Five Questions with Invest in Denmark’s Jens Birk
10 and a half years at the Danish Embassy in Paris. 14 and a half years at Denmark In New York. Jens Birk, Deputy Director at Invest in Denmark, North America, has been working for Denmark for 25 years, promoting Danish interests and broadcasting Denmark’s unique market opportunities to foreign companies on both sides of the Atlantic.
As a celebration of his jubilee, Denmark in New York sat down with him to talk about his successes in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the highlights of a quarter-century long career.
You work with Life Sciences for Invest in Denmark. What does your job consist of?
I work very closely with US pharma and biotech companies, informing them about opportunities in Denmark within the area of clinical research, among others, and set up informational roundtables at the Residence of Denmark in New York. We also consult with medtech companies about using Denmark as a gateway to the Nordic countries or the entire European market. The very important Danish life sciences cluster, combined with the government’s new growth strategy for the sector, make Denmark a very competitive location for biopharma and medtech companies.
In addition to this, I also work on cross-sector activities such as a design project that integrates Culture, Press, Public Diplomacy, Trade and Invest in Denmark. I find that there are many opportunities to explore synergies within the Consulate, other representations and the Ministry, but that it just takes time to identify them. We have just moved to a new open office space at Denmark House and it has certainly helped us exchange knowledge more easily.
What has been your biggest work-related achievement so far?
It’s hard to pinpoint one single achievement, but in general I think it would have to be bringing more clinical research to Denmark for the benefit of patients in Denmark and around the world. By bringing companies to Denmark, we can help accelerate the development of new treatments and make them available to Danish patients as early as possible. And it enhances the Danish life sciences cluster.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing is knowing that I’m making a difference and creating value for Denmark and for our clients. And then, of course — having such fantastic colleagues! It is very inspiring to work with colleagues and customers who are passionate about what they do. Over the years, I’ve found that people working in the life sciences industry tend to be extremely proud of what they do. Overall, this makes it very meaningful to go to work every day.
Before you started here, you worked at the Danish Embassy in Paris for more than 10 years. What is the biggest difference between working for Denmark in New York and Denmark in Paris?
There are many differences. But in general I would say that France tends to be very centralized and a lot of companies are located in or near Paris. Whereas in the US, the distances are so much bigger and you have to spend a lot of time traveling to meet the companies. I also find that with US executives you have to be extremely targeted in your approach and have a very strong value proposition to get them to accept a meeting.
You’ve been living and working here in New York for almost 15 years now. What is the best thing about New York?
The diversity! I love meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds, and New Yorkers are in general very curious about who you are and where you come from. I am constantly being challenged and inspired, and there’s an openness and tolerance that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.
Ema Seferovic is the Press and Communications Intern at DenmarkInNY.