Knowledge about customer behaviour, culture and daily life as a driving force for innovation

The Danish businesses industry is in need of knowledge about their customers early in their innovation processes in order to make the processeses sharply focused and commercialisable.

HumanImpact is the first Danish systematic attempt to add specialized humanistic knowledge about customers to Danish businesses. The project is based at the Faculty of Humanities, runs until January 31, 2023 and is supported by The Danish Industry Foundation with 8 million DKK.

Project management

Mark Vacher
Associate professor, Ethnology

Marie Roloff Groth
Programme manager




The objective of HumanImpact is to link Danish corporations with leading humanistic research environments at the University of Copenhagen in order to strengthen the innovation capacity and competitiveness of the companies.

Humanistic research within linguistics, history, media science, philosophy and modern culture studies is characterized by being able to deliver sharp and in depth mappings of cultural streams and behaviour. This is essential knowledge when companies request expertise on consumer choices, barriers for new products and services, media usage, correlations between identity and consumption amongst many other things.

Historically there has been a tendency that knowledge about customers has exclusively been regarded as a matter of marketing – as a thing that comes after a product has left the developmental stage. This means that innovation often ends up concentrating on the development of new products and services, which only then will be tested and adapted according to customer needs.

A broad recognition that innovation is done best when based on knowledge about customers and their culture, behavior and values is gaining foothold. However, the abilities to create and use advanced knowledge about customers as a base for innovation are still limited within the Danish business industry. For this reason, new humanistic corporate research that tests, cultivates and communicates the necessary knowledge to Danish companies is needed. HumanImpact wants to create new beacons that show how Danish companies can lift their innovation through systematic collaborations with humanistic researchers.

Dean Julie Sommerlund and Associate professor Mark Vacher who both have many years of experience managing innovation and corporate research lead the project. Julie Sommerlund is responsible for collaborations with companies and the work that entails demonstrating how humanistic knowledge becomes an integrated part of the innovation processes in Danish companies. Mark Vacher has the organizational responsibility, the daily contact with the project team, and is furthermore testing different formats of how education can be integrated in corporate research projects.

Developing activities and business collaborations takes place through close cooperation with The Danish Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Danish Industry and Symbion. These organizations add to the project a comprehensive business network and specialized knowledge on innovation, business development and entrepreneurship.