Working together for green, competetive and inclusive Europe

New opportunities for Lithuanian business to cooperate with Norway

It is no secret that Norway is one of the ten greenest countries in the world. According to the United Nations' Good Country Index, Norway is the global leader in contributing to climate change mitigation. Innovative local businesses are developing green products and technologies and investing in businesses abroad, hereby making an important contribution to this result. What drives the sustainability of Norwegian business? And how can Lithuania utilize it?
Norway's journey to sustainable economy has been gradual – initially it was fuelled by the government, which has been creating an awareness and innovation-oriented education, culture and business environment, but later the think green ideology has become the DNA of Norwegian businesses and society. Innovation Norway representative, EEA and Norway Grants Programme Director Magnar Ødelien recalls that ten years ago the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment was focusing on regulating pollution, caused by the industry, and today the situation is completely different – the businesses are at the forefront of change towards sustainability.

How did it all start?

Darius Budrys, Commercial Attache of the Republic of Lithuania to the Kingdom of Norway, indicates several key factors that has led Norway to become the green state. The first one is geography.

"Should we illustrate the Norwegian economy with colours, it would be dominated by two – blue and green. Norway is a maritime state and the sea has always been an important factor in the Norwegian economy.

Looking at the main export indicators, oil and gas account for about 47 percent of Norwegian exports, and fish exports constitute 11 percent of the total exports. Norway is the fifth largest country in the shipping sector globally. The activities of the biggest Norwegian industrial companies are designed to serve the oil production and shipping sectors,” says D. Budrys.

Since a significant part of the economy is related to the sea, business and scientific communities have established along the Norwegian coastline. This process has contributed to the society’s perception of the sea as the major source of well-being. At the same time, there is growing awareness that its resources are limited and must be used responsibly. This public attitude has laid the foundation for environmental initiatives that send signals to the government, which, in turn, stimulates the development of the green economy in Norway.

What are the current trends?

Mr. Budrys is observing a certain shift in the economy from the blue to the green colour. During the recent years, Norway has made significant strides in innovation, especially in 2016-2018, according to the European Innovation Scoreboard. Why? According to D. Budrys, the most important instrument for ensuring good coordination in research, innovation and higher education in Norway is the Government's strategic long-term plan, which sets out the main directions of the state's development until 2024. The key objectives of this plan are being updated every four years, and they are: strengthening competitiveness and innovation, addressing key social challenges and increasing social skills that are aligned with current needs. The development of maritime industries, environmental protection and green energy remain they key priorities for Norway.

An important precondition for high research and innovation rates in Norway is public funding, which has grown significantly over the last decade. The country also has three well-functioning institutions that coordinate research and innovation development. The first is the Norwegian Research Council, which specializes in fundamental and applied research. The institution supports various programs in research institutions and companies. The agency Innovation Norway focuses on supporting businesses in creation and development of innovations, while Skattefunn implements government programs in trade and industry sectors. Clear coordination and division of responsibilities allow Norwegian businesses to benefit from state aid for implementation of green ideas.

Norway invites Lithuania to cooperate

The Norwegian innovation agency Innovation Norway is one of the partners in the Norway Grants program Business Development, Innovation and SMEs. It is an international investment program, designed to increase competitiveness in green industry innovation and ICT. Lithuania is one of the European countries whose businesses can receive funding for development of new products and technologies, and support in finding partners in Norway. This program is administered in Lithuania by the Science, Innovation and Technology Agency (MITA).

Magnar Ødelien, a representative of Innovation Norway, says that bilateral projects are relevant for Norwegian businesses and they have a wide range of interests, ranging from joint research and product development projects to increasing efficiency of industrial processes.

How to establish successful partnership with a Norwegian company? Mr. Ødelien says that the most important thing is being precise.

"The most important starting point to get Norwegian entities interested is to be clear on what you want to get out of the cooperation. The objectives of the project and the roles of the partners must be clear from the outset. Norwegian entities don’t like to get involved in projects with unclear purposes and expected results,” says Mr. Ødelien.

He notes that there are no significant differences between Norwegian and Lithuanian business as both Lithuania and Norway are a part of Northern European culture. Thus, Mr. Ødelien advises that Lithuanian entrepreneurs should communicate with Norwegian companies in the same way as they do with local partners – frankly and directly.

What is the secret of successful cooperation?

Mr. Ødelien explains that the most successful bilateral cooperation projects are those that turn into long-term cooperation – a new product is created and developed together, and then the partners cooperate or even create a joint venture to produce and distribute it. Then the cooperation is successful both in value creation and in fostering bilateral relations.

"Norway Grants can serve as a very useful platform for business development and increased cooperation," says Mr. Ødelien.

Previous periods of the Grants have proven that companies can cooperate cross-border in a very fruitful way. This is also facilitated in a good way by the Programme Operators we work with, who help businesses find a common ground to the benefit of the businesses”.

One of the main challenges of bilateral cooperation is different regulatory, control and reporting systems. This can lead to some misunderstandings in the implementation of joint projects. Therefore, according to Mr. Ødelien, simple and flexible procedures need to be established. Overall, of course, it is much more interesting to focus on the opportunities not the differences.

“Norway Grants is a very interesting tool for establishing new relations between companies looking for international business. For business entities in Lithuania it is the opportunity to get funding for business development and to find long-term partners. From Norwegian perspective, the range of areas for cooperation is broad, but we see a strong potential in areas such as ICT, bio-economy and industrial production, ” says M. Ødelien.

Lithuanian businesses, that want to develop green products and technologies, and find partners in Norway, will be able to apply to the Norway Grants program Business Development, Innovation and SMEs starting from July. Information about the calls will available on the MITA and Norway Grants websites.
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