Norway's New Plan for Entrepreneurship

The Norwegian Government has presented a new nationwide entrepreneurship plan. But does it go far enough?

Hot on the heels on the 2016 budget proposals to cut both individual and corporate tax by 2%, the Norwegian government has presented a new nationwide innovation plan for 2016 and beyond.

The plan is the culmination of the much-discussed Drømmeløftet process, which saw Innovation Norway “crowdsource” ideas for the policy from entrepreneurial communities across the country, including our very own session immediately after Technoport 2015.

The plans were announced at the opening of Oslo Innovation Week. Firstly, Innovation Norway CEO Anita Krohn Traaseth put out a rallying call.

“Norway in 2014 was a wake up call. Our pole position for the past 40 years as an oil and gas nation is about to change. We are one of the fastest growing innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems in Europe. The demand for startup grants is at an all-time high and we have reached a critical mass in EdTech, CleanTech and MedTech.”

“Today we are celebrating ambitious Norwegian startups already going global. We are proud of companies that develop solutions with a reach of millions globally. Opera has 350 million users. Kahoot have already reached 100 million users worldwide and with active users of 25 million a month. Nordic Semiconductor has 60% of the smartphone market in the world and the list goes on.”

Monica Mæland, Norway’s Minister for Business, explains the economic restructuring that must take place following the major changes in the oil industry.

“Now we face an economic restructuring but we do not know where the new jobs will be created. Innovation and new jobs will arise from both existing businesses and industries - and from completely new ideas. Therefore, we need a variety of measures to contribute to long-term reorganization and to safeguard welfare.”

Here is the new innovation plan in a nutshell, grouped into three main ambitions.

Much of the report summarised previously announced initiatives so the list is a summary of the new announcements, and not the Government's innovation policy as a whole:

Early-stage capital in 2016

NOK 100 million into a plan that will see government co-finances projects together with private investors.

NOK 150 millon in startup grants for companies with growth potential. The amount going to businesses will increase if it is matched with private capital.

Access to expertise

NOK 30 million for existing “clusters” to strengthen their work with entrepreneurs, in particular the commercialisation of new technologies and projects within the clusters.

NOK 90 million into the Forny2020 program (commercialisation of R&D), of which NOK 25 million goes to student entrepreneurship projects.

NOK 10 million to develop Idelab, an initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship through technology and expertise sharing across sectors.

An attractive entrepreneurial country

NOK 15 million to improve (simplify) electronic services, encourage under-represented groups into entrepreneurship, and evaluate the possibility of a fast-track system for promising foreign entrepreneurs.

NOK 10 million into the national program for supplier development.

All Innovation Norway services to be digitised and made available in English.

NOK 10 million to investigate measures that can create a stronger entrepreneurial culture in Norway.

Does it go far enough?

Overall, Technoport CEO Gøril Forbord beileves the plan is a stepping stone in the right direction.

“I do believe this is an important plan. Not necessarily for the amount of money but because the government clearly states that they want to be an entrepreneurial state in the real meaning of the phrase. With this plan, the government signals an intention to take a larger portion of the risk involved in entrepreneurship. So although the total sums seem low compared to the Norwegian economy, I hope this marks the beginning of the new and improved Norwegian entrepreneurial state.”

“In particular I am impressed with Dilek Ayan, State Secretary for the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. She has delivered on her promises and every time I have met her I have believed her sincere wish to make things easier for each and every entrepreneur. With this plan she shows us that she not only means what she says, but also delivers on her promises. This gives me great hopes for the political future of entrepreneurship.”

The next steps

What I (and I suspect most other people) am waiting for is a more detailed implementation plan. Pots of money are all well and good, but if half of that money is used to fund the administration of that fund, the momentum will be lost. The Innovation Norway of 2015 is a more nimble organisation so my hopes are high that this funding really will reach the people who need it most - the risk-taking entrepreneurs.

Photo: Dmitry Valberg

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