Encouraging more sustainable production processes, product design and services is good for both the environment and for business. But there is still a general lack of available funding to support eco-innovation. Norway contributes with almost €130 million to promote increased competitiveness of green enterprises in eight European countries – Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Innovation Norway - the Norwegian Government's most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry - is involved in all eight green innovation programmes, either as programme operator or donor programme partner.
We talked to programme manager Anne Lise Rognlidalen about the programme and the experience of being involved.
- What are the main challenges for small and medium sized enterprises in the beneficiary countries of the green industry innovation programmes?
“We see a lack of new technology and modern resource efficient equipment, resulting in low productivity. Furthermore, there is little financing and knowledge for innovative green projects. The shortage of access to long term financing for investment projects is also a challenge.”
-What is the added value for Norwegian enterprises getting involved?
“The participation gives direct access to business opportunities and business culture in the beneficiary countries. The trigger is to gain access to new market knowledge and to build networks. It however, has to be based on a defined need for the Norwegian enterprises’ own business development. We are searching for a long term win-win situation for both parties.”
“When a Norwegian company wants to explore new market opportunities, they usually need to find a partner in the respective market. This is time-consuming and represents a risk. The green industry innovation programme can therefore be seen as a strategic tool for risk reduction.”
Opening up for collaboration in the future
NCE Smart Energy Markets/Smart Innovation Østfold AS from Norway is taking part in a project in Bulgaria together with the Black Sea Energy Cluster. The aim of the cooperation project is to strengthen the relations between Norwegian and Bulgarian green clusters.
“The cooperation has been both educational and beneficial, especially when it comes to future opportunities for collaboration in research and innovation projects. Through several study visits, in both Norway and Bulgaria, we have built up networks and relationships with Bulgarian partners from industry and academia, and both parties have learned a lot about the challenges and opportunities related to the energy sector in the two countries,” said Dieter Hirdes, R&D Coordinator in Smart Innovation Østfold.
Hydropower + mechanical industry
“Through the programme, we have grown closer to our Romanian partner Ikon Ideea. The Romanian history and culture with roots in mechanical industry coupled with our own hydropower and industrial competence has contributed to our customers in Norway as well as internationally receiving products they are very satisfied with,” said Casper Vogt-Svendsen, Director at Rainpower AS in Sørumsand, Norway.
Rainpower AS is partner in a projects in Romania that includes investments in innovative green technologies and integration of these into the company Ikon Ideea’s mechanical production facility.
Other Norwegian partners include the Norwegian University of Life Science, Tomra Sorting AS, International Development Norway AS, Bioforsk-Vest, Kongsberg Tero Tech AS, Asplan Viak, Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology and many more.
Important role in attracting Norwegian project partners
Anne Lise Rognlidalen from Innovation Norway has been involved in Norway Grants in several of the beneficiary countries for almost ten years.
-Anne Lise, in what ways are the experience from Norway relevant for the green industry innovation programmes in the beneficiary countries?
“Innovation Norway has extensive experience in grant management for private sector beneficiaries and a hands-on solution oriented approach during project implementation phase. We also have in-house competence on the programme’s specific focus - green business development. I also believe that a programme operator from the donor state makes it easier to attract Norwegian project partners.”
Innovation Norway is programme operator for the green industry innovation programme in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania and donor programme partner in the other five countries implementing green industry innovation programmes.
-Mention one thing that you have learnt from being involved in the programme that could be useful in Norway?
“Innovation Norway has gained a lot of knowledge about business opportunities in beneficiary countries, which is useful when we are promoting bilateral cooperation.”