Photo: Arctic Council Secretariat/ Linnea Nordström

Economic Development, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Arctic

Arctic Economic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers’ breakout session at the Arctic at the Arctic Circle Assemply in Reykjavik, Iceland.

This week more than 100 people gathered at the breakout session jointly organized by the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) and the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM). The topic of the breakout session was Economic Development, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Arctic.

The AEC and the NCM together with Voluntas Advisory and The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) have conducted an Arctic Business Analysis. The analysis aims to qualify knowledge on the Arctic business environment and identify the factors needed to further develop the conditions of doing business in the region. of  This also includes identifying factors and best practices on how the Nordic countries can support economic development in the Arctic. The analysis  focuses on business development cases that can be  scaled to other themes and geographical areas. Thus the aim is to  present important practical lessons learned for other companies.

The aim of the AEC-NCM breakout session at the Arctic Circle Assembly was to both present and test the preliminary findings, and to solicit feedback for the final analysis.

Setting the Stage

At the event, stakeholders in the field of business development and investments discussed the sustainable business development in the Arctic. The session was opened by Senior Adviser at the Nordic Council of Ministers, Ms. Nauja Bianco.  The preliminary findings of the Arctic Business Analysis were presented by Mr. Jakob Wichmann, CEO and Co-founder of Voluntas Group.  Here he highlighted the focus areas of the analysis:  public-private partnerships, cultural industries, bioeconomy and entrepreneurship &innovation. Mr. Wichmann also stressed that while the Nordic Arctic is the frontrunner in bioeconomy, it should aim more strongly for high-value products.

Nauja Bianco – Nordic Council of Ministers. Photo: Arctic Council Secretariat / Linnea Nordström

Mr. Mikhail Pogodaev, who serves as the Chair of the Association of World Reindeer Herders and is also the Director of The Northern Forum, gave an indigenous perspective on business development in the Arctic. His message included the need to develop an Arctic business directory that also includes indigenous business opportunities.

Mikhail Pogodaev – The Association of World Reindeer Herders. Photo: Arctic Council Secretariat/ Linnea Nordström

CASE DISCUSSIONS

AEC’s Icelandic Vice Chair and the CEO of biotech company Genis, Mr. Robert Gudfinnsson, shared his views based on his long experience as an entrepreneur and investor on what is needed to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the Arctic region. Having done business throughout the world, he returned to develop business in his home town of Siglufjörður in Northern Iceland.

Mr. Stephen Hart from the European Investment Bank highlighted the opportunities,requirements and demands needed for financing business development and investments in the Nordic Arctic.

Presenting how the Norwegian coastal cruise line Hurtigruten has developed local Arctic Cuisine as a competitive advantage, the company’s Communications Director Anne Marit Bjørnflaten, explained that the sale of food on Hurtigruten’s ships has increased after they threw frozen pizza and scampi overboard and introduced local food. This change  also meant that local suppliers have a stable demand for their produce, thus benefitting the local communities.

In his talk about Arctic’s bioeconomy as a stepping stone for growth in the Arctic, Mr. Sveinn Margeirsson, the CEO of an Islandic Food and Biotech R&D Institute Matís, focused on the United Nation’s SustainableDevelopment Goals (SDGs). He underlined  the needs of future generations when developing the Arctic.

The presentations were followed by a good discussion. The need for optimization and standardization of regulations regarding trade was one of the topics raised. The AEC Chair Mr. Tero Vauraste reminded that the Arctic is a complicated region in terms of regulations. Therefore the promotion of stable rules and regulations is high on the AEC’s agenda. Other topics raised during the Q&A touched upon the importance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for development. The need to support small and micro businesses was also highlighted.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Tero Vauraste – AEC Chair. Photo: Arctic Council Secretariat/ Linnea Nordström

The  AEC Chair Tero Vauraste delivered the concluding remarks of the event, highlighting how to move the business development agenda in the Arctic forward. “The international trade has started to decline as a result of economic nationalism. We have to continue to work for free trade to secure sustainable investment developments in the Arctic”, he stated.

”I am happy that so many people took the time to participate in our event. Economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Arctic are clearly issues that generate a lot of interest. The broad representation at the breakout session made for good discussions. In addition, a lot of important issues were raised. These will move the work of the Arctic Business Analysis forward”, concluded Tero Vauraste.

The Arctic Business Analysis will be published in the beginning of 2018 and will be made available on the AEC website.