Nordic Mobility Universe

How can the Nordics become the world’s most sustainable and connected region? There is no short answer, but let’s give it a try.

Part 1

Enter the Nordic Mobility Universe

Our way of transporting passengers and goods are constantly changing. The big leaps often occur when society goes through turbulent change. Modern airplanes, for example, were developed during WW2, and the most celebrated models are still flying today. First train, first car, first lorry, first scooter – all these innovations are products of technological advancements making further development and improvements possible.

Because of technological innovations, as well as innovations at system level, we can travel and trade globally faster and safer than ever before, and with more predictability and accessibility. Over time a complex mobility system has developed – a system that today constitutes one of the fundamental structures of our societies.

Why mobility?

The concept of mobility made its entrance in the Nordic region in 2003 and has since then gradually overtaken the transport term. The following year, the Nordic transport ministers developed a framework for future transport policy cooperation and selected sustainable mobility as a main pillar. Today, both mobility and Nordic collaboration as such are higher on the agenda than ever before.

Mobility is key in making the Nordic region the most integrated and sustainable region in the world. Sustainable mobility could refer to emission-free, carbon-neutral and even environmentally friendly mobility, with decarbonizing as a first step. Mobility is essential in many aspects of our lives and form the basis of how we live and interact. Therefore, maintaining a people-centric focus is important. Future mobility solutions should be accessible, affordable, seamless and integrated, addressing people’s wants and needs.

Senior Innovation Advisor and Head of the Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity Program, Nina Egeli, tells us more:

You could view the shift from transportation to mobility in this way:

“Transport should be viewed as a function or an activity within a wider mobility system that consist of many interlinked and interdependent components, making it possible for us to move people and goods around.”

Today, digitalization has led to yet another major leap. Our societies are going through one of the most substantial transformations in history. After years of innovation, multiple technologies and developments are transforming transportation – leading us into a new chapter of mobility solutions.

By integrating smart electronics, infotainments, telecommunications and advanced software, car manufacturers are delivering revolutionary technologies to today’s consumers. They are also making self-driving vehicles a reality by introducing assistance systems and autonomous features.

Photo credit: Ruter As / Redink, Thomas Haugersveen

There is an urgent demand for new mobility innovations to meet the challenges posed by population growth, increasing globalization, climate changes and pandemics. In the global marketplace, there is a need to transport all forms of goods and necessities over long distances in a clean, energy-efficient, reliable, and safe way. Digitalization is a key enabler, creating a more fluid and connected society.

Digitalization has many advantages when it comes to mobility.

GPS relieved the driver from learning new routes. IoT has connected objects together and made them able to collect and transfer data without human interaction.

5G will enable considerable improvements in our everyday life. Not only in terms of better connectivity, but also through new opportunities the technology facilitates, such as: more precise health care, seamless public transport, better shopping experiences.

With smart use of new technology, Nordic mobility can become more sustainable, more powerful, more competitive and more cost efficient for society.

In this episode of Nordic Innovation Forecast, Swedish logistics expert Per Olof Arnäs explores the major trends within logistics and transportation. And some challenges, too.

Technological mobility trends in the Nordic region

Over the last years, we have seen a significant increase in the transition to renewable and sustainable energy, from fossil fuels to electricity and other forms of low or zero-emission fuels. Electrification, automation and digitalization are now major trends, as was described in the podcast.  Over time, technological advancement can affect both demand, capacity needs, security, and operating costs in the sector.

We see a development in intelligent interaction, where multimodality is core and where the mobility ecosystem has an important digital component.  This creates new possibilities for accurate regulation, safety and security, planning and predictability - and new measures to reduce climate and the environmental impacts.

There is a growing diversity of individual-oriented business models for flexible sharing of mobility services. Digital solutions have kickstarted the development of several innovative services that makes people less dependent on their own means of transport.

When it comes to transportation of goods – where the potential for emission-reduction is substantial – we still have a long way to go. However, many steps are taken to introduce interim solutions, these are important steps on the way towards zero-emission, secure and integrated solutions, and viable business models.

Photo credit: Håvard Jørstad / Posten Norge

Due to extraordinarily high costs and complexity linked to a green transition, the maritime sector has generally been lagging behind when it comes to the transformation of their industry. However, stricter emission requirements on both global and national levels in combination with substantial technological advancements such as automation, electrification, new fuels, big data and IoT, have led to the acceleration of innovative solutions entering the world of shipping – sparking a green digital transformation.

Digitalization is set to play a key role in shipping and offers opportunities for improving operational efficiencies, reduce emissions and provide competitive advantages, while at the same time requiring new competences and skills to adjust to and thrive in a changing industry.

MARLOG’s Nanna Thit and maritime advisor Sofia Fürstenberg Stott looks at how we can achieve green shipping and sustainable sea transport in this episode of Nordic Innovation Forecast.

Changing the way people and goods move

Societal changes and new mobility solutions have made life easier, providing people with more options for how they want to travel within their own cities or across their borders, but also in way of delivery of goods.

Yearly flights Oslo-Bergen: 7659 flights in 2019*

 * Source: Statistics Norway

The Mobility Universe is ever changing. Travel has become easier, more accessible and affordable over the years, and a global market for trade of goods and services has developed. The increasing complexity of the current mobility systems put a strain on e.g. life in cities. Micro-mobility has entered the scene – warmly welcomed by some, opposed by others – added to what is already there. Door-to-door deliveries is a blessing and a challenge. Sustainable long-haul transportation on land and sea is struggling with technology, infrastructures and business models. Today we are very conscious of the need to change the way people and goods move, not only in the Nordic region, but also globally. A transformation must and will happen, and the Nordic countries are working together to boost the green shift.

The climate crisis is a reality, and transportation is responsible for 25% of the CO2 emissions. Moving towards more sustainable transport means that future mobility must engage the citizens, providing them with more accessible, affordable, healthier, and greener alternatives. There is therefore an urgent need and demand for stronger investment in technology, both by developing new innovations, and faster implementation of existing ones, such as zero-emissions vehicles and renewable fuels.

Although mobility is not a separate section in UN´s sustainability goals, it serves a significant role in several of them. Goal 9, for instance, focuses on the importance of a solid infrastructure and promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrializations and innovation. Within goal 11, which evolves around sustainable cities and local communities, point 11.2 says:

“By 2030, ensure that everyone has access to safe, accessible and sustainable transport systems at an affordable price and improve road safety, especially by facilitating public transport and with particular focus on the needs of people in vulnerable situations, women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly”.

In addition, goal 14 seek to conserve and use the sea and marine resources in a way that promotes sustainable development, by preventing and significantly reducing all forms of marine pollution, from land-based activities, including marine littering and nutrient discharges.

This essentially implies that the UN’s vision for 2030 includes true mobility for all.

Population growth and urbanization

2030 is only 9 years away, and by then the Nordic population is expected to increase from the current 27 million to almost 30 million. With Greenland as the only exception, there has been population growth in all the Nordic countries in the last ten years.

Innovation Advisor Ivar Josefsson at Nordic Innovation explains why population growth increases the need for smarter solutions:

Other challenges include traffic congestion, noise, and air pollution in the cities. At peak hours, public transportation is bustling with passengers seeking to get to their destinations while other transport options, such as privately-owned cars, are seldom at full capacity even though all add to increasing road congestion in urban areas.

Enter part 2

The Nordics

On the road to become the most integrated region in the world by 2030.

Nordic bonds

One might wonder why it is a Nordic universe and not a European or a global universe. The reason is simple. Strong Nordic bonds span years back, and we are connected through similar cultures, values, history and, for some countries, similar languages.

Swedish flag
Norwegian flag
Finnish flag
Icelandic flag
Greenlands flag
Danish flag
Faroe islands flag
Ålands flag

Throughout history, the region has been strongly interconnected and its citizens have travelled across borders, traded with each other, and collaborated through openness, trust and a keen interest in learning from each other.

Furthermore, the Nordics were the first region to allow traveling and moving across borders without a passport – now this has become one of the main values of travelling through the Schengen area.

The strong bonds established and cultivated over the years enable easier access to collaboration since we have a common platform and understanding to build upon. There is an inherent level of trust between our countries, which makes it easier to form new business partnerships and work towards common goals, allowing quicker progress and more powerful results.

Nordic complementary advantages and challenges

By joining forces, the Nordic region constitutes the world's 12th largest economy. For Nordic companies, the region represents an extended home market, as well as a testbed for new solutions. The Nordic welfare states have achieved international recognition and serves as inspiration for other countries.

Several Nordic businesses achieve great success internationally. Some examples know worldwide are Volvo, Maersk and Nokia. We expect to see many more emerging from the Nordic mobility sector.

The Nordic climate and weather conditions add an extra layer to the challenge of developing new mobility solutions. While we are far ahead in areas like electrification, our circumstances also show the necessity of developing other type of fuels and energy sources so that our future mobility system is flexible enough to withstand and thrive in all possible scenarios. Our climate and topography can be seen as a challenge, but even more as a competitive advantage.

Will all domestic flights be electric in the future? Maria Fiskerud from NEA and Avinor’s Olav Mosvold Larsen guides us through the possibilities of sustainable aviation.

Nordic Innovation

Nordic Innovation is an organization under the Nordic Council of Ministers and aims to make the Nordics a pioneering region for sustainable growth. We work to promote entrepreneurship, innovation, and competitiveness in Nordic businesses.

Nordic Innovation logo on wall

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.

Nordic Innovation forms programs and initiatives based on important societal challenges, shared political priorities, Nordic added value, and business opportunities.

Nordic Innovation's toolbox consists of a range of different instruments. We may use call for proposals, procurement, co-creation tools, capacity building activities, matchmaking, "Mobility Missions", Nordic Innovation Houses, Nordic Scalers, and others. Each instrument fits a specific purpose.

A basic criterion is that at least three partners from three different Nordic countries must be involved in a project or initiative for it to be regarded as Nordic. In general, we are looking for projects that show involvement of industry and the direct benefit of the project for companies in the Nordic region.

Nordic Innovation requires co-funding of minimum 50%, in the form of direct funding or in-kind contributions. Companies (SMEs and larger companies), public sector organizations (e.g., infrastructure owners, regulators, procurers, innovation ecosystems), cluster organizations, business networks or research institutions may normally participate in Nordic innovation projects. One of our ongoing programs is called “Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity”, and that is the reason for this guided tour of the Nordic mobility universe!"

Nordic Innovation promotes cooperation between stakeholders in multiple Nordic countries. Cooperation across national borders creates new synergies and leads to greater benefits than each country can obtain individually. We seek activities which encourage results that would not otherwise be possible. As an enabler, Nordic Innovation facilitates action and collaboration by bringing partners together to co-create, innovate, and deliver sustainable solutions for the future.

Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity

Figures from the period 2016-2019 show that the Nordics (excluding Åland) have an average of 5,2 tons per capita in climate emissions. The Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity program is about speeding up the transition to more sustainable and connected mobility solutions and changing the way people and goods move. Enhanced quality of life is an important aspect of this.

The Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity program was officially launched by the Nordic ministers for business in May 2018.

Learn more about Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity

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.

How has the progress been?

We asked senior innovation advisor and head of the Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity Program, Nina Egeli:

The program contributes to reducing barriers, strengthen value chain cooperation, foster cooperation across value chains and sectors, and to develop new business models related to green and sustainable mobility.

Enter part 3

The future

The importance of mobility.

We have briefly touched upon the challenges that force the need for smarter solutions and why the Nordics should be in the forefront of the voyage towards sustainable mobility solutions.  Breakthroughs in autonomy, green fuels, electrification, sharing, and connectivity are only the beginning. Society is constantly changing, and people are working daily to develop sustainable solutions and to drive change.

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.

Urbanization is one of the key megatrends affecting the Nordic region, as well as the rest of the world. By 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, and this is something we need to plan for in the Nordics. Mobility systems play an important part in ensuring that our growing urban areas will be livable, smart, and sustainable, and we need to start thinking about how to develop them sooner rather than later.

As part of the Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity program, Nordic Innovation developed the Nordic Urban Mobility 2050 Futures Game together with the Finnish service design company Hellon. The Futures Game can be used as a strategic tool allowing participants to create future mobility scenarios that are either plausible, desirable or worst-case examples.

The idea is to discuss what we want Nordic cities of the future to look like in terms of mobility and identify what we need to do to get there. Also, what are the business opportunities involved?

Read more and download the Futures Game

The Nordic region will be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030.

The Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity Program contributes to achieving this vision. But to understand how Nordic innovation contributes toward said goal, we must first look at the Mobility Universe, and the projects involved.

Sustainable, shared, and connected future

Sustainable, shared, and connected are important keywords for the future. Within our Mobility Universe we find projects developing mobility solutions addressing people’s needs and demands and/or societal challenges, covering transport across air, land, and sea.

The program has currently funded 13 projects. Here is an introduction to all of them:

1. Nordic Open Mobility and Digitalisation (NOMAD)

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) roaming in the Nordic region.

The project aims to enable seamless mobility for across several modes of transportation in the Nordics. The project will introduce a market enabler framework of technology and business practices for Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and other smart mobility services.

Read more about NOMAD

2. Nordic Network for Electric Aviation (NEA) 

Accelerating the development of electric aviation in the Nordic countries.

The Nordic Network for Electric Aviation (NEA) is a platform where Nordic actors come together to accelerate the introduction of electric aviation in the Nordic countries. The platform will facilitate collaboration within infrastructure, industry, and business modelling to reduce the carbon emissions for regional aviation.

Read more about NEA

Watch CEO at Heart Aerospace, Anders Forslund’s talk from Zerokonferansen 2020.

3. The Connected Ship

Supporting a more sustainable, digitalized and connected maritime industry.

The Connected Ship project will build knowledge and enterprises that can successfully make the Nordic shipping industry more sustainable and create new Nordic export business models based on the maritime digitalization. The goal of the project is to demonstrate a digitalization platform on board a ship by utilizing technology, platforms and experiences from smart city projects combined with maritime industry control systems, communication protocols and environmental prerequisites.

Read more about The Connected Ship

MARLOG’s Nanna Thit and maritime advisor Sofia Fürstenberg Stott looks at how we can achieve green shipping and sustainable sea transport in this episode of Nordic Innovation Forecast.

4. Next Nordic Green Transport Wave – Large Vehicles (Next Wave)

Encouraging the very first hydrogen infrastructure for larger vehicles.

The project focuses on providing infrastructure for a larger scale deployment of green trucks, buses, and lorries. The goal of the project is to further strengthen the Nordics’ global technological lead by encouraging the first hydrogen infrastructure for larger vehicles. The project will contribute to national and possible Nordic hydrogen strategy processes.

Read more about Next Wave

Watch Secretary General at Norsk Hydrogenforum, Ingebjørg Telnes Wilhelmsen’s talk from Zerokonferansen 2020.

5. Innovative Sustainable Urban Last Mile: Small Vehicles and Business Models (i-Smile)

An innovation platform for upscaling sustainable business models for urban last mile deliveries.

Due to a rise in e-commerce and urbanization there is a rapid increase in last mile deliveries in the Nordic countries and internationally. The i-Smile project’s purpose is to increase sustainability in urban last mile deliveries and will develop an innovation platform for upscaling sustainable business models for such deliveries.

Read more about i-Smile

6. Sustainable Insights: Measure, Inform, Mobilise (MIM)

Helping cities and citizens to choose greener transport methods for sustainable change.

There is clear demand for an efficient and optimized use and operation of city transport networks, but the required tools for this ambition remain elusive. The MIM project will develop a unique solution that allows both cities and their citizens to become informed about current traffic situations and provide incentives for making more sustainable transport choices. The solution will be piloted in Östersund, Sweden.

Read more about MIM

7. CONNECTING: Control Tower for Autonomous Vehicles

Developing, testing and implementing remote controlled autonomous vehicles.

The project will demonstrate the benefits and business models of the control tower model and validate the potential of the concept. The goal of the project is to develop protocols and software for connecting to and remote operating fleets of self-driving vehicles from different manufacturers.

Read more about CONNECTING

In this episode of Nordic Innovation Forecast, Holo’s Hans Fridberg and Kyyti Group’s Pekka Niskanen explains how autonomous vehicles will change public transport, and how we travel.

8. Nordic Drone Initiative

A collaborative innovation platform for drone-based mobility.

The Nordic Drone Initiative is forming an open collaborative innovation platform to jointly accelerate the introduction of drone-based mobility solutions in the Nordics.

Read more about the Nordic Drone Initiative

9. The Nordic Green Ammonia Powered Ships (NoGAPS)

Paving the way for the first ammonia-powered vessel.

The NoGAPS project will develop a proof of concept on how the barriers to adopt ammonia as a zero-emission maritime fuel can be overcome, focusing on safety and efficiency, sustainable and steady fuel supply chains, as well as commercial viability. The proof of concept will be used to explore the potential for continuing the work on having a green ammonia powered operational by 2025.

Read more about NoGAPS

10. On Shore Power Supply in the Nordic Region

Feasibility study of on shore power supply.

Nordic cities close to ports suffer from pollution from ships at berth. A large part of this pollution originates from onboard power generation based on heavy fuel oil or diesel oil. This project will conduct a feasibility study of on shore power supply, which could be a solution to the challenge. The feasibility study will compile information on the technical possibilities as well as grants available for investments.

Read more about the project

11. New Offshore Wind Ports in the Nordics

Uncovering and developing specific opportunities for collaboration and strategic innovation.

Nordic ports have the potential to take on an essential role in the offshore wind supply chain development, as they are key interfaces between land and sea for offshore wind.

This project aims to uncover specific opportunities for collaboration and strategic innovation between stakeholders at Nordic ports to foster long-term business opportunities to Nordic companies and ports in the offshore wind industry.

Read more about the project

12. The Maritime Energy Transition (MAREN)

Speeding up the transition from conventional to green energy sources in the maritime sector.

The MAREN project aims at building a Nordic network for the maritime energy transition to take on larger development tasks and international innovation projects and foster new value chains for Nordic businesses in an expected global market.

Read more about MAREN

13. Zero Emission Energy Distribution at Sea (ZEEDS)

Finding the fastest route to zero emissions shipping.

The ZEEDS initiative envisions a network of offshore platforms that uses wind or solar to produce, store and distribute zero emission fuels in a network of clean energy hubs placed near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Read more about ZEEDS

The question now is: What will happen after the pandemic?

Will our mobility systems, our travelling habits, transport routes and modes – and global trade in general – go back to what they were before Covid-19, before lock-down, national, and personal isolation?

After more than a year of social distancing and closed borders, private and public mobility actors struggle to regain force and to adjust to a future somewhat different to what we had imagined back in 2019.

Will commuters go back to accepting crowded public transport, delays, and inconvenience? Will we still accept and demand transporting all types of goods across the globe or will global trade change? Will we see more local or regional production or storage – and how would this impact our mobility systems? What will happen to “globalization” as such? Will we travel as much and cover equally long distances as before?

We “always” knew that our mobility systems would have to change dramatically. Now – more than ever before – we expect radical change to happen sooner rather than later.

We need to rebuild, to recover and to some degree to start afresh after the pandemic in many areas of mobility.

The drive to innovate, to improve and to create a sustainable future of mobility is there in the Nordic region, and maybe our will and ability to work together will give us a head start.

Learn more about the Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity program