Without funding from Innovation Norway, Vestre would not have been able to start The Plus – the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory.
The Norwegian industrial company is building a hypermodern furniture factory in Norway, more specifically at Magnor in Eidskog. Innovation Norway has provided considerable funding and has supported the project with more than NOK 45 million in grants and loans.
“This project will lead to many new jobs and especially increased export revenues for the country. The furniture factory will meet a number of climate requirements that are unique to this type of industrial building. They will also facilitate a large activity park and an open factory area that more people can benefit from”, says Per Ottar Walderhaug, funding adviser at Innovation Norway Innlandet.
Vestre’s CEO, Jan Christian Vestre, emphasises that the support has had a triggering effect for the project.
“We decided to do this in the midst of the corona pandemic and the largest economic downturn in the world since the 1930s. It simply wouldn’t have been possible without the money from Innovation Norway. We have collaborated extremely well throughout the process, and I am very impressed with Innovation Norway’s resource persons at Innlandet. They have been solution-oriented and creative, and at the same time contributed with very useful expertise and experience.”
Aiming to become the biggest in Europe
For more than 70 years, the Oslo-based company has been manufacturing furniture for the world market. The components have come from a number of subcontractors in Scandinavia. In 2013, the first factory opened in Torsby, Sweden, and the next one is being built just an hour away. The new factory at Magnor will enable Vestre to prove to an even greater degree that it is possible to compete globally from Scandinavia.
“Construction will start in the spring of 2021 and the first machines will be delivered during the autumn. We will be using brand new manufacturing technology based on Industry 4.0, such as self-learning robots, object recognition, scanners and big data. The entire factory can be controlled from a tablet! Through highly automated production, digitalisation and sustainable solutions, we will prove that the Norwegian finished goods industry can compete with anyone in the world”, Vestre states.
The Plus was designed by renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, who is also responsible for Google’s new headquarters in California. Vestre’s goal is for The Plus to become a popular place to visit.
“We want TripAdvisor to refer to this as a ‘must see’ destination in Norway. I am pretty sure we can achieve that through our spectacular architecture, super cool machines and a 300,000 m2 adventure park”, says Vestre.
Creating social meeting places where people come together doesn’t really fit in with the ongoing pandemic. Nevertheless, Vestre refers to the strong growth that has occurred recently. One of the reasons is that outdoor spaces and outdoor furniture have become more important than they used to be. The company is constantly establishing itself in new markets, and now has its own export offices in Torsby, London, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. In 2025, 85 percent of production will be for export markets.
“We have two major goals: to become the largest in Europe and the world’s most sustainable furniture manufacturer. Norway needs more profitable export companies, and we need to increase mainland exports. I hope and believe that the project can inspire others to invest in Norwegian industry”, says Vestre.
A sustainable business
The Plus will be the world’s first furniture factory and the first industrial project in the Nordic region to achieve the highest environmental certification BREEAM Outstanding.
“We have built using massive wood constructions, low-carbon concrete and recycled rebar, and the construction site uses a combination of emission-free and fossil-free construction machinery. We have requirements stipulating 100 percent renewable energy throughout the entire supply chain and we are also phasing out environmentally hazardous materials”, says Vestre, adding:
“We will prove that there does not have to be a contradiction between climate and jobs, or between economic growth and biodiversity.”
Furnishings in Milan
In 2019, just like may previous years, the company participated at one of the world’s largest and most important furniture and design fairs, Milan Design Week. Innovation Norway’s Italy office helped organise the Norwegian exhibition consisting of seven Norwegian furniture manufacturers and 21 designers.
In continuation of this and as part of Vestre’s commitment to the Italian market, our office initiated a collaboration between them and the Italian Association of Landscape Architecture. As a result, the company was contacted by the City of Milan to establish a district meeting place using colourful outdoor furniture.
“We have benefited greatly and enjoyed the collaboration with Innovation Norway in Milan. The people working there are skilled, creative, efficient and always helpful. They really make a difference for Norwegian companies that want to invest in Italy”, Vestre emphasises.