed to the private sector, the Danish Government aims to also support more effective deployment and use of new technologies, including AI, across the public sector:
- National Centre for Public Sector Innovation (COI): this supports more effective deployment and use of new technologies, such as AI, in the public sector;
- The set the course for Danish public sector digitisation efforts and their interaction with businesses and industry. It played a significant role in preparing the public sector to upcoming technological challenges and opportunities of AI and big data (Denmark, 2016). A new national digital strategy is currently expected in late 2021;
- Investment fund to boost the adoption of AI by municipal and regional government authorities: In 2019, 2020, and 2021, the Government, municipalities and regions agreed to launch 28 signature projects financed by the fund. The projects focus on healthcare, social affairs, employment, administration, and climate mitigation and adaptation.
To develop AI tools into effective and efficient products and services, both public and private sector players should have the possibility of testing AI solutions. For this purpose, the Danish Government has initiated several policy initiatives:
- with seven Danish institutes: the government is setting up performance contracts with seven GTS institutes allowing them to test new technologies, including for instance AI;
- The Danish Government has allocated approximately EUR 27 million to an investment fund for testing, scaling, and encouraging the uptake of AI in the public sector, with a particular focus on healthcare, public administration, and the green transition.
A major challenge for the Danish Government is to create a collaborative environment for the development of digital technologies. In this respect, the Danish AI strategy pays particular attention to improve opportunities for partnerships between public and private sectors, in particular for new technologies such as the Internet of Things, AI and data analysis:
The Danish strategy led to the development of an ethical framework for AI based on six principles in order to improve the level of trust and confidence in AI. The six principles for AI relate to self-determination (i.e. ensuring that citizens can make informed and independent decisions) and to human dignity, equality and justice (i.e. ensuring that there is no infringement of human rights and maintaining respect for diversity). It also covers aspects of responsibility and explainability (i.e. openness and transparency). The sixth principle stipulates that AI development should be ethically responsible. To ensure that ethical issues are addressed, the Danish Government set up the following initiatives:
- In May 2019 an independent was established. The Council makes recommendations on ethical issues relating to data and new technologies, in particular on responsible and sustainable use of data by the public and private sectors;
- In December 2019 a was launched to support companies to adopt and implement data ethics into their business models;
- A (a labelling scheme) will be launched in 2021. It is founded by an independent multi-stakeholder consortium involving the national industry organisations and the Danish Consumer Council.
In terms of legislation, the Danish strategy highlights the need to evaluate the current legal framework and to adopt new legislation to guarantee the responsible development of AI applications. The new legislation relates among others to data ethics and security regulations and include initiatives as:
- Law on disclosure of Data Ethics Policy: A to the Danish Financial Statements Act affects Denmark’s largest companies and how they conduct their annual reporting. The law requires companies with a data ethics policy to provide information on compliance, while companies without a data ethics policy must explain why they do not have a policy – much like they do today on corporate social responsibilities (CSR). The law entered into force on 1 January 2021 and a on how to include data ethics in their annual reports has been developed;
- Cyber security directive: This directive, properly known as the Directive on security of network and information systems (NIS), requires Member States to adopt a national cyber-security strategy. Denmark’s current was published in May 2018, and a revision is expected in 2021;
- On 30 May 2017, the Danish parliament adopted an amendment of the Danish Road Traffic Act allowing the testing of self-driving cars. According to the amended Act, any company that wishes to carry out testing of self-driving cars must apply to the Ministry of Transportation for a permit.
The Danish strategy recognises the importance of international standards in AI. In this regard, the Danish Government will initiate work to develop national technical specifications based on the specific needs of Danish businesses. In particular, the foresees to:
- Support the development of international standards for small and collaborative robots (cobots).
Data is an essential prerequisite for the use of AI. Hence, the Danish Government recognises the importance of facilitating access to data and making it available for citizens, businesses, public authorities and researchers. Concretely, the Danish Government is developing the following policy initiatives related to data infrastructure:
- Common Danish language resource: The aim is to foster language technology solutions by providing access to a high-quality shared language resource. In June 2020, the Danish Government, in collaboration with municipalities and regions, launched the website where metadata about existing language resources are gathered and displayed. Future actions include the development of further Danish language resources, e.g. a central word register and the development of a time-coded and transcribed speech corpus in Danish;
- Access to public sector data: the need to prepare a strategy for data in the public sector which will encourage the use and dissemination of public-sector data. A concrete example:
- Access to Danish health data:
- The Danish health data is internationally unique because many health registers and databases cover the entire population over many years. It is possible to combine various sources of health data (e.g. national health registries, clinical quality databases, biobank samples and health record data) and other data (e.g. socioeconomic data) by using the unique personal identification number. This provides good opportunities for valuable research, quality development and the development of new innovative solutions to the benefit of patients;
- To support researchers in accessing health data the Danish Government and Danish Regions have launched a common entry for health data. The entry will consist of an overview of available health data and a digital entry for guidance and application for access to health data for research.
- The Danish Life Science Strategy from April 2021 includes an initiative to explore potentials for establishing a secure national analysis platform for secondary use of health data. The aim is to support data users in accessing health data and other data from various data sources and performing advanced data analysis (e.g. machine learning and algorithm training) with the use of comprehensive data types (e.g. genome data and imaging data) in a secure way;
- Development of digital export certificates: the government supports the development of digital certificates for exported goods (in particular in the food sector) aiming at improving traceability and transparency of the export process. The use of big data from the system will be used for smarter and more focused guidance for exporters;
- Fostering the : the Danish Government’s policy of Open Science is focused on three important elements, including open access to scientific publications, research integrity and open research data.
In addition, the policy framework for AI is further strengthened with initiatives for a good digital and telecom infrastructure, including a modernised telecommunications agreement and a 5G action plan:
- Cloud technologies: the need to establish a strategy for fostering data storage in the cloud to allow cheap access to massive computational power and storage capacity;
- A new national strategy for digital research infrastructure was launched in 2019 comprising recommendations for a strengthened national cooperation with respect to digital research infrastructure.
AI to address societal challenges
Climate and environment
The Danish Government believes that it is increasingly important at national and local level to use data and digital technology in developing climate neutral and circular solutions.
In order to meet the Danish ambitious target of cutting carbon emissions by 70 % by 2030, have been set up. In March 2020 they published their first set of recommendations including many recommendations for the use of AI and data, especially on setting up data-sharing.
The Danish Government continually works on securing a responsible digital economy where trustworthy, ethical and secure use of data and AI goes hand in hand with the ability to provide innovative solutions. Thus, partnerships on the responsible use of energy and resource data, and data for smart city solutions for making data available for data driven solutions that can lower energy and resource consumption are under investigation.
In addition, an ongoing project within the framework of the Danish strategy for AI is investigating the use of public datasets for AI, which has the potential to strengthen the green transition in Denmark. Several of the upcoming high-value datasets mandated by the Open Data Directive – including environment and climate data, or location data in the transport area – can contribute to the development of AI technologies.
As part of the Danish national AI strategy, the Danish Government and the Danish municipalities and regions have established an investment fund to boost the use of AI by municipal and regional government authorities. In total, the fund will allocate approximately EUR 27 million in 2019-2022 for testing, scaling and encouraging the uptake of AI in the public sector, with a particular focus on healthcare, public administration and the green transition.
Selected signature projects focus on the use of AI to tackle climate change:
- Forecast tools for planning, mapping and warnings for flood prevention and management in rural and urban areas;
- Energy management and optimization of existing building stock;
- Intelligent fleet management and smart traffic patterns.
The Danish Government has allocated a total of DKK 150 million (approx. EUR 20.1 million) for . Part of this budget will go to 10 new research projects conducted in Danish universities and hospitals. The research projects will receive funding between DKK 750,000 (approx. EUR 100,000) and DKK 7.4 million (approx. EUR 1 million). The funding programme also supports small and medium-sized companies with innovation and development projects that can help the society during the corona crisis.
In addition to the governmental funding, The , an international foundation focusing on medical treatment and research and primary owner of Novo Nordisk, has awarded a total of DKK 82.5 million (approx. EUR 11 million) for 45 projects that aim to mitigate the short-term health-related effects of the COVID-19 epidemic.
As AI is a cornerstone in the fight against the coronavirus, part of these budgets also support the exploit of AI within the COVID-19 medical context. By means of examples, several funded projects using AI as a key technology against COVID-19 are presented below:
- Project on machine learning models based on Danish registry data: the objective of this project is to identify – based on machine learning algorithms – cancer patients who are at high risk of having a surgically complicated course of treatment. During the corona pandemic, these identified patients could be prepared for surgery via optimisation outside the hospital;
- Project using AI to predict the course of the disease for COVID-19 patients: based on medical records, gene analyses (genome sequencing) as well as detailed studies of the immune system, the project will develop a model that can predict which patients will need intensive and respiratory care;
- Project on real-time risk assessment of patients with COVID-19: AI is used to analyse patients’ data in order to develop new, data-driven decision support models to the advantage of future patients. Specifically, by employing the analyses about patient records and treatments, the project aims to model the risk of intensive care and ventilator breathing support of newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients;
- Project on Corona Application Tool for Collaborating Hospitals (): AI employs patients’ data to identify the key factors contributing to severe illness, and this will generate updated risk assessments for the patients from their admission and onwards;
- Project on imaging analysis for COVID-19 diagnosis: This project employs AI to characterize the type of infection that is shown on x-ray images of lungs in order to detect the degree of infection and the similarity with COVID-19 infection.
Monitoring and future update
The outlined strategy constitutes a first step towards the development of AI in Denmark. As new challenges will arise in the future, it will be necessary to adjust existing initiatives and to define new policy actions. To this purpose, Denmark is currently considering the most effective way to address and, if needed, revise the existing national AI strategy from 2019.