Oslo shows the ben­e­fits of small coun­tries em­brac­ing in­no­va­tion

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY YIAN­NIS ELAFROS

I got an idea of what was in store at In­no­va­tion Week in Oslo from the mo­ment I ar­rived at the open­ing cer­e­mony venue. The har­bor­side Skur 13 ware­house houses an in­door skate hall dec­o­rated with graf­fiti while the car park out­side fea­tures charg­ing points for elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

The fastest-grow­ing city in Europe, with a pop­u­la­tion of roughly 600,000, Oslo wel­comes 15,000 new com­pa­nies a year, many of which are in­volved in new tech­nolo­gies and in­no­va­tion, set­ting a fresh ex­am­ple for cities look­ing to put them­selves on the cut­ting edge of new de­vel­op­ments.

The theme at this year’s an­nual event – which is hailed as one of the world’s lead­ing in­no­va­tion fo­rums – was power cou­ples. The idea was to build bridges be­tween big es­tab­lished com­pa­nies and star­tups, and to con­nect dis­parate ar­eas – like the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors or the aca­demic and the business world.

“We want to bring to­gether dif­fer­ent gen­ders, eth­nic­i­ties, aged and be­liefs,” said Anita Krohn Traaseth, CEO of In­no­va­tion Nor­way, the state’s in­no­va­tion agency. “The pub­lic and the pri­vate is a dy­namic duo: Pri­vate sec­tor ini­tia­tive is nec­es­sary but noth­ing can be done with­out fund­ing and sup­port from the state.”

From Skur 13 to the Sci­ence Park, vis­i­tors to the event were treated to a pa­rade of new tech­nolo­gies: Emile, an adorable lit­tle ro­bot who pro­vides com­pany for chil­dren with chronic diseases that pre­vent them from go­ing to school and hav­ing a so­cial life; a cap­sule al­low­ing the safe trans­fer of peo­ple with con­ta­gious diseases such as ebola; a small re­mote-con­trolled sub­ma­rine that trans­mits photographs from the seabed; vir­tual re­al­ity ap­pli­ca­tions and drones that are ca­pa­ble of ad­vanced uses.

Min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try Mon­ica Mae­land talked about how de­vel­op­ing in­no­va­tion helps di­ver­sify the econ­omy, sug­gest­ing that one way to en­cour­age in­no­va­tion is re­duc­ing taxes.

How can small coun­tries claim a spot in the huge galaxy of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy?

Startup rep­re­sen­ta­tives who spoke at the event said that in the case of in­no­va­tion small can be good, be­cause it means greater flex­i­bil­ity and adap­tive­ness.

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