City Focus: Is Copenhagen at the heart of Europe’s business scene?

Laura Mullan
- Leadership - Sep 05, 2018

Searching for your next business hub? Look no further than Copenhagen. We zoom in on the Danish capital’s booming industries and see why it’s attracting workers and entrepreneurs from across the globe.

Spanning across the islands of Zealand and Amager, the Danish capital of Copenhagen is not just known as a leading Scandinavian capital, it has also firmly positioned itself as booming business hub, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $51,496 per capita in 2017. From 2012-2017, the European city topped the World Bank’s ranking for ‘the easiest place to do business in Europe’ and it’s easy to see why.

The appeal of modern Copenhagen

The costs of operating a business are notably lower in Copenhagen than in other Nordic capitals. In fact, according to an FDI Benchmark by the Financial Times, Copenhagen is 15-20% cheaper than nearby Stockholm in terms of salary, social security costs, and office rent when comparing the total costs of operating a business such as a Scandinavian headquarters or shared services centre. Additionally, businesses in Copenhagen also benefit from a favourable corporation tax rate of 22%, which is below the average European level.

Yet, the Danish capital doesn’t just boast low business operating costs. With approximately 12,000 researchers, 15 science parks and 14 universities and other higher education institutes, Greater Copenhagen has Scandinavia’s largest recruitment base of highly-skilled employees, as well as the biggest pool of private and public sector researchers. In fact, in 2017, the Danish capital topped the leaderboard as the world’s best city for talent, according the Global Talent Competitive Index.

Sharing a border with the rest of the continent and linked to nearby Sweden via the Öresund bridge, Copenhagen is also a highly connected city. Tying together Scandinavia, continental Europe and the Baltic countries, the capital offers access to a market of over 100mn customers within 24 hours, making it an attractive logistics hub. Travelling by air isn’t difficult either, with Copenhagen Airport standing as Scandinavia's largest airport today.

With a population of around 775,000, Denmark is also hailed for having the ‘World’s Happiest People’. In 2018, the country was again listed among the top three happiest of 155 countries surveyed – a distinction that Denmark has earned for seven consecutive years. The secret behind this success? It could perhaps be tied to the country’s reputable work-life-balance or its peaceful democracy.

Alternatively, it may lie in the relaxed Danish lifestyle, influenced by the cultural phenomenon of ‘hygge’. Copenhagen is packed with atmospheric restaurants and cafes, boasting an impressive 18 Michelin stars at 15 restaurants. With such a burgeoning cultural scene, it’s clear to see how the capital has established itself as one of the leading European cities to start a business in.

Greener, smarter industry

As the country erects windfarms and promotes energy efficiency, Denmark has vowed to become fully independent of fossil fuels by 2050. Meanwhile, Copenhagen is also moving rapidly toward a zero-carbon future of its own, aiming to be the world's first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. To realise this ambitious vision, Copenhagen has become a so-called ‘living lab’ for cleantech and smart city technologies.

Today, wind power accounts for more than 30% of the total power consumption in the country, and this is expected to increase to 50% by 2020. Indeed, the world’s largest wind turbine company, Vestas Wind Systems, is in fact a Danish company which generated a whopping €10bn ($11.6bn) in revenue in 2017. As a result of this sustainable approach, 10% of Denmark’s industrial employees are in green jobs, making it one of the world’s leading countries for green investments.  

To handle the challenges of urbanisation and climate change, Copenhagen has also powered ahead as a smart city front-runner. More than 250 companies, including IT giants Cisco and Hitachi, have embarked on smart city activities in the capital and the city already has smart lighting and smart traffic management systems in place. On top of this, Copenhagen also has a pioneering Smart Grid sector, with more than 30% of all EU Smart Grid R&D projects having taken place in Denmark in recent years.

Copenhagen presents a unique opportunity for smart city innovation. Two years ago, the city worked with Japanese firm Hitachi to launch the world’s first marketplace for city data, City Data Exchange. This data provides information about traffic patterns, citizen’s energy consumption and more, which companies and startups can buy to develop smart city solutions.

Copenhagen’s investments in the bustling smart city sector are undoubtedly paying off. In 2014, the capital won the World Smart Cities Award for its Copenhagen Connecting Project. By using insight from wireless data in cell phones, GPS in buses, and sensors in sewers and bins, businesses and startups alike are leading the city in a greener direction, helping it reduce congestion, air pollution and CO2 emissions.

Big business in Copenhagen

Renowned industry giants, Carlsberg Group and Moller-Maersk, have both chosen to position their headquarters in the bustling city of Copenhagen.

  • Carlsberg Group

Carlsberg Group stands as one of the leading brewery groups in the world today, selling its famous brands in more than 150 markets. Opening its doors in 1847, the company’s founder, J.C Jacoben, brewed the company’s first Carlsberg beer at its historic brewery in Copenhagen and the company’s headquarters still remains there today.

Its flagship brand, Carlsberg, is one of the most renowned beer brands in the world and its Baltika and Tuborg brands are among the eight biggest brands in Europe. More than 41,000 people work for the Danish firm and today, it has the largest collection of unopened beer bottles in the globe, with over 22,000 beer bottles intact. Currently the business is headed up by CEO Cees 't Hart.

  • Maersk

A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, commonly known as Maersk, is a Danish conglomerate with activities spanning across the transport, logistics and energy sectors. Founded in Denmark in 1904, Maersk has subsidiaries and offices across 130 countries and employs around 76,000 people. The company’s Maersk Line business has been the world’s largest container shipping company since 1996. Boasting an annual revenue of $35bn in 2017, CEO Søren Skou is at the helm of the business today.

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