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Mission: Making the marine sector more innovative

  • Published 10/02/2012
Natural resources alone are not sufficient to secure competitiveness and economic prosperity, said the Norwegian State Secretary Kristine Gramstad when she opened the first Nordic Marine Innovation conference in Oslo.

- To succeed we need to be at the forefront in innovation, business environment, in human capital, and in investment in infrastructure, stated Gramstad.


Gramstad also underlined that there is a need for growth in the marine sector, but this growth must be channelled in a sustainable direction. New approaches are therefore required, and she highlighted the importance of innovation to set the development on a new path.


First step towards a more innovation

Picture of the Norwegian State Secretary Kristine Gramstad, Ivar H. Kristensen, Managing Director at Nordic Innovation and communication manager at Nordic Innovation, Melita R. Halse.

  From left State Secretary Kristine Gramstad, Ivar
  H. Kristensen, Managing Director at Nordic
  Innovation and Melita R. Hasle, communication
  manager at Nordic Innovation.

- Until today the marine sector has been an unsexy sector. The focus has changed from harvesting and exporting raw materials to innovation in the whole value chain. Through the Nordic Marine Innovation programme we are working for a broader understanding of innovation, and more value creation for the Nordic region, said Ivar H. Kristensen, Managing Director at Nordic Innovation.


The conference marked the kick-off for the Nordic Marine Innovation programme and gathered over 160 participants from all the Nordic countries, and even some delegates from Canada. The marine innovation program consists of 15 projects. Lerøy which participate in one them gave an inspiring speech about how they changed their business model to focus more on retail. This gave them a better end product and more satisfied customers.


- Lerøy has gone from being a supplier to an integrated partner and taken more control over the production to increase quality. This has resulted in improved sales, explained Kristianne Storehaug from Econ Pöyry.


Bottom up initative

Thorsteinn Tomasson, director at the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture talked about Island’s perspectives on Nordic cooperation. The ministry was one of the promoters of the program. During his speech he revealed that Iceland got involved in the program as an effort against the financial crises, to boost new business after the bank collapse.


Sigridur Thormodsdottir, Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation at the Nordic Marine Innovation conference.

Sigridur Thormodsdottir, Senior
Innovation Adviser at Nordic

- We wanted to create a multidisciplinary collaboration in this bottom up initiative. It was more or less based on interest from the stakeholders in the sector, said Sigridur Thormodsdottir, Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation.


Thormodsdottir is in charge of the program and spoke about the work that has been done and what lies ahead. In the program there has been an emphasis on the industries needs and their active participation. Concrete results and activities close to the market are also important. This was clearly stated during the project leaders’ presentations where the theme varied from automatic pin bone removal from white fish to boot camp for students within the marine sector.


- This is the right way to go to make the marine sector a strong sector in the future. Together the Nordic fish export is larger than Chinas. Because of its size the marine industry plays an important role in the green growth development towards a sustainable world, said Halldór Ásgrímsson, Secretary General for the Nordic Council of Ministers.


Yes to open innovation

A clear and strong yes was Øyvind Fylling-Jensen, managing director of Nofima, answer to the question, is open innovation applicable in the marine sector? He stated that innovation is needed in the marine sector, because of the increased urbanization and to meet the demands in the market. Fylling-Jensen also emphasized that innovation isn’t anything new, and it’s important that we don’t think it’s new.


- Open innovation is an important tool in a fragmented marine sector. The sector needs to work together, and open innovation is a tool for success for all. The players in the sector are small and the challenges are too big to solve them by them self, said Fylling-Jensen.


As an example of open innovation in the marine sector Fylling-Jensen pointed at sushi for the retail market.


- Sushi is a growing trend, but still a restaurant phenomenon, at least in Norway. We have started a project to develop sushi for the retail market where producers, distributors and retailers work together, said Fylling-Jensen.


End of garbage

During the conference Sigla presented a new study of sustainable and innovative businesses. They have made a case study of seven Nordic companies. One of the companies, Kerecis, use fish waste to produce high-end medical products.


- Today garbage isn’t garbage. It’s either used, reduced or made into new products, said Ylva Lindberg from Sigla.




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About the programme

The Nordic marine innovation programme consists of 15 projects with more than 100 persons involved. Common for the projects is that they contribute to strengthen the Nordic marine sector and increase its value creation and competitiveness. The main goal of the program is to improve innovation capability, increase profitability and the competiveness within the Nordic marine sector. The total budget is 109 million NOK and the program runs out 2013.


Nordic Innovation works together with several important Nordic actors on the marine innovation program; Innovation Norway, AVS, NORA, Icelandic ministry of agriculture and fisheries, Nordic working group for fish (AG fisk), Ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries in Denmark and Fiskimalaradid on the Faroe Islands are all part of a consortium working to build a common Nordic initiative on marine innovation across the Nordic and West-Atlantic borders.