The Dream Commitment (Drømmeløftet) was launched by the CEO of Innovation Norway, Anita Krohn Traaseth in November 2014. Here is a short presentation of some of the ideas presented by the people taking part in this national innovation policy brainstorming.
By Per Koch, Innovation Norway
The basis of the Dream Commitment process was:
- The realization that the world, as well as Norway, are facing some serious environmental, social and economic challenges,
- the realization that these challenges require changes in behavior,
- and the knowledge that these changes in behavior require innovation.
Innovation Norway, a public agency supporting private sector innovation and entrepreneurship, invited companies, organizations and individuals to tell us about the challenges and opportunities facing Norwegian society. We also asked participants for suggestions as to what can be done differently.
In three and a half month more than 80 events were arranged. More than 3500 people took part. Some of the events were arranged by Innovation Norway’s own offices in Norway and around the world. Others were arranged by other organizations and companies.
Innovation Norway has received summaries of most meetings, as well as written proposals from a large number of stakeholders. In addition to this Innovation Norway has produced its own reports and memos.
Practically all branches of industry have part of this process, from tiny one man/woman companies at one end to big corporations like Statoil, DNV GL and Telenor at the other.
Representatives of business and labor organizations took part in many of the events. There was even a special Dream Commitment workshop in Oslo with the leaders of The Norwegian Trade Union Organization (LO) and The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO). Virke, The Enterprise Federation of Norway, arranged its own Dream Commitment meeting.
However, the process engaged people and institutions beyond the business sector. Public institutions like The Norwegian State Housing Bank, The Agency for Public Management and eGovernment, and The Research Council of Norway got on board, as well as NGOs like Bellona and the Norwegian Climate Foundations. Youth organizations like Start and Young Entrepreneurship contributed, as did think tanks like Civita, Agenda and Skaperkraft.
Universities, colleges, schools and research institutes also took part. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and The Norwegian University of Life Sciences delivered their own proposals on the future of Norwegian research and innovation policy.
Politicians were also part of the Dream Commitment, including ministers and vice ministers, members of parliament and local assemblies, and party representatives.
What have we learned?
It is not possible for us to give a complete review of the discussions and the proposals in a short article like this one. In the main report from the Dream Commitment we try to illustrate the diversity of ideas by presenting selected “dreams”.
Here are some of the main points raised in the process:
A need for change
There is general agreement that there is a need for a reorientation of Norwegian industry. Participants especially mention the recent fall in oil and gas prices and the need to replace exports from the petroleum sector with other innovative activities.
This does not mean that the people taking part believe that the Norwegian oil and gas era is over. Many have reminded us that this industry will play an important role in the Norwegian economy for many years to come.
A strong belief in the innovative capabilities of Norway
In spite of the challenges facing the oil and gas industry, there is in general no sense of an immediate crisis or panic among those taking part in the process. In most meetings, workshops or conferences the participants express self-confidence, on behalf of industry as well as on behalf of Norwegian society.
Many point out that the country has a well educated population, and good and stable social and political framework conditions, which reduce risk and make it easier to establish new activities.
Because of this many also argue that Norwegian companies may contribute to solving some of the major problems facing Norway and the world. Some point, for instance, to the fact that competences developed off shore may be used for innovation within renewable energy. Others mention the potential of new sustainable, healthy and green food production. Social innovation and entrepreneurship is another popular topic.
Many present challenges facing social welfare as business and market opportunities – i.e. fields of business development that may also lead to exports of goods, services and business models.
Collaboration and learning
It should not come as a surprise that many of those taking part are focusing on collaboration and dissemination of knowledge and competences. They ask for more research, new or improved institutions for connecting science and businesses, and a strengthening of efforts aimed at developing industrial clusters.
Others are proposing new or improved policies for the financing of innovation, especially in the area of entrepreneurship. Many are concerned about a lack of early stage risk capital in Norway. Even if there is much capital in the system as a whole, it seems many investors hesitate to invest in new business areas they do not know well. Many of those taking part in the debate therefore ask for more public funds and loans. They may also argue that the relevant public institutions should accept higher risk.
New out of old
Many participants argue that successful innovation most often grow out of existing competences in existing industries and clusters.
This does not stop them from identifying areas that deserves more attention from policy makers, however. This especially applies to innovation in and for the public sector, social innovation, the use of robots and big data, trade and services, and innovation in and for the creative industries.
Need for a broad based innovation policy
Quite a few argue that there is a need for better innovation policy coordination. They argue that policy initiatives in one part of the system often are undermined by decisions made in other sectors of society. They therefore call for a broad based, “holistic”, innovation policy.
Many ask for a more visionary and strategic approach to the renewal of the Norwegian economy. That being said, there are also those who doubt if politicians have what it takes to make such strategic priorities on behalf of society.
Some point to what they perceive as a lack of collaboration and coordination between companies on the one hand and various business organizations on the other. They argue that each and one of them are too much concerned about their own immediate needs, and fail to address the long term interests of society as a whole.
Market orientation and internationalization
Innovation Norway’s offices abroad have arranged a significant number of Dream Commitment events around the world, often in collaboration with the local embassy or consulate. These meeting have generated many interesting proposals on how to make Norwegian companies more ambitious and on how to help them explore international markets. Internationalization may generate much needed growth in many of these companies, giving them more innovation clout.
There are quite a few proposals on how to strengthen companies’ insight into relevant markets and appropriate business models. Other stakeholders look at the need to market Norway as an attractive destination, both for tourists and foreign investors and companies.
Much of the material generated through the Dream Commitment process has been made available at the Drømmeløftet.no web site.