Northern Connections

A reflection on Northern Connections' status

24 April 2019 - Published by Anne Katrine Arentsen
By Leon Aahave Uhd, Chief Project Manager, CLEAN Cluster in Denmark

When a partnership of 22 cities, clusters and regional actors sets out to commit themselves and each other to go on a 4-year journey together, nobody knows exactly, where it will lead to. It is a leap of faith based on trust in the other partners and a wish for pushing towards a common goal. We have created an action plan and then set out to make it all happen.

We set out to improve the way we work together across regional and national borders – to unlock the potential for transnational collaboration. The ethos of the project is that we, by involving the policy, city and cluster level actors, can create a common approach on how to work together, how to make decision makers work together and (most importantly) how to enable our SMEs to work together. We have now held the first two events in Esbjerg, Denmark and Oslo with, actually, great success. The drive for participating has been overwhelming– we have shown that we trust each other on a cluster level and that we are willing to engage our respective SMEs and recommend them to take the ferry to other countries. The upcoming Living Lab Event in Gothenburg has more than 40 SME applicants, representing all partner countries!

Trust is something intangible. It is created over time. It is created by meeting one another. It is created through immediacy – seeing the synergy in collaborations with others and thereby change our perspectives. The trust has been proven between us, the partners. One could say that we are competitors in the North Sea Region. Our companies usually have their biggest markets in neighbouring countries and are thereby, by definition, competitors. While this is true, we are showing another and altogether more important point. We are representing all sectors in our partnership and we want the best solutions to our public sector challenges. A company from Scotland that is relatively unknown in Norway can come up with concepts with high impact, often in collaboration with local actors. We thereby strengthen our innovation capabilities on a regional level while ensuring market entry from new innovators. That is the old saying that 1+1=3.

The essence and strength of the Northern Connections project are, in my opinion, that we have developed and nourished the speed of trust between us, the partners, to a point where we know that we will not let each other down.