Agreement on Pioneer Initiative

3 May 2019 I Latest news

During the recent negotiation of Denmark’s Financial Act, the parties of the Danish Parliament agreed to give DKK 177 million to establish a so-called Pioneer Initiative, which will contribute to securing Denmark’s position among the global research elite.

VILLUM FONDEN, The Danish National Research Foundation, the Carlsberg Foundation, the Lundbeck Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation have now agreed on cooperative funding for the Pioneer Centers, and the initiative can now be launched with a total funding of DKK 1 billion.The ambition is to establish excellent research units that carry out basic research aimed at solving major societal challenges within 2-3 selected themes, including, among others, artificial intelligence and climate/energy.

Tommy Ahlers, Danish Minister of Higher Education and Science says: 

“The Pioneer Centers are a groundbreaking project that will give Danish basic research a solid boost. It is a very ambitious funding amount, but also the cooperation between the private foundations, the universities and the Danish National Research Foundation has a really interesting perspective for Danish research. With what the foundations are proposing, Denmark can be at the forefront of the research within artificial intelligence, and we can strengthen the basic research in climate-friendly solutions. I look forward to seeing the initiative become concrete in the coming years”. 

Thomas Bjørnholm, Executive Chief Scientific Officer at VILLUM FONDEN adds:

"We are thrilled by the opportunity to be a part of attracting world class researchers to Denmark - with the aim of using research in technical and natural sciences to solve major societal challenges". 

Professor Jens Kehlet Nørskov, chair of the DNRF board agrees:

“It is very gratifying for Denmark that we now have broad support politically and from the universities and the private foundations for an extraordinary ambitious research initiative. If we are to solve some of the enormous challenges facing the world today, there is a need to strengthen basic research in areas of interest, where research breakthroughs are the prerequisite for finding new solutions. For instance, we need to find new ways to store renewable energy if we are to solve the climate challenges while maintaining our standard of living. And artificial intelligence will, in many ways, shape our society in the future. We must help develop the technology and ensure that it is ethically and humanly sound".


For further information:

Thomas Bjørnholm
Executive Chief Scientific Officer, professor, VILLUM FONDEN
+45 28 75 18 35


Professor Thomas Bjørnholm is responsible for the foundation’s research programmes in technical and natural sciences.
Previously Thomas Bjørnholm was Prorector for Research and Innovation and Deputy Rector at the University of Copenhagen with overall responsibility for research and innovation across all disciplines at the university.

He is a professor of Materials Chemistry and the founding director of the Nano-Science Center at the University of Copenhagen.

Thomas Bjørnholm is a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences and he has served on numerous boards and committees.

As a scientist, he has published more than 200 articles in scientific journals and books including contributions to the highly-recognized journals Nature and Science. He has given more than 150 invited talks at conferences and research institutes around the world and received research awards, including the Ole Rømer Foundation Award, the Ellen & Niels Bjerrum Award and gold medal, and the Director Ib Henriksen Award.

See more extensive CV

Charlotte Korsager Winther
Head of Communications, THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS
+45 51 17 67 74