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Oslo Innovation Week gets Royal seal of approval and opens doors to entrepreneurs

5 min read

17 October 2016

Former editor

Leveraging the influence of “Power Couples”, Oslo Innovation Week 2016 has kicked off with an official opening from the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway.

The Oslo Innovation Week event is bringing together corporates, startups, accelerators and other organisations over five days in an effort to bridge the divide between established businesses and the burgeoning startup scene being experienced around Europe.

Real Business is reporting live from the event, and was there for an exclusive guided tour of the Oslo Innovation Week Expo space with their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. The royals were introduced to a variety of innovative technologies, including a creative virtual reality headset which encouraged them to get artistic.

The overall theme of Oslo Innovation Week 2016 is Power Couples, evidence of which occurs when big companies unite with startups, the public sector with the private sector and academia with business.

Governing mayor of Oslo Raymond Johansen and minister for trade and industry Monica Maeland were all in attendance to back up the capital city and Norway’s commitment to technology and innovation.

Johansen said: “We are currently the fastest-growing capital in Europe, adding 10,000 new inhabitants to our city every year. But we are also a compact city, with a very, very young technology-friendly popularly. Oslo has all the ingredients for an innovative environment.”

Referencing the Oslo Innovation Week theme of Power Couples, he added: “The future of innovation lies in your mind and in someone else’s. Radical innovation happens when connecting previously unconnected knowledge. It lies in bridging differences between the establishment and new commerce.

“The city of Oslo is a partner in Power Couples, we provide public services to more than 660,000 people in education health, social services, for students children and elderly. We believe the municipally should be [at the} forefront, and that is why we are teaching coding to children.”

The nine year-old Oslo Innovation Award, which recognises the “essence of innovation” was given to a business at the opening ceremony which had taken steps “far beyond” Norway and had a “real impact” on society and met the award’s criteria of contributing to global goals as set out by the United Nations. Winner Kahoot! is making “learning awesome”, and received its prize from the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway.

Upwards of 70 events are scheduled for Oslo Innovation Week, such as a hackathon featuring entrepreneurs solving problems brought about by the growing refugee crisis around the world and Girl Tech Fest – which is set to be attended by Norwegian prime minister Ema Solberg.

There is also the 100 Pitches Finale, which connects the most promising early-stage startups from the Nordic region with investors, venture capitalists and corporates.

As our sister title Business Advice revealed in May when it argued Norway was “not just Vikings and brooding detectives”, the country is embracing a trend of increasing net immigration.

Kjetil Holmefjord, manger of Oslo-based startup incubator Startup Labs, said: “It’s often people who are not in the centre of the community that are the best entrepreneurs. Other people want to keep the status quo.

“If you have a comfortable life. with all your friends around you, you’re never going to feel the urge to go out and want to invest something else. But as an immigrant you’re not in the centre of society to begin with. Hopefully you will become so eventually, but you’ll have a different perspective on how things are and that’s vital for driving entrepreneurship.”

According to data from World Bank Group, Norway ranks ninth in the world when it comes to ease of doing business. It scores particularly highly when it comes to enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

Maeland, minister for trade and industry, said: “Norway is a small, open economy, vulnerable to global economic trends. It is also clear that we will need to build our future on a variety of different industries, so we would like to see more people start businesses.

“We might not score as high on global innovation scoreboards yet, but we still believe Norway can become one of the most innovative countries in Europe. We have a workforce that embraces new forms of technology. We support entrepreneurship, innovation and science, not just with words but with policy.”

Launching Oslo Innovation Week, Johansen said: “Imagine what the world could look like if we all put our heads together.”