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Johanne Korsdal Sørensen transferred a topical social problem into an application to Innovation Fund Denmark. Over the next five to eight years, Denmark will be short of about 40,000 health and social workers. What can we do about the problem? Johanne Korsdal and her colleagues have a qualified proposal, and Innovation Fund Denmark is backing them up with DKK 6.1 million. However, it was a demanding application process and the researchers needed help from several parties, says Johanne Korsdal, external relations manager at the Anthropological Analysis Unit at Moesgaard – Mantra.

There is a clear advantage in setting up an innovation project on a burning platform – and that is close to the scenario we’re facing if more people cannot be encouraged to train as health and social workers. Many health and social workers are retiring, the burden of the aging population is increasing, and the number of applicants for training programmes for health and social workers is falling (from 9,000 to 2,700 over six years). Another problem is that many students, including migrants, drop out of training programmes for health and social workers, and that too many of them fail to get an education at all. So there was an opportunity to solve many problems at the same time. 

In collaboration with the Alexandra Institute, over the course of approx. two months, Johanne Korsdal and her colleagues (Sara Lei Sparre and Astrid Stampe Lovelady) devised a project and wrote a Grand Solution application to Innovation Fund Denmark. The core of the project is action research and an app-based approach. (Read more here). Johanne does not recommend that others leave themselves such a short time: "There was a lot of pressure in the process. We worked almost around the clock. And we needed a lot of help in the process to meet all the application requirements."
But we succeeded in getting the collaboration partners to act quickly. Local Government Denmark (LGDK), social and healthcare colleges, and several local authorities have been involved. "They have an acute and growing problem that must be solved. And they were ready to support the project and join in as contributors.  We received help from the Research Support Office for the application itself. They read the application, checked the formalities and, in particular, helped with the budget. Others were also critical readers. That was a big help," says Johanne Korsdal.

The socio-economic model was a challenge
One of the major challenges in the application was to draw up a socio-economic model to illustrate that it is likely that the project will have a positive socio-economic impact. "It takes specialist knowledge to make such a model. And we found it difficult to find the right help at AU. But through networking, we managed to find an external financial consultant who could help us. And we didn't get a single comment on the model, even after two economists had assessed our application," says Johanne Korsdal.

Innovation Fund Denmark requires many details
Innovation Fund Denmark is very much about details and formalities. And the project group spent a lot of time checking whether they had answered the application form as they were supposed to. They were also in doubt about how they should interpret some of the questions, because the language is very business-oriented: "In contrast to what we perceived as the core (research), they asked many more development-oriented and impact-oriented questions, using a very consultant-like language. Innovation Fund Denmark is very application-oriented, and there must be a scaling perspective, preferably with commercial solutions."

Investment negotiations and process plan
Of course Johanne Korsdal and the project group were very pleased when their application was successful. But there were a lot more negotiations and plans to be finalised before they could get started on the core of their project – the research. “I’ve spent three months on something close to full time on investment negotiations with the foundation, and our lawyer, project finance administrator and research PI have also spent extremely many hours in the same period. It’s been quite time-consuming. Among other things, Innovation Fund Denmark requires a very detailed project plan, collaboration agreements with the Alexandra Institute and with the nine other partners (supplementary agreements), including their contributions to the project. It was a bit surprising to me that this work has been so comprehensive and demanding. But now all of us in the project group are looking forward to getting started on our research and innovation project ‘From migrant to aspirant health and social worker’, so that we can help to solve an urgent welfare problem," concludes Johanne Korsdal.

Advice from Johanne Korsdal
If you want to apply for funding from Innovation Fund Denmark, then Johanne Korsdal advises:
• Think about current societal challenges – burning platforms
• Get started in good time
• Accept all the help you can get from the Research Support Office and your colleagues
• Keep in close dialogue with Innovation Fund Denmark. It is important that you ask about and understand their ‘management-speak’ and answer the questions correctly.

Link to Innovation Fund Denmark/Grand Solutions

Link to the Research Support Office