Innovation has never been more important

After two years of pandemic, Norwegian industry and commerce was optimistic at the start of 2022. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed that. The war and the sanctions threw markets and value chains into turmoil and impacted the prices of what Norway imports and exports. The situation has presented Norwegian companies with both challenges and opportunities. 2022 was also a different kind of year, although for different reasons than the previous two different kind of years.

Innovation has never been more important. The decade we are in must be the decade of scaling. If we are to solve the climate and nature-related challenges we face, as well as the other major social challenges, a number of new solutions will have to be broadly adopted. Business will play a decisive role in this, and Norway has, as a leading maritime, food, and energy nation, one of the world’s best starting points. Translating this into innovation, business development, and exports is Innovation Norway’s core mission.

High electricity and gas prices resulted in Norway breaking all of its export records in 2022. Due to the high prices for the goods we export, we came close to achieving the government’s target in ‘All of Norway Exports’ of a 50 per cent increase in mainland exports by 2030. Meanwhile, the purpose behind this target is to develop a more differentiated and broader export industry in which more companies are successful internationally. As far as this dimension is concerned, it must be said that we are further away from achieving the target than we were before. We have become more, not less, dependent on our largest established export industries.

Russia’s warmongering has also had direct consequences for companies in Norway. The sanctions against Russia had an immediate impact on business in Eastern Finnmark, as did the uncertainty about what lies ahead of us. Innovation Norway reinforced our efforts in the region in order to ensure that our business support reaches companies that are now facing a major realignment. The Norwegian economy in 2022 was generally characterised by a high level of activity, low unemployment, and strong inflation.

When the machinery is running at full capacity and at the same time there is considerable uncertainty about future prospects, there is cause to worry about the capacity and willingness to work on development and about the level of investment in the necessary transition. As in previous years, we provided our delegating authorities with regular status reports in 2022 based on our broad contact with companies in every county. Our listening posts show that many companies postponed or stopped development and innovation projects in 2022.

For Innovation Norway, 2022 was another year of multiple major assignments. Innovation Norway’s total contribution to Norwegian industry and commerce in 2022 amounted to NOK 7.1 billion.

During the year, we were pleased to see the positive development regarding our sub-goal of more growth companies. A report from Nordic Innovation, based on figures from the Nordic statistics authorities, showed that Norway now has 11 so-called ‘unicorns’. We need fast growing companies like this and all the underlying activities they generate. Research shows that a few new companies account for a large proportion of the new jobs and the new value creation.

Innovation Norway wants to be a clear driving force behind the green transition. In 2022, we focused on directing more funds towards green projects and our green portfolio has been strengthened further. The cluster programme, the business network programme, and regional transition programme were developed further in 2022 in order to build more innovative business clusters across the country.

2022 was the first year Innovation Norway was responsible for the student entrepreneurship programme (STUD-ENT). There is reason to be pleased about both the quality of the projects for which students are applying for support and the work on promoting entrepreneurship in universities and university colleges.

The national budget for 2023 also made it clear that Bionova will become part of Innovation Norway. Bionova is the government’s national initiative for the bioeconomy and climate measures for agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture that are designed to help Norway achieve its climate objectives for 2030 and become a low emissions society in 2050. Incorporating Bionova into Innovation Norway means that these customers will gain access to our full range of services.

One of the goals is for customers to experience Innovation Norway and the entire Norwegian public business support system as seamless and uniform. This is currently not the case. The business support system has been evaluated several times in recent years, and the stakeholders have worked together on proposals designed to achieve a forward-looking business support system. Several of these processes were completed in 2022.

During the year, Innovation Norway strengthened its cooperation with Export Finance Norway, the Research Council of Norway, Siva, NORWEP, and other contributors, with the aim of simplifying the business support system for customers, better targeting instruments, and achieving uniform green reporting. In collaboration with both state agencies involved in the business support system and county authorities, we also systematically developed a single gateway solution designed to make the interface between companies and the business support system simpler.

As an organisation, Innovation Norway has been through a demanding year. After handling record Covid-related assignments in 2020 and 2021, we started 2022 facing demands to cut costs and for internal restructuring. Compared with 2019, at the end of 2024 we will have 75 fewer employees. This will make great demands vis-à-vis the efficient use of resources and prioritisation of activities.

Therefore, the work on digitalisation is a high priority. One important milestone in 2022 was the investment in a new banking system, IN Flow, which will gradually replace our old banking system and simplify processes for customers. We have come a long way in our digital transition and towards our goal of being a leader in digitalisation in the public sector, although much remains to be done. Digitalising everything that can be digitalised will free up time and expertise, which can then be spent sparring with customers. Our role as a sparring partner for companies throughout the country lies at the core of our strategy and is made possible by digital tools.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Innovation Norway’s customers, delegating authorities, staff, and partners for everything we achieved in 2022, a year when we were, in every way possible, reminded that innovation is more important than ever.

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