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Among the world's most cited: SDU researcher receives Carlsberg-millions for a new project

32-year-old Devika Kannan is already on the list of the most cited researchers in the world - now the SDU associate professor has received five million kroner to research the connection between women entrepreneurs and the circular economy.

By Jakob Haugaard Christiansen, 12/20/2021

A sustainable pad made from plant fibres instead of plastic or cotton is not the only aspect of the green transition, but it is the starting point for a sustainable business model.

Two women in a start-up from the University of Southern Denmark are behind the company Mewalii and they have already won lots of honours and awards. Why are there not many more of these kinds of stories?

This is a question that another woman from SDU, 32-year-old Devika Kannan, an associate professor at the Department of Technology and Innovation, must find the answer to. She has just received five million kroner from the Carlsberg Foundation's Young Researchers Fellowship.

- The number of new female entrepreneurs is stagnant or, in fact, declining a bit and since you can also see that women not only think about money and business, but they also consider solutions that will benefit society. Moreover, the rules for competition have changed in today’s business environment following the heightened attention on the global agenda, UN’s SDGs, which are even more challenging for women entrepreneurs. But that simply means I would like to look closely at the connection between women entrepreneurship and the circular economy, says Devika Kannan.  

Women think sustainably

This concern for sustainability and the circular economy is exactly what Frederikke Dahl and Simone Westergaard, the founders of Mewalii, have done in the start-up they created with great success under the auspices of SDU.

Devika Kannan, who comes from southern India and has lived in Denmark since 2009, is looking forward to exploring how women like Dahl and Westergaard focus on green transition and the circular economy. And how we can get more of them.

- I am honoured and excited that I have been awarded the fellowship. I look forward to working with this project because women entrepreneurs in the circular economy are crucial components of the task. We need more female entrepreneurs if Denmark and the world are to achieve the circular transition under the UN's 17 global goals for sustainable development. At the same time, it is an area that is not covered in the research, so Denmark and SDU will be frontrunners in the area, says Devika Kannan.

The Carlsberg Foundation writes that, among other things, the project "will contribute to increasing the circularity of the business performed by the women entrepreneurs, which is considered challenging and is in line with the Danish climate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050."

The world's most cited researcher

The 32-year-old associate professor is already on the list of the most cited researchers in the world according to the annual survey conducted by Clarivate, an independent analysis firm.

The five million kroner from the Carlsberg Foundation secures a research project over three years, where she will lead a small research team.

- Studies show that women are more likely to take the lead when it comes to projects on sustainability and the circular economy. Women shopping tends to be more value-based, but it is difficult to incorporate a circular economy into their business plan. Hence, this is also something we must look at, because how is it possible to be both innovative and sustainable when you have to create a healthy business at the same time, says Devika Kannan.
Her husband, Kannan Govindan, is a DIAS Chair-Professor at SDU, and he is in fact also on the most cited researchers list.

Proud Head of Department

Devika's Head of Department at the Faculty of Engineering at SDU, Peder Thusgaard Ruhoff, is enthusiastic about the news.

- I am incredibly proud and happy about the grant from the Carlsberg Foundation to Devika. It comes at an important time in her career and enables her to focus on women entrepreneurship and the circular economy and to begin building a research group. The grant is also a recognition of Devika's unique research qualities such as illustrated by the fact that at a young age she is already on the list of the world's most-cited researchers.

The Kannan-couple moved to Denmark from India in 2009, where Kannan Govindan got a job at SDU in 2008. Since 2015, Devika Kannan has also been employed at the Faculty of Engineering, where she became an associate professor in September 2021.

In addition to her teaching, she is also involved in several other research projects and is working on a Danida project. The couple lives in Odense with their two boys.


Read about Devika's project and the Carlsberg Foundation's other grants here: (there are a number of other SDU researchers who have also received grants)

Read about the most cited researchers from SDU here:

Read more about Melawii here:


Jakob Haugaard Christiansen, journalist, TEK: 40315261

Devika Kannan, TEK, SDU: 45 65 50 94 99


Editing was completed: 20.12.2021