Greater Copenhagen:

Europe's Leading FDI Destination

July 11, 2017

Copenhagen City on a beautiful summer's day

IMAGE: Sergii Figurnyi

Is it really possible?


Can one of the most liveable and fun-loving regions in the world, also be one of the most investible?


Can a region that prides itself on its clean, green credentials - with climate change at the forefront of its thinking - and which is totally dedicated to sustainable development - also be a region that is one of the most favoured places in the world for foreign direct investment?



Yes. Greater Copenhagen, with its booming economy, highly skilled workforce, and low-cost base and hi-tech infrastructure really is just such a place.


Are you looking for the best metropole to launch a new tech start-up?


Are you seeking an ideal commercial city-hub from which you can build and take your growing business forward into the 2020s and beyond?


If so, you would be strongly advised to take a close look at Greater Copenhagen – in the heart of Europe - your entry point to Scandinavia and the Baltic's 100 million plus population as well as the EU's 28-country economic network.


But why Greater Copenhagen - what makes this region so special?


First and foremost, there are the City of Copenhagen's incredible sustainability credentials.


Denmark was ranked number 1 in Europe in the Global Sustainability Rankings for 2016, while managing to take top spot in WWF's Global Innovation Index 2017, due no little to Copenhagen's pledge to become carbon neutral by 2025 and Denmark's ambitious target to be completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050.


Need convincing? Let's look at the facts.




The City of Copenhagen is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025. In order to achieve this incredible but achievable goal, Copenhagen is dedicated to developing green transportation, water and waste management, and sustainable buildings that use renewable energy such as wind power, solar energy as well as green energy plants and biofuels.


The city is also seeking to develop green recycling and upcycling, a reduction in congestion and pollution, and developing smart grids, intelligent lighting, and many other smart, eco-friendly solutions.



Harbour Swimming Baths at Islands Brygge

IMAGE: Nicolai Perjesi



Greater Copenhagen's cleantech companies are involved in wide-ranging green initiatives, such as solar and wind power, water purification, and biofuels. Their main goals are to provide higher energy performances at lower costs, reducing or eliminating negative ecological impact, while also increasing the responsible use of natural resources.


Also known as clean technology, cleantech companies abound in Greater Copenhagen. At the latest count, there were over 600 such companies in the eastern Denmark region, employing 77,000 people, with some 45% of them working directly in cleantech, and 70% of them having activities outside of Denmark. When you compare this to the fact that the whole of Ireland, a country focused on becoming a major investment hub for clean technology, has a community of 540 cleantech companies, you get the picture that Copenhagen and cleantech go together like two birds of a feather.


When measured as a proportion of national economies' GDP, Denmark is at the top of the list, and it far outweighs the cleantech sales of countries like France, UK, and India.


Electric charging station in a busy Copenhagen street

MAGE: Colourbox



It is no longer sufficient to just have a green and eco-friendly programme. To achieve full carbon-neutral sustainability, a city also has to be smart.


It is here that Greater Copenhagen also excels, with its far-reaching, innovative eco-friendly sustainability programmes.


  • Smart Grid – The Danish Smart Grid Strategy, which is attracting wide international attention, enables consumers to manage their own energy needs. This strategy combines electricity meters which are read on an hourly basis, with variable tariffs and a data hub which allows consumers to use the power when it is least expensive. There is no question that this new technology, in which Denmark is a leading player, and will involve creating brand new products which will be worth billions of Euros over the coming decade. Copenhagen is almost 100% covered by electricity, gas and district heating grids, while 98% of the city's district heating system is supplied by waste heat: making it easy to optimise the energy usage in smart grid solutions. Copenhagen is therefore one of the most attractive international destinations for companies providing smart grid solutions.

  • The City Data Exchange, which researches ways to solve traffic congestions and parking problems; and

  • Street Lab, a test bed for smart city solutions, such as waste management, air quality and noise monitoring, water management, and mobility monitoring - just a few of the initiatives that are commonplace in Copenhagen.

  • Lighting Metropolis is a joint venture between the municipalities and universities of Denmark and Sweden which also involves international companies. This project has created the world's first living laboratory for smart urban lighting - in effect, a 'one stop hub' for the research and development of intelligent urban lighting.

  • DOLL (Danish Outdoor Living Lab) consists of three laboratories: the first, a 'living lab' which provides experiences of lighting products on streets, pathways, passages, parks and squares; the second, a 'quality lab' which provides manufacturers and buyers with a test bed for lighting; and the third is a 'virtual lab' which uses 3D computer technology to visualise the effects of new developments in eco-lighting.

  • Gate 21 is another partnership between municipalities, companies, and universities to create and test innovative ways to accelerate the green revolution with regards to cities and construction, transportation, and energy resources.

  • The Resource City is a test centre for waste management, upcycling and recycling.

  • The Kalundborg Symbiosis is a collaboration between four industrial enterprises whereby the residual by-product of one enterprise is used as a resource by the second enterprise, and so on in a closed cycle. This industrial symbiosis allows the public and private companies to buy and sell residual products. All this has been made possible by the clever use of smart systems and the willing cooperation of the people involved. Greater Copenhagen now has decades of experience to draw on in such ventures.

Aerial view of Malmö City; on the Swedish side of the Greater Copenhagen region

IMAGE: Oleksandr Prykhodko



Materials science, also known as materials science and engineering, is the process of discovery, creation and application of new materials. From silicon chips to solar cells, modern life owes a lot to the field of materials science, and here are just some of the ways in which Greater Copenhagen is leading us into an exciting tomorrow:


ESS (The European Spallation Source) is located in the university city of Lund in southern Sweden, and once completed will be the world's largest, most powerful and advanced facility for neutron-based research. Think of the ESS facility like a giant microscope which will enable breakthroughs in environmental science, climatology, medicine, energy research as well as fundamental and particle physics: providing yet another example of how Danish-Swedish collaboration is spurring innovation for the global good.


MAX IV Laboratory, also located in Lund, provides the world’s brightest X-ray source. This ground breaking technology will be utilised by scientists from academia and industry to develop new products and materials, whilst improving the performance of existing materials.


Many other countries, such as Japan and the USA, have tried but failed to build such a facility, adding further credibility to Greater Copenhagen's ability to outshine the competition no matter how much funding they may have behind them.


The presence of ESS and MAX IV makes Greater Copenhagen the best place for material science in developing pharmaceuticals, building materials, smart energy, nano technology and the disruptive products of the future.


It is for all these and other smart city innovations that Greater Copenhagen is acknowledged as being one of the top smart metropoles in the world.




Bioenergy is renewable energy that comes from organic matter such as waste or plant residues. It is either a biofuel or a biomass which can be incinerated or used to create biogas. It is then used for heating or fuel in gas engines for use in large electric generating stations. It can also be refined to use in products such as bioethanol that can be blended with petrol.


Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) are world leaders in this field and are providing significant contributions to making bioenergy cheaper by

optimising all the processes involved in converting waste or plants into fuel.


Greater Copenhagen is attracting a great deal of bioenergy investment. Danish companies and researchers are among the best in the world in developing efficient processes for incinerating biomass, and they have also been involved in the first new bioenergy plant to be set up in Europe for many years.


Danish researchers are currently developing 2nd generation biofuels which are made from waste or plant residues.


Relaxing in the Amager Beach Park

IMAGE: Ursula Bach



Most people will relate Copenhagen's e-mobility with the city's unique bicycle culture that promotes the use of bicycles, which is in itself an incredible sustainability venture.


But e-mobility within the city is more than just bikes. It also encompasses plans for e-Freight transportation, a clean e-Bus fleet, e-parking and smart charging. Of course, it goes without saying that it also includes the promotion of e-Cars which, along with the city's bikes, can also be shared with the use of smart technology.


Greater Copenhagen also has full coverage of hydrogen filling stations and the region is the world leading test site for fuel cell vehicles from Hyundai, Toyota and Honda.




There are many opportunities for foreign companies to become involved in Denmark's waste management industry. Under plans drawn up last year, foreign companies will be able to tender for the incineration, and the recycling of waste by using the cheapest and most efficient processes.


Commercial companies will have more say on how their waste is handled and municipalities will be obliged to use private solutions for the handling of recyclable waste.



Ice Skating at Frederiksberg Runddel

IMAGE: Jonas Smith

What about the "non-eco" advantages for investing in a metropole like Copenhagen?


Let's look at some of the non-eco, but equally compelling business reasons why Greater Copenhagen should be at the top of any list by investors who are looking to make a foreign direct investment.


Premium talent


The Danes provide a well-educated, fluent English-speaking, highly skilled, diligent workforce who know how to balance their personal lives with their business lives to ensure they are happy and satisfied at both work and play.


There is a standard 37-hour week, and the typical non-hierarchical work structures help the Danes to feel a high degree of empowerment in their work settings. This leads to a highly motivated, responsible, flexible and conscientious workforce. In fact, the Danes are so happy at work they even have a special word for it: arbejdsglæde. Arbejde means 'work' and glæde means 'happiness', so arbejdsglæde is quite literally happiness at work!


Ease of doing business


Ranked by the World Bank as the number one place to do business in Europe for the past 5 years.


Low corporate tax rate


The current rate of 22% is well below the average taxes of the OECD and other European countries.


Low business costs


Copenhagen has the most competitive business costs in Scandinavia, with crucial costs such as salaries, social security, and building rents being some 15-20% lower than those in nearby Stockholm.


ICT (Information and Communication Technologies)


Denmark is Europe's most digital nation. Opportunities abound for foreign investors to help Copenhagen build the world's first carbon neutral city by the creation and testing of ICT solutions. Foreign companies can also participate in the next generation of Denmark's digital infrastructure.


Greater Copenhagen offers foreign investors unique access to electronic databases and registries which they can use freely for research, testing and development purposes.


Hitachi has built Europe's first big data research laboratory in Copenhagen and is currently building the world's first city data exchange there. Greater Copenhagen has more than 12,000 IT companies and employs over 100,000 employees in the IT sector.


Excellent logistics


Copenhagen is a bridge between the 100 million people living in Scandinavia and the Baltic states with continental Europe. 35% of the Scandinavian population, along with 55% of all Scandinavian companies are within a 3-hour drive of Copenhagen city.


Copenhagen boasts Scandinavia's largest airport and seaports (by the number of connections, passengers, and cargo traffic) and 11 times in 13 years Copenhagen Airport was named as the most efficient airport in Europe by the Air Transport Research Society.


No corruption


No brown envelopes required here. Denmark is part of the furniture of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index as one of the top three least corrupt countries in the world. This is due to an open and well-functioning public sector and a culture of no bribery, whilst Copenhagen is renowned for its low levels of bureaucracy and red tape.


Education and training


Denmark spends one of the highest percentages of its GDP in the world on public education.


Its innovative universities specialise in training students for business careers in subjects such as IT, ICT, engineering, life sciences, social sciences, and design.


Many courses are combined with industry partnerships. Greater Copenhagen has 14 universities and colleges of further education and 15 science parks. Many of these are near and around university campuses where many new start-ups and tech companies have also set up shop.


Creativity, analytical thinking, and internships with organisations and businesses ensure a highly qualified and relevant workforce. With its trailblazing R&D, Copenhagen is world renowned as a leading market for ICT, cleantech, and smart city solutions.


The Creative Arts


World-renowned fashion brands; superlative international TV, film and gaming productions; elegant, high quality,functional and sustainable architecture means that Denmark punches well above its weight in the creative arts. In all, Denmark's creative industries make up a significant 10% of the nation's total exports.


Food products and food technology


The Danes are world leaders in the production of additives such as enzymes, probiotics, natural sweeteners and food colouring. They supply 14% of all bio ingredients to the global food industry.


The label 'Made in Denmark' is synonymous with top quality, safety, and hygiene. Greater Copenhagen has the third largest 'food cluster' in Europe and producers of food additives export a whopping 95% of their products and producers of processing equipment and robots export 80% of their goods.


These food clusters can provide foreign direct investors with incredible business opportunities. Denmark's years of experience, its digital technologies, its access to highly focussed universities, and a skilled labour pool make it the number one place for investors in food products, additives, and technology.


Life sciences


while Greater Copenhagen's main industry sectors are continually in the enviable position of being a first tier choice for investors, it has to be said that the life science sector is where the region really shines. Medicon Valley, the Danish-Swedish life science cluster spanning the Greater Copenhagen region, is known as the crucible of Scandinavian life sciences and ranks number one in Europe for drug pipeline, clinical trials and investment in R&D per capita in biotech and pharma. From meditech and pharma giants such as Novo Nordisk, LEO Pharma, Baxter Gambro and Lundbeck to burgeoning innovative SMEs, many companies are increasingly finding success in capitalising what the region has to offer.


According to esteemed publication Scientific American, Denmark is the number one country in Europe for the development of biotechnology, and in terms of clinical trials, Denmark hosts more per capita than any country in the world. That's largely down to the fact that the Danish life science industry employs over 40,000 people and offers some of the most advanced academic research centres in the world. The meditech industry in Greater Copenhagen alone has a turnover of € 6.7 billion, and with multi-billion Euros of healthcare investment earmarked by the Danish government, Greater Copenhagen isn't just well poised for future prosperity and for attracting growth, but is at the centre of a boom industry which has its best days still ahead.


Ease of residency and a great lifestyle/work-balance


It is a relatively simple process for foreigners who wish to invest in Denmark to apply for residency. This process can commence before you relocate and before you even have an address in Greater Copenhagen.


Once there, you and your family can live in a safe, green environment, and have free access to public healthcare and public education which offer many courses in English. You can learn Danish for free, obtain low-cost childcare, and enjoy the well-run public transportation system.


Copenhagen is a vibrant, green city and residents can participate in the unique bicycle culture, enjoy a rich cultural life, and join one of the many associations and clubs. All of the city's housing is of a very high standard, and there are many green recreational areas.


In Greater Copenhagen it really is possible for you and your family to achieve an enjoyable work-life balance. That's precisely the reason why the Earth Institute's World Happiness Report has rated Denmark as the happiest nation on Earth on more than a few occasions.



Boats mooring on the Nyhavn Canal

IMAGE: Sean Pavone



If we have sparked your interest, the 'icing on the cake' in investing in Greater Copenhagen is the magnificently resourced Copenhagen Capacity - the official Danish FDI agency in Greater Copenhagen.


This organisation will provide you with a wealth of relevant and helpful information. They will answer all your questions, and actively assist you at every stage of your plans – before, during and after you set up your business.


Here's a summary of just some of the comprehensive services that Copenhagen Capacity willingly provides for all foreign businesses looking to invest in Greater Copenhagen.


  • Show you where Greater Copenhagen sits in comparison with other Scandinavian cities and business regions.

  • Provide you with information and stats on the huge range of industries already established in Greater Copenhagen, such as Life Sciences, Cleantech, ICT, Smart City, Transport & Logistics, Creative Industries and Foods & Additives, and identify any specific market potential.

  • Assist you in constructing your business case.

  • Compile market surveys to support your business development.

  • Assist you in your initial company setup, including such matters as providing advice on legal, financial and corporate structural matters; registering your business with the relevant authorities; introduce you to lawyers, accountants, trade associations and chambers of commerce.

  • Facilitate contacts and networks with other businesses, public authorities and research institutions.

  • Assist in the location of suitable offices, production facilities and/or building sites for your operations in Greater Copenhagen; arrange site visits and meetings with real estate agents.

  • Advise you on potential customers, competitors and service providers.

  • Identify relevant funding schemes and incentive programmes.

  • Proactively assist in recruitment in a host of ways, such as promoting your business profile and open jobs in international talent attraction campaigns. The City of Copenhagen's 'International House Copenhagen' will help with the recruitment paperwork for foreign workers and assist with settling them into their new lives.

  • Advice on a wide range of business topics, such as R&D projects, relevant education institutions and public authorities, growth markets, test & demo facilities, funding opportunities, potential business partners and strategic company alliances.


In summary, Copenhagen Capacity will be there to advise and serve your needs at every stage of the process and will help you to make the right decisions. They will ensure that you are completely satisfied with your choice of Greater Copenhagen for decades to come.


It really doesn't matter whether you are interested in investing in one of the eco-friendly green sectors or in one of the many non-eco related business sectors. We are confident find that you will soon agree that Greater Copenhagen is one of the greatest places on earth to live in - to have fun in - and crucially - to successfully grow your business





To find out more about how Copenhagen Capacity can help you set up your business in one of Europe's most dynamic regions, please visit the official Danish investment promotion agency for Greater Copenhagen:





CEO Carsten Orth Gaarn-Larsen examines the Danish cleantech sector

© Sustain Europe 2021. All rights reserved. Powered by 100% Green Energy. Our pledge to the Environment.