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Norway ranks low in innovation

A new study of European innovation ranks Norwegians way down the list as creators of new products and services. Local officials dispute some of the findings, but concede that Norway needs to fund more research and development.

Norway's oil industry has fueled innovation over the years, but experts fear it's running dry. The country needs to find new sources of wealth when the oil itself runs out. PHOTO: Statoil

The so-called “European Innovation Scoreboard,” an annual study by an EU initiative called PRO INNO EUROPE, put Norway in 19th place, out of 33 countries surveyed. Switzerland topped the list, followed by Sweden and Finland.

The rankings were based on 29 indexes involving such factors as the number of patents issued in a country, new services and profitability in the business world. In addition to the EU’s 27 member countries, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Croatia, Turkey and Serbia were included in the survey.

Norway ended up with a score of 0.382, compared to Switzerland’s 0.694 at the high end and Turkey’s 0.227 at the bottom. Norway’s score was similar to those in Spain, Greece, Italy and Malta.

“We are far more innovative than this index shows,” Arvid Hallén, managing director of the Norwegian research council Forskningsrådet, told newspaper Aftenposten. He conceded that the study was “interesting,” though, and said Norwegian businesses need to boost their own funding for research and development.

Need more risk financing
Innovation Norway, the state-funded agency charged with boosting just what its name implies, was perhaps predictably defensive and claimed the study could be misleading. “Many businesses don’t report all their research and investments in it,” Knut Senneseth of Innovation Norway told Aftenposten. “We innovate more than it shows in the study.”

He allowed, however, that Norway’s low ranking should be taken seriously. “We’re not at all satisfied that we are so far behind countries we like to compare ourselves with,” he said. “There’s still a huge need for risk financing in Norway.”

Tommy Sharif, a young entrepreneur who has built up a large tire business in Norway, suggests more incentives for students. The state, for example, could offer to excuse a successful entrepreneur’s student loan if he or she manages to built up a sustainable business and create new jobs.

Jan Fagerberg, a professor at the Center for Technology, Innovation and Culture at the University of Oslo, said Norway’s low ranking was worrisome, while an official with employers’ organization NHO called it “alarming.”

‘Mediocre at best’
“We talk a lot about how much we’re doing in Norway, but forget that other countries are preparing themselves (for new economic challenges) much more,” Petter H Brubakk of NHO told Aftenposten

He cautioned against a feeling that “everything goes well for us” in Norway. With offshore oil and gas expected to run out some day, the country has already begun discussing what will ultimately sustain the economy.

“We have a healthy raw materials market and avoided the financial crisis,” Brubakk said. “But the numbers show that we’re moving backwards in competition with other countries. Instead of being aggressive, we’re being mediocre, at best.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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