Oslo’s Quest to Become an International Business Hub

Oslo has the expertise, the innovation, and the capital, but can it become an international entrepreneurial and technology hub?

One of the main challenges is in recruiting the right talent to Oslo, Dilek Ayhan, the Managing Director of Alarga, which recruits intercultural talent for Norwegian businesses, states.

According to Ayhan, “Future competition for talent will come not only from the company down the street, but also from the employer on the other side of the world. Countries, cities, and companies will need to brand themselves as locations of choice to attract this talent.”

Oslo has many strong points, including a booming oil industry in what is known as the “top three” sectors for Norway. Ranked as one of the world’s top maritime spots, along with London and Singapore, Oslo is located in the Engineering Valley, a corridor that stretches west from Oslo to Asker. Many of the old, industrial shipyards have been closed and replaced with high-end office, shopping, dining, and living developments.

The city is also a national hub for technology companies. Kjeller Research Park, built by Kjeller Innovation, houses over 3,000 people in the fields of Research and Development, Innovation, and new business development. With a focus on the interconnection between research and business, the site has fostered 100 new high tech businesses in the last few years.

Some businesses like FotoWare, which supplies software for finding, processing, and sharing digital assets, started in Oslo during the dot-com boom in 1994 and has since expanded internationally. However, many businesses that start in Oslo stay in Oslo, or only expand on a national scale.

“80 percent of ICT innovation in Norway occurs in the Oslo region,” Tore Taraldsvik, an Innovation Architect, states, “but it ends mainly in small enterprises and service providers. We have to raise our ambitions.”

In recent years, Oslo has grown into a booming hub of start ups. The Department of Informatics is now one of the most modern IT education institutes in the world, and 1-2 businesses per year grow out of research from the institute. The problem, however, is in recruiting local talent away from well paid jobs with regular hours and lengthy vacations into less-established entrepreneurial organizations.

What’s the solution, then for Oslo to become an international center of business? Leo Grünfeld, Cofounder and Chairman of a research consultancy firm known as Menon Business Economics, offers a solution.

“It’s about critical mass,” Grünfeld states. “The larger the business sector, the more attractive it is and the greater the chance that foreign companies choose to come here and want to establish themselves.”

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