Solving challenges that come along with growing cities and the biodiversity crisis is as important as ever. Doing exactly that, a new round of spectacular findings was presented at COWIfonden’s biannual awards night, celebrating the newest six recipients of rapid innovation funds.

The projects span from urban nature to ground-penetrating radar and peat bogs, and we took a deeper look at some of the projects.

Working man in Replacement of soft soil with sand and clay

Are you as excited about soil as we are?

Our cities are growing, and we need more buildings and transportation infrastructure. Specifically, when building in wetlands and coastal areas, you often need to replace soft soil with sand and clay because soft soil is tricky to work with, resulting in an expensive project and an immense carbon footprint. But what if we could build smarter and use the materials already present at project sites? One of the funded projects investigates this. 

Transportation Specialist in COWI Emil Søe Brandt proposed the project in collaboration with Aarhus University, the Ellen and Ove Arkil’s Fond, nmGeo and Arkil, and his research shows that with a little extra testing, it is possible to understand soft soil behaviour better with benefits for society and economy.

In his project, he looks at the correlation between different test types: field vane tests, triaxial lab testing and plate load tests with gyttja and high-plasticity organic clay.

“If we can find out how accurate different soil tests are, then we will be able to better understand the behaviour and capabilities of soft soils. More accurate knowledge about soft soil strength and stiffness allows for planning and building with a greater degree of certainty and efficiency. Instead of replacing soft soil with clay or sand, we can build smarter and make better use of the resources readily available to us at project sites,” Emil Søe Brandt says. 

Biodiversity in the city – there’s an app for that

Another project digs into the ever-present biodiversity crisis. Cities and urban centres are growing larger and more tightly packed, and there is a pressing need to secure environments and habitats to help stop biodiversity loss. But it can be hard to figure out how to do this within specific projects.

Two people outside

Market and Technical Director Torben Ebbensgaard and Market Director Carsten Fjorback – both from COWI – thought, why not make an app for that? Their project develops a national method for mapping urban nature and creates a field-app to use on various projects. Developed in collaboration with several partners, the app,, offers a specific method for documenting the environmental baseline for habitats and biodiversity and assigning urban nature values and developmental potential.

“When we register a biodiversity baseline and document the impact on biodiversity from projects and specific actions, we focus on our impact on the environment around us and help our customers meet biodiversity criteria from the EU Taxonomy, Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and similar regulations,” says Torben Ebbensgaard.

According to the two COWI experts, the project provides a method to register flora, fauna, habitats and resources, and to record the environmental characteristics of urban areas. This baseline helps to prioritise and develop specific biodiversity projects, and the method will help make more aligned decisions for urban planning and biodiversity conservation in all projects.

Overview of the six projects

Title of project

Name and company of succesful applicant

Airborne ground penetrating radar (GPR) for investigation of sub surface peat bog surveys


Eivind Støren, COWI AS - Water and Environment

Maintenance of nature-based solution collecting actual cost numbers


Marianne Berge, COWI AS - Transport and Urban Planning

Conference presentation with an innovative format


Svein Folkvord, COWI AS - Buildings

Professional testing and feedback regarding - Development of a national method for mapping of urban nature

Torben Ebbensgaard, COWI A/S - Society and Utilities

Correlation for determination of undrained shear strength in soft soils

Emil Brandt, COWI A/S - Transportation

Tool to enhance the results of city-level projects in low urban contexts

Jaume Estellers, COWI A/S - Society and Utilities

Up next

A celebratory awards night will be held every six months, where successful applicants present their findings to COWI and COWIfonden. The next Awards Night will be held on 7 May 2024.

COWIfonden's rapid innovation initiative aims to promote innovation and professional development, and you can apply for funding for projects based on cooperation with partners, experimental work, and physical and digital prototyping. You can also apply for funds for workshops and hackathons for COWI employees.

If you want to apply for the funds, fill in this form.

You can watch the presentations from the latest awards night below.

About the rapid innovation initiative

  • In 2023, DKK 2 million was donated to 23 rapid innovation projects.
  • COWIfonden received close to 70 applications for the programme throughout the year.


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