It seems that the significant cut on oil prices has been an eye-opening and a bit scary experience for Norwegians, but the change has also been recognized as an opportunity to create something new. At least in the nation’s technology capital this transition seems to have led to an entrepreneurial awakening – People in Trondheim determinately thrive for the idea that ‘knowledge is the new oil’.
In numbers, Trondheim tech-scene consists of 550 companies with 10,000 employees. Most startups are operating in ICT and petroleum fields which makes sense considering the strong heritage of the University, NTNU, which dominates the city. Growth has been relatively fast within’ the past five years (with 100 new companies), but the goals set by public sector are aiming even higher: Trondheim wants to double the number of it’s startups in the next eight years.
“If you ask anyone today that what’s the most important asset in this city they would say the knowledge and the technology. Five years ago the situation was completely different. There’s a lot of forces that are pushing Trondheim forward right now” says TrondheimTech -blog’s editor Thor Richard Isaksen. He has been writing about the flourishing tech scene in Trondheim over for a year now.
Isaksen believes in doubling the amount of companies, since there’s so much condensed know-how in the region (and the most people holding master’s and phd’s per capita in the whole Norway), but he evaluates that government set goals are impossible to reach due to workforce shortage.
“All in all, it’s all about making entrepreneurship more attractive career option in a country where labor unions have such a strong history” Isaksen ponders.
Optimism and restlessness
The city is in a transitional stage but people have chosen to be optimistic with the change. Isaksen describes that the community seems even a bit restless, because they have recognized only recently the huge potential of the people and the resources in Trondheim.
“We have realized that we can translate the potential we actually have here into new businesses and startups. This whole creational process is starting to sink in to the public bureaucracies, the big governmental agencies and even in the large old companies have noticed that we can do something special here.” And that was something that was emphasized in this year’s Technoport, 24–hour innovation conference in Trondheim, which brought all these different parties together combined with international atmosphere.
The CEO of Technoport, Gøril Forbord, says that there’s a few significant factors which have supported the expansion of the go-getting spirit such as political climate and more younger people getting into the startup-scene. Especially going for your own business among students is becoming a more tempting option, because you can still manage to study enough to maintain the financial support or scholarship. By combining the risky career path with the period of education the student ensures being financially secured while building up a business.
As there’s more and more people getting excited about alternative routes of creating jobs in the region, the innovative community has also been built up outside the academic community in the past few years. Forbord emphasizes the cooperative spirit in the region as an important factor for this development. She mentions meeting points, such as the Trondheim’s first co-working place DIGS, being in a significant role in getting people with different backgrounds together.
Forbord also sees a bigger potential in the cooperative spirit in Trondheim: “Trondheim could be the worlds largest co-working space. It would be a perfect sized city for that.”
The political climate for innovation
One significant factor that seemed to worry the Trondheim’s thriving techies is the role of public sector in the ongoing change of the economical structure in the region. Forbod points out that innovation politics is seen as one significant influencer of why entrepreneurship in Trondheim is being pushed forward and also the public sector is aiming to be more innovative.
As entrepreneurial awakening continues to thrive in Trondheim, support from the public sector is needed to keep up this development, Isaksen emphasizes. He sees finding a common language sometimes challenging between the different parties.
“In football, the best referee is the one who is invisible, and this is how governments should facilitate innovation,” says State Secretary Dilek Ayhan in her opening speech at Technoport 15.
At least based on this statement the government representatives have noticed the passion people have “to play” in Trondheim.