The New Economy interviews Knut Halvorsen, Manager at Oslo Teknopol, on the city’s many attractions for businesses and workers alike
For eight years now the UN has identified Norway as the best country to live. Knut Halvorsen, Manager of Oslo Teknopol, describes the particular appeal of the country’s capital, and how the city’s rich history in shipping and energy has translated into success in the renewable energy sectors.
The New Economy: Historically, what kind of investment has Oslo attracted?
Knut Halvorsen: If we take a broader historical perspective on this, Oslo has a long tradition as a shipping city. This goes all the way back to the Vikings actually and this tradition of working on the oceans, managing complex organisations of shipping, financing, brokering and insurance. All this related to this shipping cluster has been the first attraction, I would say, in the last Century for foreign investments to Oslo. Of course this has evolved since Norway became and oil economy in the 1960s, it was also based on the shipping knowledge combined with a strong social democratic industrial policy that developed Norway into a petroleum economy. Now recently, in the last ten years, and more strongly in the last couple of years renewable energies is really becoming an important part of Oslo’s attraction. There is also a new area which is quite interesting, that people don’t usually associate with Oslo, is that we are also a hub for the Norwegian bio-marine sector. The fishing and everything related to the oceans as far as extracting new medicines, foods, aquaculture and all the innovations that we now see in the oceans is also Oslo becoming a really important hub. So these three sectors; shipping, energy, and fishing are the strong sectors today.
The New Economy: Norway is fast becoming a knowledge based economy, and Oslo is clear driving force in this?
Knut Halvorsen: Yes it is because of course Oslo is also the research centre of Norway, we have almost 50% of our research capacity is in Oslo and of course there is a strong cooperation with the other University cities in Norway. Again related to this social democratic educational and research policy, a lot of resources have been put into educational research and knowledge creation. Oslo is at the centre of all this so it is really important for us to keep developing this but also to attract the young talents who want to do research and work knowledge based in Norway and in these sectors; Olso is a perfect place to be.
The New Economy: Oslo has invested heavily in clean energy, where are you focusing resources?
Knut Halvorsen: The clean energies or the renewable energies, of course we have this tradition in old energies such as petroleum energy, as and oil but this has also created a lot of knowledge around energy in general. Our research and our strategy is now into the renewable energies and for some strange reason, people may say, we are really strong in solar energy. We have some great companies who have their headquarters in Oslo and we also see now an interesting development in wind energy, and we see the cooperation with England and the Dogo bank field is really an interesting part of the new areas of Oslo’s development.
The New Economy: There also some ambitious infrastructure projects planned for the coming years?
Knut Halvorsen: Yes, we see that Oslo is a fairly small city not the European context and size matters. We see that we are really lagging behind on infrastructure as far as that the surrounding regions of Oslo really need an upgrading in the infrastructure. But the main strategy now is to connect ourselves with the other scandinavian cities who are our neighbours. We see that by investing in high speed trains, which is done all over Europe now, in American and of course in China, we can reduce the distance to Goteborg which is a similar sized city in Sweden to one hour. That actually combines the city of Oslo and Goteborg into one labour market. Furthermore by high speed train from Goteborg to Copenhagen we can get Copenhagen connected into this new, what we call, ‘scandinavian 8 million city’ and by being 8 million Scandinavians we are much more interesting in the global market.
The New Economy: Finally, the UN has for many years ranked Norway as the best country in the world in which to live. Why do you think this is?
Knut Halvorsen: Yes this is again a combination of luck, having these natural resources we say that we are in a way powered by nature, and long term smart politics. I use the term sociodemocratic which everyone, all parties in Norway, feel they belong to and this combination of distributing wealth that is created in the economy and making sure that living standards are high for most people and having a long term strategy in this field has paid off in the way that we keep winning this award by the UN. I think the long term challenge for Norway and for Oslo is to get more people, more skilled people into these knowledge based clusters that I have mentioned. We think that the quality of life and the living standards that the UN is recognising for Norway and for Oslo is an excellent argument for people to come to Oslo to work and live.
The New Economy: Knut Halvorsen, thank you.
Knut Halvorsen: Thank you.