Anita Krohn Traaseth, Head of In­no­va­tion Nor­way, en­cour­ages Nor­way to de­velop a strate­gic play­book

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents -

“We in­vest or re­duce the risk for es­tab­lished in­dus­tries that need to trans­form, for ex­am­ple to more sus­tain­able so­lu­tions. Some 70% of our fund­ing goes to those adap­ta­tions, while 28% goes to grants and loans that sup­port start-up com­pa­nies un­der three years old,” said Mrs Traaseth.

“We pro­vide what we like to call com­pe­tent cap­i­tal, such as global train­ing are­nas for both growth com­pa­nies and start-ups where they can be part of a train­ing pro­gramme. For ex­am­ple they can go to London and learn about smart cities, or New York and learn about pitch­ing high-tech so­lu­tions from the very best. We have different hubs that pro­vide train­ing in ar­eas where that re­gion ex­cels. We do this be­cause Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies have to be out there — we are 5.2 mil­lion peo­ple, we need to ex­port and reach new global mar­kets.

“Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies need to learn how to scale their busi­nesses. In­no­va­tion Nor­way also works on open­ing doors in other mar­kets along with the em­bassies. This in­volves mak­ing con­nec­tions, learn­ing about new cul­tures, un­der­stand­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, tax and in­vest­ment laws in other coun­tries. All of this is building com­pe­tent cap­i­tal.”

The com­pany trans­for­ma­tion may in­volve shift­ing to a clean tech­nol­ogy, and typ­i­cally there is an ini­tial study phase that can be very costly if the whole in­dus­try doesn’t chip in. “We have spe­cific funds to fo­cus on en­vi­ron­men­tal tech­nol­ogy. We help out those that are am­bi­tious, those that have in­ter­na­tional growth po­ten­tial, and those that fo­cus on en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity,” she said.

The ma­jor fo­cus of the or­gan­i­sa­tion is to get in­vest­ment to come to Nor­way, to at­tract vis­i­tors, and to get peo­ple to scale busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties there. “As a gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cle, we want the value cre­ation to get back to Nor­way. There are many ways to do this, and if you have com­pe­tent part­ners and you can con­nect to another com­pany that can help with re­search and devel­op­ment, that can still add value to Nor­way even if the com­pany is not Nor­we­gian-owned,” said Mrs Traaseth.

“Our of­fices abroad don’t in­vest in Nor­way. It’s our lo­cally based of­fices that of­fer grants and loans to busi­nesses based there. For ex­am­ple, a huge per­cent­age of the pro­cess­ing in­dus­try in Nor­way is owned by Asians. We can of­fer them as­sis­tance for a R&D pro­gramme as long as it is based in Nor­way be­cause that of­fers value cre­ation to the coun­try in terms of jobs, building com­pe­tence and

profitabil­ity.”

Nor­way has sev­eral ad­van­tages it should re­mem­ber when de­cid­ing strate­gic ini­tia­tives for in­vest­ment. “The coun­rty is highly demo­cratic with a flat or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture, which in a glob­alised, highly net­worked world should al­low adapt­abil­ity, she said. “These are com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages for Nor­way. There is also a trust con­nected to be­ing Nor­we­gian that we can see trav­el­ling around the world. Wa­ter tech­nol­ogy is another ad­van­tage for us, as is our health and wel­fare sys­tem, and we have pri­ori­tised us­ing wel­fare tech­nolo­gies that can help deal with age­ing so­ci­eties. But first and fore­most, we are an en­ergy coun­try, and we have a lot of knowl­edge re­lated to oceans and ocean space.”

“You need a play­book to spe­cialise in spe­cific ar­eas be­cause you can’t be every­thing to ev­ery­one. This is true for ev­ery na­tion. We can look for in­spi­ra­tion to other coun­tries, but we need to look for what is unique in our own coun­try. This con­cept was in­tro­duced to me by Julie Hanna, who is the global en­trepreneur­ship am­bas­sador for Pres­i­dent Obama. She said, ‘ Stop look­ing at Sil­i­con Val­ley as a so­lu­tion to every­thing. Sil­i­con Val­ley is a mind­set. You need to have your own lo­cal play­book, which in­volves set­ting vi­sion and di­rec­tion.’

“You must com­mu­ni­cate what the strate­gic di­rec­tion of the coun­try’s in­no­va­tion play­book is, while also un­der­stand­ing the needs of the coun­tries you are vis­it­ing to see what you can of­fer them.

“One of the most im­pres­sive mes­sages I heard over the past six months was from a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in China who said ‘Our vi­sion is to go from made in China to in­vented in China’. That is a strong state­ment on chang­ing your di­rec­tion. The key ad­van­tage for Europe the past few decades has been qual­ity and in­ven­tion, but there is no rea­son China can­not take over that po­si­tion.

“Set­ting a strate­gic di­rec­tion is more im­por­tant than ever for Nor­way be­cause our econ­omy is in tran­si­tion, but I recog­nise it is a hard sell. In a way we have been lucky to be blessed with hy­dropower, fish and oil and gas, all re­sources we could sell. We have had in­no­va­tions in those in­dus­tries, for in­stance the rea­son the world can eat sushi is Nor­we­gian farmed salmon. And our po­si­tion as an oil and gas leader is not go­ing to dis­ap­pear, but we have to build a much more di­ver­si­fied econ­omy be­cause it is vul­ner­a­ble to rely on so few in­dus­tries.

“I’m not wor­ried whether Nor­way will be able to adapt be­cause we’ve done it be­fore. When we found oil in the late 60s, we didn’t know any­thing about this in­dus­try. We built up com­pe­tence over time, partly from our ex­pe­ri­ence in mar­itime, and it taught us to work with in­ter­na­tional part­ners. Nor­way should cap­i­talise on the net­works we al­ready have go­ing for­ward.

“We’ve just scratched the sur­face on what we can do with ocean in­dus­tries. There’s a lot more fish in the Nor­we­gian Sea than salmon. Set­ting an in­no­va­tion play­book for in­vest­ment will be a hard sell in Nor­way be­cause it has been many years since the coun­try tried it. The last time was 1971 with the 10 oil com­mand­ments. The path is not as clear as last time, but if we are re­ally go­ing to re­struc­ture our econ­omy, we have to make some in­vest­ments.

“For ex­am­ple, we need to de­ter­mine how to build an in­dus­try around the health sec­tor. This in­volves pri­ori­tis­ing it po­lit­i­cally and fund­ing a large ef­fort. The Nor­we­gian peo­ple are ex­tremely prag­matic, but we are per­haps not known as a coun­try of vi­sion­ary thinkers. We are good at solv­ing prob­lems, but cap­i­tal­is­ing on the so­lu­tion we cre­ated is not our best as­set.

“Nor­way is be­hind other Euro­pean coun­tries in re­ported R&D spend­ing. A lot of in­no­va­tion is hap­pen­ing in Nor­way, but it is not re­ported as R&D be­cause we just look at it as prob­lem solv­ing. Nor­way has been cited as a good place to in­vest in start-ups, es­pe­cially from Amer­i­can in­vestors. We pro­duce bril­liant items but we’re not so good at the pitch.

“Part of our de­fi­ciency is you don’t get credit in Nor­we­gian cul­ture for hav­ing big ideas. If you ask a 12-year-old girl in Nor­way what she wants to do when she grows up and she says a ski­ing cham­pion, this will be en­cour­aged. But if another says she wants to be the next Elon Musk,

The six ar­eas are: • Bioe­con­omy • Clean en­ergy • The oceanspace • Health and wel­fare • Cre­ative in­dus­tries and tourism • Smart So­ci­eties

Mrs Traaseth fur­ther­more de­liv­ered ten rec­om­men­da­tions to the Nor­we­gian Gov­ern­ment and the Nor­we­gian Par­lia­ment on how the pub­lic sec­tor can col­lab­o­rate with the pri­vate sec­tor in or­der to de­velop new long-term sus­tain­able in­dus­tries in Nor­way. In­no­va­tion Nor­way sug­gests that Nor­way sets a clear di­rec­tion based on the six above ar­eas. Mrs Traaseth fur­ther chal­lenged the state author­i­ties and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to de­sign re­quire­ments and reg­u­la­tions specif­i­cally for the sake of devel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of sus­tain­able so­lu­tions, and that Nor­way could be­come the best in the world on this.

In ad­di­tion, In­no­va­tion Nor­way re­quests the Nor­we­gian Gov­ern­ment to in­vest in ex­tra mea­sures over the com­ing five years at a level equal to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, in or­der to boost ex­ports. The boost is needed to re­place lost ex­port rev­enues and to cre­ate new jobs.

In­no­va­tion Nor­way also be­lieves that Nor­way as a coun­try in years to come needs to pri­ori­tise com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of re­sults of re­search in or­der to build new busi­nesses, in­dus­tri­alise new in­dus­tries and to cre­ate new jobs in Nor­way. This is es­pe­cially ap­pli­ca­ble within the health sec­tor. In other ar­eas In­no­va­tion Nor­way sug­gests the gov­ern­ment to fo­cus more on re­search, which later can give rise to profitable com­pa­nies.

This year's In­no­va­tion Speech was de­liv­ered in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nor­we­gian Re­search Coun­cil and Siva.

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