Digital Tech Summit 2021: Key Insights

Earlier this month, the Digital Tech Summit was hosted here in Copenhagen. We checked in with Gitte Storm Hougaard Jørgensen – one of the organizers – to hear about the key insights and outcomes of the event.

What were some of the biggest insights and outcomes that emerged from the Summit?

One of the most important things that the Digital Tech Summit has shown is that there is a need for a meeting point for actors, initiatives, networks, etc. in both the public and private sectors, to strengthen the digital transformation. With Denmark’s 8 universities as the driving force, a high academic level was set, in an ecosystem that already has international recognition in several areas. The role of universities as the 8 core pillars of the ecosystem and their willingness to collaborate, provided visibility and sent a strong message to the outside world.

In addition, the fair has been able to illuminate and set the direction for some important trends areas in digital technology.

* (The 8 universities: Copenhagen Business School, Technical University of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, IT University of Copenhagen, University of Southern Denmark, Aarhus University, Roskilde University, Aalborg University.)

AI Ethics were a key topic at this year’s summit – how might we build more human-centered and sustainable A.I. that can positively impact all of humanity?

Universities are concerned with putting people at the center of technology. This also applies to artificial intelligence, where massive investments are being made in research in Denmark. For example, in areas such as: Explainable AI, safe and ethical AI and the link between AI and sustainability. Likewise, efforts are being made across a broad spectrum of areas to develop new education programs within artificial intelligence and digitalization – so universities can meet the growing demand for digital talent in both the private and the public sectors.

At the same time, it is crucial that a good framework is created for the exchange of knowledge between public research and industry if we are to secure new digital solutions for the benefit of society at large. And here, the Digital Tech Summit plays an important role in this digital transformation.

The risk of crossing the line within AI ethics lies not only in the development of technology, but also to a large extent in how the technology is used. At present, the development and use of AI is based on trust. Therefore, political initiatives that can set standards and pave the way for ethical technology are also necessary for AI to have a positive impact on all of humanity. This is a topic that is a key focus of EU Commissioner Magrethe Vestager, who actively participated in this year’s Summit.

How is technology playing a leading role in helping us work towards major social and environmental challenges, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals? What were some of the more promising innovations at the Summit around using technology for solving social and environmental issues?

At the Digital Tech Summit, there were over 70 professional sessions, several of which had a direct focus on the role of technology in solving major societal challenges. It exciting to see in areas such as energy and sustainability, for example, where several sessions addressed artificial intelligence as a prerequisite for growing those sectors. For example, integrating AI in the establishment of smart and more coherent energy systems. Health tech also had a significant focus on AI, where, among other things, there was a focus on so-called “digital twinning” to develop medicines more quickly and accurately. All in all, the presentations from both researchers and business leaders showed that cross-disciplinary collaboration is crucial for technologies to truly help solve our societal challenges.

The summit was hosted by many major research universities – how can we bridge the gap between university research and technology industries? And how might these collaborations be oriented toward solving the SDGs?

Over the past 10-15 years, Danish universities have made a great effort to open up and strengthen cooperation with the business community. This applies to both the general dissemination of knowledge, but also the commercialization of concrete research – for example creating new spin-offs and startup companies based on university research. The Digital Tech Summit is a result of this positive development. The event also shows how crucial it is for universities to collaborate in the exchange of knowledge between the business and the public sectors. Digitization requires many types of competencies, both from the humanities, social sciences, and the technical sciences. The individual research environments may not necessarily provide all the knowledge that is required. Therefore, it is necessary to think across professional competencies. For example, when we need to develop robust and competitive technologies where people are at the center, where we create economic value and solve the challenges of society.

Gitte Storm Hougaard Jørgensen works to develop, execute and establish the Digital Tech Summit Startup Community as one of her personal visions is: to create value in the world, by strengthening the exchange of knowledge and the collaboration between research and business. By creating collaborations across universities and with the rest of the startup ecosystem, the future looks exciting.