50 years anniversary

Nordic Innovation

50th anniversary

For 50 years, Nordic Innovation has connected innovative minds from the business sector, academia, and politics with the power of Nordic cooperation. Since the Nordic Council of Ministers established us in 1973, the Nordic countries have experienced their most innovative era, placing several of them at the top of the list of the world's most innovative countries.

Since 1973, Nordic Innovation has supported thousands of innovation projects and worked systematically on networking and collaboration across the countries. Our purpose has evolved over time but has always been about developing cooperation on technological innovation among the Nordic countries.

We have contributed to making the Nordic region a competitive supplier of satellite components in the 1980s and actually explored the use of artificial intelligence in cancer treatment as early as 1985! We have invested in several major programs in food safety and quality, which continue to have a tremendous positive impact on the health of Nordic citizens. Furthermore, our focus on computer processing programs laid the foundation for a competitive and future-oriented IT sector in the Nordic countries.

Our 50th anniversary celebrates an era of Nordic cooperation and innovative power by highlighting what we have achieved together. Read about the different decades by scrolling or clicking directly to a time period.

The 70s - Start up, technology and industry

We were established as the Nordic Industrial Fund in 1973 on the initiative of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The purpose was to promote a more efficient use of Nordic resources for technology and industrial development.

One of the first projects in the 1970s was the Nordic satellite industry. The Nordsat investigation was launched with the goal of creating a Nordic satellite with direct TV broadcast. This was intended to strengthen the Nordic identity and reduce program imports from non-Nordic countries. The Nordic Industrial Fund was tasked with carrying out the technical and economic investigation in 1975.

Around this first industrial investigation, a Nordic satellite industry emerged, the "Nordic Industry Group for Norsat - NIG" with companies such as SAAB, Ericsson, Nokia, Kongsberg Weapon Factory and Christian Rovsing. Due to political disagreements, Nordsat was never realized, but the investigation opened up for satellite development that several Nordic companies have benefited from.

Facts from the 70s

1973: Aker Group in Norway and Karlskronavarvet AB in Sweden collaborated on the development of floating offshore power plants that would convert excess gas from oil fields into electricity at sea.

1975: A research project for the Nordic fishing industry aimed to reduce pollution in fish fillet factories, reduce water consumption, and increase utilization of raw materials. Nordforsk was the initiator and the Nordic Industrial Fund the main source of financing for a 2-year research project.

1977: Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish pulp and paper industries joined forces to find better methods for reducing emissions from pulp and paper mills.

1979: The Nordic Industrial Fund supported a Norwegian-Finnish collaboration in the development of asbestos-free building panels for external use. Norway was among the first to ban asbestos in building panels for internal use when they imposed a ban in 1978.

The 80s - from low tech to high tech

In the 1980s, information technology was a hot topic internationally, as well as in the Nordic countries. Nordic Innovation played an important role in promoting Nordic computer technology through several innovative projects and allocated a total of 130 million to 50 projects between 1985 and 1989. This foundation has put us far ahead today in our vision of making the Nordic region the leading region in digitalization, ethical AI, and responsible use of data.

Danish Radios multimedia project about Greenland

Danish Radio is creating a multimedia project about Greenland, which is described as "the first in a series of similar productions in the future". They were early in telling stories and conveying knowledge through live images, sound, and graphical representations.

Early AI in Finland

Development project in Finland for the use of AI technology in cancer treatment. The system was slow, and several people questioned its usefulness, but with such a systematic overview of treatment results, it could eventually become an expert system.
Have more info? Please contact us.

Text to speech

In Sweden The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has been conducting research for years on "speech prostheses", which is a computer that can speak what you have just written, letter by letter, or using symbols on a touch-sensitive board.

Computers in schools

Nordic collaboration on the use of computer technology in education. Norway was the first to have an action program for computers in schools and shared its results with the other Nordic countries.

Busses running on gas

The Nordic Gas Bus Project was an exciting collaboration between over 30 companies and government authorities from 1988. With support from Nordic Innovation, they developed a bus engine that ran on natural gas and was cleaner and quieter than other buses. The project received a lot of attention worldwide and contributed to the sale of 250 gas buses to Sydney, Australia.

We did some low tech in the 80s too

Nordic Innovation has been involved in both big and small initiatives. For example, in 1985, we supported an effort to coordinate Nordic standards for ladders. The goal was to reduce ladder-related accidents, of which there were many at the time about 2000 per year. In Sweden, they estimated that poor ladders cost society more than 60 million kronor annually.

The 90s - women, fish and foods

An increasing proportion of female students in the 80s meant that more women sought a career in technology in the 90s and they became more visible in the technology field.

Facsimile: Bladet New Nordic Technology vol. 2 nr. 1-1996. Utgitt av Nordic Innovation.

In the 90s, Nordic Innovation supported several Nordic collaborations that created innovation and benefits for both industry and consumers. We supported research on image processing and pattern recognition of the seabed, enabling smaller companies in the fishing industry to increase competitiveness in important markets.
We contributed to increased investment in microelectronics and implemented a NordFood program that contributed to increased food security, better packaging labeling, longer shelf life, and developed products that are good for health.

This program involved around 200 companies, 30 research institutions, and 14 universities. More than 600 people were involved and the project was led by the research director of Mills Norway. We think it's a bit charming that a separate potato mash group (potatismosgruppen) was set up, which made test packages at the Swedish food manufacturer Felix to predict and extend the shelf life of potato mash.

Another project under NordFood was "Fiskeindustriens vann" (1994-1996), with the main goal of "contributing to a solution to the problems surrounding the quality of raw water and wastewater, limiting water consumption and reducing waste volumes through increased utilization of fish resources, as well as achieving a reduction in energy consumption by optimizing the most energy-intensive processes."

NordFood participants:

Companies: 200

Research institutions: 30

Universities: 14

Developing the fish industry

Another project was "water jet deboning" (WJD), with the goal of developing and optimizing a high-pressure water jet system for meat extraction from fish. The system increased the utilization of raw materials and reduced waste, and the experiments showed, among other things, that the shelf life of the products was extended. WJD is still used today and has been optimized with X-rays and algorithms to find the best angle to cut.

The whole story about the NorFood program

During the 90s Nordisk Industrifond (now Nordic Innovation) saw for innovation throughout the value chain in the food industry and decided to develop the NorFood program.

Read all about the NorFood program →

If only everyone could be like the Scandinavians, this would all be easy.”

Barack Obama

The 2000s - broader collaborations

In the 2000s, Nordic Innovation contributed, among other things, to documenting the economic benefits of solar heating and solar energy in the housing market, worked to attract tourists to the Nordic countries, worked to increase food security, and collaborated with large companies such as Bang & Olufsen and ABB Robotics to remove lead from electronics.

One of the fund's most important initiatives in the early 2000s was to create a network for cooperation with neighboring countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and northwestern Russia). One of these cooperative projects was ScanBalt, where 11 countries came together to create a large bioregion consisting of 85 million inhabitants, 60 universities, and 870 bio-related companies.

Today, the bio and innovation network Scanbalt is the leading accelerator for interregional cooperation in Northern Europe, with a vision to make the region a global hub for health and bioeconomy.

We also led the EU project SafeFOODera, with 23 participating countries representing 480,000,000 people in Europe. The goal was to establish a common European knowledge platform as a basis for protecting consumers from health hazards in food.
Through the program, we supported research on diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans through food. The project laid the foundation for new collaborations and received attention in Japan and the United States, among other places.

ScanBalt: a Nordic and Baltic success story

Research has no borders. In the early 2000s, Nordic Innovation sought outwards to establish a research initiative.

Read the whole ScanBalt story

Facts from the 2000s

2003: Bang&Olufsen, Nera Networks, ABB Robotics, Tomra Systems, Kitron Arendal, Lövanger Electronics, and Partnertech worked together to introduce lead-free products to the market. Lead and other heavy metals were to be phased out before 2006, and Nordic Innovation's project "No lead in Nordic Electronics (NoNe)" made this possible earlier than required.

2007: Nordic Innovation funded a report that, for the first time, presented evidence of the economic benefits of solar heating and solar energy in the housing market in the Nordic countries. Metro Therm, Solarnor, and Solentek were involved and had products on the market in 2007.

2009: Developed a Nordic initiative for female entrepreneurship.

The 2010s - the future starts to look green

Between 2010 and 2019, Nordic Innovation supported various projects and activities in different areas, such as circular economy, green mobility, sustainable buildings, entrepreneurship, health, and welfare.

One of these projects was Nordiccs, a project in collaboration with SINTEF Energy in Norway to create a Nordic user-driven competence center for carbon capture and storage (CCS). The aim was to increase awareness and use of CCS in the five Nordic countries and promote active industrial engagement. Nordiccs collaborated with companies such as Statoil (now Equinor), Gassco, Norcem, and Icelandic Orkuveita Reykjavikur.

Another important project was the flagship program Nordic Built, a Nordic initiative to accelerate the development of sustainable building concepts. Twenty Nordic top executives in the Nordic construction industry committed to implementing necessary measures to deliver competitive solutions for sustainable buildings.

The program also included an interdisciplinary design competition for the renovation of five typical Nordic buildings, one in each country. A total of 171 teams submitted their proposals, and five winners were eventually chosen. The final step of the program was to accelerate and support the use of new concepts for sustainable building, and a total of 17 projects received support.

Promoting Nordic cuisine across the pond

Read the whole story

Facts abot the 2010s

2011: Around 300,000 American school children in Washington D.C. were served Nordic food during Nordic Food days, made by winners of a Nordic cooking competition for youth. This showed how Nordic food could be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

2012: Establishment of The Nordic European Public Investor initiative - provides a basis for raising money for Nordic start-ups and growth companies.

2013: Establishment of a Nordic program for marine innovation to increase innovation, profitability, and competitiveness in the Nordic fishing industry. The program consisted of 15 projects, with Norwegian Lerøy participating in one of them.

2014: The first Nordic Innovation House opened in Silicon Valley. The Nordic countries have been the starting point for several leading technology companies such as Ericsson and Nokia, MySQL, Rovio, Opera Software, ForgeRock, and Spotify. - Nordic Innovation House helps to lower the threshold and provides an excellent starting point for the next success stories. Since then, they have opened similar houses in New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.
Your can read more about the Innovation Houses here.

2019: The Nordic Council of Ministers adopts Vision 2030.

We address issues of joint Nordic interest, promote innovation, enable change and transformation, engage the wider business ecosystems, bring relevant stakeholders together and create a platform for Nordic cooperation and successful implementation. We call ourselves an enabler and an intermediary, but how does it work?

Nordic Innovation connects people, businesses and organisations for a sustainable future.

2020 and beyond

Since 2020, we have been working towards the goal of making the Nordic region the most sustainable and integrated in the world by 2030.

Today, we stand on the shoulders of talented and steadfast innovators as we discuss and explore solutions to the many future challenges facing the Nordics, including increasing energy needs, significant emission reductions, an aging population, data security, and sustainable economies, to name a few.

The Nordics are in a unique position to develop effective solutions. Our shared values and abundant resources provide a strong foundation for creating a more sustainable and integrated future. The world needs innovative solutions and smart partnerships that drive green growth and entrepreneurship.

We aim to become the world's most sustainable and integrated region, and if anyone can meet this challenge, it's the Nordic countries, together. We at Nordic Innovation exist to amplify this effort.

Nordic Innovation has allocated NOK 60 million to the program, which is running from 2018-2021. As a part of the Nordic Vision 2030, a new program called Nordic Green Mobility will build upon Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity and run from 2021 to 2024.

Read about how electric planes are about to become a reality.

Our Vision

Our work shall contribute to achieving the Nordic Vision 2030, aiming to make the Nordics the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. To achieve this vision, efforts are divided into three strategic priorities:

  • A green Nordic region. Together, we will promote a green transition of our societies and work towards carbon neutrality and a sustainable circular and bio-based economy.
  • A competitive Nordic region. Together, we will promote green growth in the Nordic Region based on knowledge, innovation, mobility and digital integration.
    A socially sustainable Nordic region. Together, we will promote an inclusive, equal and interconnected region with shared values and strengthened cultural exchange and welfare.

Nordic Next - 50 years and beyond.
What are your thoughts?

What will the world look like in 2073, 50 years from now? And what about the Nordics? Take a moment to reflect on how innovation will shape the future.
Envisioning the FUTURE. Looking back on our history, it is apparent how our lives and perspectives have changed since 1973, in some respects, rather dramatically. While we are working to achieve Vision 2030, there is a need to think in longer-term perspectives to achieve the changes needed for a more sustainable future.

So, what do you think the world will look like in 2073, 50 years from now?
Take a moment to reflect on how innovation will shape our future.

Go to form and share your reflections about the future

Disclaimer: Your answer might be shared anonymously on our websites and you cannot be identified with them.

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