Energy, industry, med-tech and aquaculture are, as you would expect, mainstays of the Norwegian economy. But, says Finn Kristian Aamodt, Director of Invest in Norway, from the FDI perspective, there is so much more to say about the Norwegian economy than simply stating high-growth sectors. Jo Murray finds out about advanced thinking in Norway.
To some extent, Norway is a bit of an enigma. It is a founding member of the United Nations, NATO and the Council of Europe; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO, the OECD; and it is a participant in the Schengen Area. And yet in two referenda (in 1972 and 1994), Norway rejected proposals for it to join the EU; and it has its own currency.
So many global indices exalt Norway for its human development, living standards, prosperity, democracy, health expenditure, and so on. It is hard to beat for its accolades, be they social, economic or political.
In many ways, Norway markets itself, and yet there are also some well-kept secrets. Perhaps the most obvious of Norway’s attributes is its traditional oil and gas industry, along with the supply chain and huge workforce that support it.
But Norway is also a world leader in sustainable energy. “Norway has an abundance of hydro power,” points out Mr Aamodt. “We target companies who seek clean and cheap energy; and 98.5% of energy consumption in Norway is hydro powered. We also export a lot of this energy.”
This abundance of clean, cost-effective power makes Norway a honey pot for not just traditional industrial manufacturing companies, such as aluminium producers; but also data centres and battery manufacturing companies, for example. And let’s not forget, about 20% of all new registered vehicles purchased in Norway are either electric or hybrid-powered so battery technology has a natural home in this Nordic country. Mr Aamodt points out that the US, Germany and China are the three markets Norway focuses on in terms of the origination of industrial FDI…but always promoting the use of clean energy. “We are the greenest industrial site in the world,” he says.
In terms of increasingly important magnets for FDI, medical equipment and the healthcare sector in general are key areas of focus for Invest in Norway. From drug discovery and diagnostics to medical devices and health ICT, Norway employs nearly 67,000 people and creates value generating 58 billion NOK (2016). Norway’s research institutes and medtech companies are pioneering medical imaging, conducting research in both ultrasound and MRI technologies. And the comprehensive public healthcare system has delivered a plethora of data for research purposes – always based on informed consent.
Mr Aamodt also points to aquaculture as a focus area, commenting that efficient, sustainable, food production is a concern for all governments, especially in Asia. But aquaculture is not just about fish tonnage, exports and income; it is also about developing a supply chain such that the industry is sustainable and increasingly knowledge-oriented, clean and responsible.
In fact, “knowledge-based” is a theme to which Mr Aamodt constantly refers. He says that Norway is simply not synonymous with labour intensive industries. “We are seeking highly skilled, highly efficient industries,” he points out. And let’s face it, no one would associate Norway with low wages. This highly educated, knowledge-oriented workforce comes at a price and delivers a high level of thinking.
“It is a plus for Norway that our employees are empowered,” he says. “People make their own decisions and demonstrate a high level of loyalty to their employers.”
He continues: “When you come to Norway, bring your advanced production. We have the expertise to push it forward.” Returning to data centres, he says establishing a data centre in Norway will be better, more efficient and use less energy. That is an important message.
Norway has long been a pioneer, an explorer and, to a large extent, that has not changed. “We are good at prototypes but we are not good at scalability,” he says. But let’s not forget that, while this may be true, Norway is also a producer of raw materials: oil, fish and metals. There is both knowledge and resources here, but it is the exploration and exploitation of those raw materials that is innovative in Norway; it is in that sense that it is a pioneer.
Norway is a forward-facing economy, that strives to reduce pollutants, manpower and inefficiency from the industries to which it plays host. Importantly, it has a highly skilled and well educated labour force, evenly spread across the country. And it has sites that it is interested in developing – but only using clean energy, harnessing knowledge and pioneering new technologies.