1 August 2012
The Nordic and Baltic sea regions have a comparatively small population (about 32 million people) and yet have been the home of many innovations that went global – Ericsson, Volvo, Saab, Nokia, Spotify, Skype, AstraZeneca , TetraPak and many more.
Now, in an increasingly global and competitive market where not just manufacturing but also knowledge-based industries are being outsourced to other countries, it is imperative for these countries to utilise their strong technology maturity in order to keep their competitive advantage. There is a seminar planned around innovation in the Nordics and Baltics during the Baltic Sea festival and it was when discussing this seminar that I learned some interesting commonalities in this region:
- a tradition of inventors
- a strong commitment to gender equality
- a belief in the individual
- strong cooperation between public and private sectors and R&D to promote innovation
In addition there is a strong and active push by the state to promote innovation, All these countries have state owned organisations whose job is to drive Innovation for example Vinnova Sweden, Innovation Norway, tax deductions to promote innovations in enterprises in Lithuania and so on.
The EU has an innovation scoreboard providing a comparative assessment of the innovation performance of the EU (27 Member States and the relative strengths and weaknesses of their research and innovation systems). They measure 25 indicators. The picture below shows the result, with Sweden as the leader followed by Denmark.
Living in Sweden and comparing it to the various countries across the world that I have lived in or visited, the biggest thing that strikes me is the independence and respect for the individual. I believe that this independence allows people to dare to do, and thus this cultural enabler may be one of the most important ones for innovation. I think that countries like this have all the enablers to be leaders and innovators but the time to act is NOW.
p.s. here is a little fun fact I learnt when reading up about the Baltics before the Baltic sea festival innovation seminar: Algae have long been a problem in the Baltic sea area. Now the same problem has been turned into an opportunity, with Algae being processed into different uses, from an ingredient in smoothies to batteries!
What is your favorite innovation from the Nordics and/or Baltics (remember it ranges from dynamite and matches to safety belts to zippers and the artificial kidney...)!