New Centre for Sustainability and Resilience launched in Denmark

Jul 2014

Director of ICIS, Karen Blincoe, is now the Board Chair for a new centre in Denmark that will be working on sustainable development and resilience. The Velux and Villum Foundations together have donated a generous 29.2 Million DKK towards establishing the centre.

“Population growth, a changing climate and increasing pressure on our resources makes it imperative to create a global, national and local society that will be able to manage global change in a sustainable way. The vision of the centre is to contribute to the development of a sustainable and resilient society by exploring how to and supporting upscaling and effective implementation of the diverse array of innovative solutions and ideas out there,” says Chair Karen Blincoe.

The main focus of the Centre for Sustainability and Resilience (Centre) will be to initiate, develop and follow innovative projects that could serve as sustainable solutions for overcoming barriers to change; thereby inspire action in others and on a larger scale. This is beyond ‘best practice’, this is ‘innovative, cutting-edge practice’; practices that challenge the established traditions, norms and systems that we have long been dependent on but which are no longer sustainable, while recognising that sustainability is about embracing diverse solutions.

This is the challenge – changing cultural, behavioural and societal norms that thwart progress toward sustainability.

The Centre’s role in effect would be to research how successful small-scale, local sustainability projects or new, evolving technologies can be made into successful mainstream initiatives. Within this framework a broad range of themes will be explored at the Centre:

Culture and societal norms: How we produce, consume and waste food is a current hot topic. Many concede that to create a sustainable food system we will have to change our food consuming behaviour because sustaining the growing consumption of for example, meat, will be unsustainable in the future. Food is intrinsically linked to our culture, so how do we change our food culture?

Material flow: As consumption and subsequent pressure on resources increases, reducing material loss throughout the extraction, production and consumption phases of any product is becoming more essential. Reusing used resources, whether it is reusing products or recycling, will become the norm. How do we create processes and systems that enable consumers to easily participate in reuse/recycling? How do we make producers more accountable?

Efficiency: Looking at energy use, efficiency is the goal. SMART integrated technology such as smart meters and smart appliances (e.g. fridges connected to the internet) will change how we use energy. For example, we will be able to more flexibly control usage using our phones, or distribute consumption more evenly throughout the day – set our clothes to wash at night. How do we exploit SMART technology for sustainability?

Global co-operation, governance and education: The distinct lines between institutions are not so distinct any more. Government and corporation roles are increasingly linked. Some corporations are larger in economic terms than some countries. War in one country affects lives and the economy in another. MOOCs (Massive Open On-line Courses) are transforming who, how and where we learn – creating a global university. We are moving ever closer to becoming a global community. How do we support local needs in a global society?

Nature and biodiversity: Ecosystems provide many services to society that are undervalued. Biodiversity is one such service providing essential ingredients and ideas, for example in medical and technological development (biomimicry). How do we learn from, protect and integrate these ecosystems, that we rely on, into our economic models?

Denmark boasts a whole range of initiatives and commitments to sustainability. It is one of the most forward-thinking countries in the world in terms of sustainable infrastructure, consumer protection and energy. The Centre’s role will be to act as a catalyst to further current initiatives by working with current actors, to create new approaches and support the process of change, but also share Danish know-how internationally. Although the Centre will work closely with many public and private institutions, it has no political affiliations and will be a non-profit organisation.

We on the Board are both proud and humbled to be involved in starting this journey, where the goal is the major transition to a sustainable society. We have the technological and scientific know-how and innovation to realise sustainability but we lack the cultural, social and personal processes to implement it. This is the challenge – changing cultural, behavioural and societal norms that thwart progress toward sustainability,” says the Chair.

Velux funded the lead-up to the development of the Centre; the seminar series “In 100 years – starting now” facilitated by House of Futures. ‘’ was a set of seminars which ran from June 2011 to April 2012 “involving cross disciplinary experts and thinkers, who will rework and co-create visions of sustainability and growth“. The future scenarios developed during this process will also inform the work and direction of the Centre.

Currently the Centre is expected to be up-and-running by the end of the year and is in the process of seeking a Director and administrative staff.

Board of Directors: 

Karen Blincoe, Sustainability Consultant, Director of ICIS, previous Director of Schumacher College (Chairman)

Niels Elers Koch, Professor, Head of Department, Director of S & L, Department of Earth Sciences and Natural Resource, University of Copenhagen (Vice-Chairman)

Camilla Bjerre, Landscape Manager, Nature Agency (Clerk)

Claus Stig Pedersen, Director of Sustainability at Novozymes A/S, and Adjunct Professor at Aalborg University

Gitte Larsen, Futurist, Editor and Director of Editions/House of Futures

Michael Zwicky Hauschild, Professor, Head of Quantitative Sustainability Assessment (QSA), Dept. of Management Engineering, DTU

Ole Fogh Kirkeby, Professor of Philosophy and Management, Copenhagen Business School


Karen Blincoe (Chairman),, Mobile 26 36 13 44 (information on the Centre)
Eva Beckmann (Communications and Media), VELUX and VILLUM Foundation, Mobile 20 84 20 85 (for authorisation)

Read more on the Centre’s interim website