DTU ranking third in the world in biotechnology

In the latest Shanghai Ranking, DTU is only surpassed by Harvard University and MIT in a global study of university research within biotechnology — thus maintaining its third place.

Professor Alexander Kai Büll (at the back) with his co-worker Soumik Ray. They both research at DTU Bioengineering. Photo: Bax Lindhardt
We are leveraged by our strong ties to industry in close collaborations on developing biotechnological solutions as well as educating highly qualified engineers.
Provost Rasmus Larsen DTU

University and industry complementing each other

In Denmark, biotechnology is the foundation of many companies, and the field is part of a life science sector employing 50,000 people with exports growing rapidly. According to the Danish Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, exports from the Danish life science sector reached new heights in 2022, when the industry exported goods totalling DKK 175 billion. This is double the sector's exports during the period 2012–2022.

One of the Danish biotech companies is Novozymes. Executive Vice President at Novozymes and Advisory Board member at DTU Bioengineering Claus Crone Fuglsang explains that biotechnology research at DTU is of high value to companies within the sector. The university and the companies complement each other very well, says Claus Crone Fuglsang and elaborates:

“Our company benefits greatly from collaborating with a strong research environment at a university like DTU where research can be conducted on a slightly longer term than what is affordable in industry. We always assess whether the knowledge to be generated can be used as a marketable product. At a university, you can often take higher risks and pursue hypotheses that do not have to give an instant return on investment. They can dive deeper into the research, which gives a better understanding of what is being studied. And this understanding often creates the basis for further innovation down the road.”

The researchers Colleen Varaidzo Manyumwa and Chenxi Zhang at DTU Biosustain have modified a bacteria so that it potentially can assist with carbon capture. Photo: Thomas Steen Sørensen

Educating highly specialized engineers

Having a university that is a world leader in biotechnology ‘in the backyard’ also benefits companies like Novozymes in the close collaboration about and with the students, Claus Crone Fuglsang points out.

“We learn something from them, they learn something from us, and we can recruit talented graduates. But the most important thing is that we become part of each other's network, and this is extremely valuable as a strong network practically acts as an accelerator for further collaboration,” says Claus Crone Fuglsang.

In addition to bachelor's and master's degree programmes in biotechnology, DTU also offers programmes where you can specialize in the production of biopharmaceutical medicines in collaboration with North Carolina State University in the USA, or you can choose a programme in precision fermentation, which includes both master's degree students, PhD students, and the continuing education of industry employees.

In 2023, for the first time, DTU will also offer the new four-year MSc programme Biomanufacturing based in Kalundborg, Denmark, home of Scandinavia's largest bioindustrial cluster. Here, the students will collaborate with the cluster's companies, which include Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, Saint-Gobain Gyproc, Chr. Hansen, and many others. The goal is to meet industry’s increasing need for highly qualified engineers who can drive the complicated processes involved in bio-based production.

DTU has unique facilities

DTU's third place in the ranking is also made possible by the university's unique facilities. In addition to modern and advanced laboratories for, e.g., genetic modification of microorganisms (GMMO) and high-tech tools such as CRISPR, the University also has robots and supercomputers for generating and processing the huge data sets that is increasingly produced from biotechnological research.

Whether the goal is to have microorganisms producing chemicals, green fuels, medicines, novel foods, or capture CO2, no biotechnological solution can be used if it does not graduate from the laboratory. Because of this, they must be designed with upscaling in mind, so that they can be used for production in a factory one day.

DTU holds strong research environments with highly specialized competences and facilities for this crucial upscaling, including the Pilot Plant at DTU Chemical Engineering at Lyngby Campus. The Pilot Plant houses a total of eight large test facilities with associated laboratories and workshops, and there are more than 30 different large-scale experimental installations representing almost all technologies, from the heavier chemical industry to the more delicate biochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

At Pilot Plant at DTU Chemical Engineering it is possible to test biotechnological solutions so that they can be upscaled to industry production. Photo: Jørgen True

Coveted at home and abroad

The expertise at this place is centred around fermentation, chemical unit operations, which are methods for separating substance mixtures, and competences within process control, process and plant design, automation, and industrial measurement techniques.

“We are experiencing great demand for access to the Pilot Plant — in Denmark and abroad. It houses very popular facilities that — uniquely — also include catalytic and thermal unit operations, enabling optimization of entire production processes. We use Pilot Plant in countless business collaborations as well as for our own research and our study programmes,” says Kim Dam-Johansen, Head of Department at DTU Chemical Engineering.

It takes heavy investments and many years to build up facilities as well as competences within upscaling, so most universities elsewhere in the world have either scaled down their pilot plants or closed them entirely. DTU, on the other hand, has expanded the Pilot Plant in recent years, so that researchers, students, and small companies can test whether their laboratory solutions can be realized on a larger scale.

“There are many ideas that never make it outside the laboratory because upscaling poses practical problems. At DTU, we focus on the end goal from the beginning, so that we are aware of the final scale in which it must operate in order to be successful,” says John Woodley, Professor at DTU Chemical Engineering, who deals with upscaling biotechnological solutions.


  • Shanghai Rankings’ ‘2022 Global Ranking of Academics Subjects’ is an annual subjects ranking of the top 500 universities in the world within 54 different academic fields.
  • The ranking assesses university research based on various indicators. The most influential indicator is the universities' 'research output', which includes an account of the number of published research articles in respected research journals.
  • Another important indicator is 'research influence', which is a concept of the extent to which the research is of use to other researchers, which is measured by how often the published research is cited in other researchers' articles.
  • In 2021, DTU took third place in the ranking within biotechnology for the first time.
  • In 2020, DTU ranked fifth.

Read more about the ranking.


Kim Dam-Johansen

Kim Dam-Johansen Professor, Head of Department Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Phone: +45 45252845 Mobile: +45 20142527

Dina Petranovic Nielsen

Dina Petranovic Nielsen CPO & CSO Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability Mobile: 4172 7937

Bjarke Bak Christensen

Bjarke Bak Christensen Head of Department Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine Mobile: +45 30664233