I got an idea of what was in store at Innovation Week in Oslo from the moment I arrived at the opening ceremony venue. The harborside Skur 13 warehouse houses an indoor skate hall decorated with graffiti while the car park outside features charging points for electric vehicles.
The fastest-growing city in Europe, with a population of roughly 600,000, Oslo welcomes 15,000 new companies a year, many of which are involved in new technologies and innovation, setting a fresh example for cities looking to put themselves on the cutting edge of new developments.
The theme at this year's annual event – which is hailed as one of the world's leading innovation forums – was power couples. The idea was to build bridges between big established companies and startups, and connect disparate areas – like the private and public sectors or the academic and the business world – in a common purpose.
“We want to bring together different genders, ethnicities, aged and beliefs,” said Anita Krohn Traaseth, CEO of Innovation Norway, the state agency for innovation.
“The public and the private is a dynamic duo: Private sector initiative is necessary but nothing can be done without funding and support from the state,” she stressed.
From Skur 13 to the Science Park, visitors to the event were treated to a parade of new technologies: Emile, an adorable little robot who provides company for children with chronic diseases that prevent them from going to school and having a social life; a capsule allowing the safe transfer of people with contagious diseases such as ebola; a small remote-controlled submarine that transmits photographs from the seabed; virtual reality applications and drones that are capable of advanced uses.
Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Maeland talked about how developing innovation helps diversify the economy, suggesting that one way to encourage innovation is reducing taxes.
How can small countries claim a spot in the huge galaxy of digital technology?
Startup representatives who spoke at the event said that in the case of innovation small can be good, because it means greater flexibility and adaptiveness.