Changing the world requires money, commitment – and knowledge. Danske Bank engaged RISE to help the circular companies in its free networking, advisory and challenge platform, +impact, by giving them a solid research foundation to stand on.
Danske Bank had already been working to support startups for many years when, in 2018, it received new orders from its CEO, namely, to put even more focus on, and start working with, impact startups, i.e. companies that have sustainability as an integral part of their business concept.
– “Working with startups is a way for us, as a bank, to learn about and support companies that will be our future customers,” says Maria Grabowska, Project Manager at Danske Bank.
– “And, as many others have also concluded, we realize that it is no longer possible to do business that is detrimental to our planet. By focusing more on impact startups, we hope to learn more about their needs and support them during the stage of business when they are most vulnerable. And by doing so, we learn more about how to build sustainable business models,” she says.
The need for a network of like-minded
In order to learn more about their needs, Danske Bank created a survey and sent it out to companies aiming to make a difference so that they could provide input on what they felt was missing.
– “A fairly large group expressed the need for having a network of like-minded people,
which is what prompted us to set up an accelerator. It would enable us to work more closely with these types of companies and offer them a forum for getting to know others in the same situation and identify new opportunities together,” she says.
Program that focuses on specific areas
Today, the +impact accelerator is run as two-month programs that are offered three times per year. For each round, the focus is on a specific area, such as food or energy. Approximately 15 companies are then chosen to participate in an intensive learning program.
– “We host some workshops, but try to put most of the focus on having the companies interact and meet others in our network who can help them accelerate their businesses. This is how the participants meet others in the same situation, forming ties with them and our existing customers so that they can set up new collaborations,” she says.
We are the scientific advisor for the accelerator
Although Danske Bank is in charge of the accelerator, they decided to get some help from some external partners, such as RISE.
– “Many of our participants have excellent business knowledge, but they lack access to research that can verify the sustainability of their business models. Evaluating their supply chains from a sustainability perspective can be difficult, for example. Also, bridging the gap between research and entrepreneurship is crucial, since we are striving for real sustainability, not just greenwashing,” she says.
And this is where RISE comes in.
– “We are the scientific advisor for the accelerator, helping its participants obtain a more solid scientific foundation for their business,” says Josefina Sallén, Focus Area Leader for Circular Transition at RISE.
– “Our purpose is twofold: we help them acquire knowledge in new areas and gain credibility. Being able to tell stakeholders that they are collaborating with RISE demonstrates that they really are serious about what they promise to achieve from their business pursuits,” she says.
Wide support for diverse needs
Because there is such wide variation among the participating companies, the body of knowledge needs to be quite broad. RISE has helped with everything from technology for packaging design in the food industry to AI.
– “The needs are quite diverse. But we can always either locate the knowledge within our own organization, or match companies with others in our network who have the expertise they require. It is truly exciting to see the new innovation that comes from matching their business savvy with our in-depth knowledge, regardless of the area,” she says.