Olivia Rekman

“As the 12th largest economy we have an incredible bargaining power”

“For Nordic businesses that means a market of 27 million inhabitants instead of a national market of for example 5 million. That is one of the reasons why integration and language comprehension between the Nordic countries are so important for Nordic businesses”, she argues.

“Also, the data is clear. Our most important trading partners are our Nordic neighboring countries. And perhaps most importantly, we can share best practices and learn from each other which leads to greater innovation and impact”, she continues.”

Innovation in the backpack

Olivia Rekman is new Innovation Advisor at Nordic Innovation. She is 29 years old and from Skåne, the southern part of Sweden. She has a background in International Politics and Business from Copenhagen Business School. The Nordic spirit became a part of Olivia’s life from an early stage. As she says, she is half Swedish-half Polish, but with a strong Nordic identity. Besides living in Copenhagen for about 10 years, Olivia has lived in Tromsø and Lofoten in Norway. Despite her young age, Olivia already has a strong background in innovation. Before joining Nordic Innovation, she worked in the private sector as Innovation Consultant for a small consultancy firm.  

We met with Olivia for a talk about her new position at Nordic Innovation.

Olivia introduces the AI and Data session at Arendals Week 2022

Why did you want to work at Nordic Innovation?

“I am interested in the impact the private sector has on our ecosystems, well-being and quality of life. I am convinced that the change in our economy and society happens in the interface between public policy, private sector operations, business models and innovation. Nordic Innovation is at the interface of policy and business. With very hands-on projects, we operationalize the visions of the Nordic ministers”, says Olivia.

According to Olivia, in order to ensure a successful and wide adoption of innovative solutions the whole ecosystem of stakeholders need to buy into the change. And this is where Nordic Innovation plays a role in the work with what she calls System Level Innovation.

“What does this mean in practice? Politicians, in our case the five Nordic Ministers of Trade, Industry and Business, identify priority areas where the Nordic society will benefit from innovation”, she explains. “These areas are defined as our eight programs and four special initiatives”, she continues.

“Take the green transition. To change our society, we need to engage a wide range of stakeholders in the ecosystem and value chains. Many companies have an economic disincentive to implement greener practices to do so because it is more costly. Simplified, other actors such as citizens, are forced to bear the cost of for example pollution and climate change, because this is not taken into consideration in the price-setting of goods. This is where there is a need for system level innovation policy to support the actors in choosing the green solutions and thereby support the system level changes”, she argues.

From the AI and Data session at Arendals Week 2022

No day is the same

Olivia works with the program: AI and Data and the Nordic Scalers 2.0 initiative.

To the question about her daily tasks and job routines, Olivia highlights the great variety which depends a lot on the specific program.  

“However, it involves a lot of information seeking, desk research, reading and stakeholder dialogues to understand the needs of the key actors. After we sign a new contract, my role is also to be a project manager and follow-up, oversee and communicate project results to our stakeholders”.

The Nordic AI and Data Hackathon 2022

When asked about the most interesting task so far, Olivia mentions the planning phase of the AI and Data program. “I think reaching out to key stakeholders in the field and listening to their experiences and insights is very interesting. This is an important part of our work. To anchor it with the real needs of Nordic businesses. This feeds into what I think is the most interesting and exciting task: planning the next activities of the program”.

How has it been to start your new job at Nordic Innovation?

“In short - it has been challenging and rewarding with responsibility right away. I had a great onboarding process. There has been a plan for me since day one and I have incredibly knowledgeable and competent colleagues. Everyone in the team comes from different professional and educational backgrounds and from across the Nordic region".  

Can you tell me more about the AI and Data program?

“Our AI & Data program is built around three areas: Nordic datasets, Capabilities and Nordic Smart Government. In short, the goal is to identify public datasets with high value available across the Nordic countries for companies that develop solutions with AI, and if possible, make these available. The goal is to explore perspectives, needs and opportunities of data for Nordic companies and facilitate exchange of experience between companies and other relevant actors across the Nordic countries".

The Nordic AI and Data Hackathon 2022

How do you think AI and Data can contribute to vision 2030?

"Great access to data is a prerequisite for innovation. To share data and digitize our society creates the foundation upon which we can accelerate the green transition. In that way, to open up for better access to Nordic datasets and better data management alongside AI capabilities in organizations, speaks directly into vision 2030 of the Nordics being the most integrated and sustainable region in the world. The digital and green transition goes hand in hand”.

Read more about the AI and Data program