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Jesper Würtzen: Sustainability is meant to be a part of everybody's life when in Kildedal

Jesper Würtzen: Sustainability is meant to be a part of everybody's life when in Kildedal

An interview with the Mayor of Ballerup in Denmark

Jesper Würtzen has lived in Ballerup ever since he was a child. Before pursuing a career in politics, Würtzen worked in numerous positions at a school in the municipality.

He has been a member of the Social Democrats since 2002 and he was elected to the municipal council in 2005. In 2009, Würtzen became the second Deputy Mayor.

Shortly after, he became the Mayor of Ballerup in 2012. Now, he has spoken to TheMayor.EU to discuss Ballerup and its ambitious project: Kildedal city.

Mr Mayor, how would you describe the Municipality of Ballerup and what would you say is its biggest attraction?

Ballerup Municipality is a part of Greater Copenhagen, an edge city located northwest of Copenhagen. We have both urban areas and great nature – forests are located south and north of the municipality. When you travel out of Copenhagen towards Ballerup, you will see open landscapes for the first time exiting the capital. 

Ballerup is well known for its vast and strong businesses. We are in the lead when you look at GDP contribution per capita in Denmark, and we are one of the municipalities with the most international businesses and strong business clusters within life science, IT, and finance in Denmark.

We have more workplaces than citizens and the unemployment is lower compared to the rest of the capital area and Denmark as a whole. To sum up, I would say, that our strong and diverse business conditions are our largest attraction.

However, the most renowned single attraction of the city is the national velodrome located in the Ballerup Super Arena. Ballerup Municipality owns the velodrome, which is the venue of and home to the national Danish track cycling team. They expect to win Olympic medals at the coming Olympic Games in Tokyo.   

You assumed office almost ten years ago. How has the city evolved since you became Mayor?

I assumed office just as the global financial crisis had ended. After some difficult years, we now experience a vibrant city development based on our political decisions. We have more housing built in the three city centres of the municipality and we transform old industrial areas into new and modern centres for businesses and housing.

More and more people move to Ballerup Municipality and the number of workplaces is rising as well. We continue to work on our specific goal to reduce the emission of CO2. Right now, we are working on our climate policy with affirmative actions in order to follow the national goals of CO2 reduction, which are a 70 percent reduction in 2030.

Currently, the municipality is working on the development of Kildedal city. Could you elaborate on this ambitious project? 

Kildedal is a new vibrant urban area where fellowship and sustainability are the core sense of the community. Kildedal is easily accessible and located in close proximity to both open landscapes and Copenhagen. You can spend your whole life in Kildedal, which is why Kildedal is “for life”.

The ambition is to establish a full urban community with synergies between housing, business, retail and public sector functions that are visible and easy to access for both citizens and employees.

Ballerup’s ambition is to expand the already very successful life science ecosystem: 

  • Green field setup with brand-new co-working spaces, lab facilities and network unique to the Nordics.
  • Co-existence with universities, venture capital, accelerators, start-ups and global MedTech, Biotech, AI, data, and Life Science companies.
  • The ambition is to attract high-ranking Danish and international universities. Recruit start-ups globally in cooperation with MedTech/BioTech/Life science companies and accelerator programs and provide close access to the ecosystem for investors working with MedTech/Biotech/Life science.
  • We will create a network with partnerships and closeness to a unique Danish public sector and public healthcare system.
  • The new area will be established close to world-leading companies: Novo Nordisk, Cooper Surgical, Oticon, GN, LEO Pharma, Siemens and more.
  • The new area is a green field area located in immediate proximity to efficient infrastructure (car, train, and cycling) and only half an hour from downtown Copenhagen and less than one hour from Sweden (Greater Copenhagen).

Ballerup seeks to invest in sustainability, innovation, and energy efficiency. Expanding on the previous question, how will the construction and future of this new urban area reflect this? 

The facilities will be state-of-the-art, supporting the “future of work” as well as all known sustainable technologies in both the building and establishing process, and thereafter in the facility management. 

The infrastructure of the area will also meet high standards of sustainability with a high level of certification. It is amongst our ambition to utilize excess heating, push it back into the heat supply system, and make it circular.

The area will have an urban structure, with open spaces appealing for innovation, connecting streets and integrating them with the surrounding landscape. The landscape will invite citizens and employees to nurse public gardens located either on the surface or rooftops. 

We will attract local farmers to sell their local produce and encourage canteen facilities as well as restaurants to go organic. Sustainability is meant to be part of everybody's life when in Kildedal.

Finally, how did the municipality come up with the idea for the development of Kildedal city? Moreover, how will its construction prove to be beneficial for Ballerup and its citizens?

The process of developing the idea of Kildedal has been interesting. The overall business climate in Ballerup is quite strong.

The businesses are performing really well, most exceed the average of the Greater Copenhagen area altogether – in growth, performance, earnings etc. Many are international corporates but also many of the Danish-based companies are exporting.

Ballerup has its strongholds within:

  • IT/Tech
  • Finance/FinTech
  • Life Sciences

Asking a selection of the CEOs, we were advised to strengthen the clusters further rather than to establish a new one. The goal is also to establish an environment in which local companies can expand their business, find talent and new business areas.

Being strong within Life Sciences and IT made it all very clear that we shall focus on what binds them together, which is why focus is on the IT part of life sciences.

Having a very strong vision for the business development area, Kildedal needed to connect to a place where citizens feel at home, can live a long time, raise kids, and grow older. This is what the vision does – connect liveability with business in a sustainable way.

TheMayor.EU is a unique platform that allows European mayors to share their achievements and explain how they have overcome challenges in their cities. As the Mayor of Ballerup, what advice or ideas would you like to share with other leaders of EU cities?

Every single councillor in Ballerup Municipality has agreed on a political vision that dictates the development of the municipality going towards 2029. It is the leading point and framework both for the administration and for the councillors in order to develop politics and actions in every aspect of the municipality. I can only recommend this way of thinking and working. 

Likewise, it is of great importance to involve the citizens of Ballerup Municipality of today in the making and the development of the municipality so that the Ballerup Municipality of tomorrow is a nice place to live and work in as well.

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