Northern Connections

Cities as drivers for innovation

13 March 2019 - Published by Anne Katrine Arentsen
When asked about Aalborg’s participation in Northern Connections, the first question is often what our cluster gains from the project, what tools do our cluster get to work with innovation in SMEs - and the second is, what does Aalborg as a city gain from the project?

What do we as a city get out of Northern Connections?
Until now, my answer has usually been “connections”, "developing relations for the long-term perspective", "business potential in the long run", "facilitating connections between our clusters", etc. And many find these outputs kind of fluffy. 

However, after our visit to Edinburgh in June and Oslo in November 2018, the potential outcome of Northern Connections has become very clear. Seeing the proposed living lab in Grangemouth, Scotland, and listening to the discussions deriving from that – about what a living lab can be, that the purpose of the cities in Northern Connections and as drivers for innovation is clear. The cities have a role to play – and a quite significant one indeed. 

The difference between the Scottish and Danish experiences and context made it clear, just how much political visions and will to act matter for driving or pushing green innovative solutions. 

How green is your city?
As cities we set visions and direction for the green economy transition. We have possibilities to set demands and priorities. For example; that we want the supply of energy to our city and citizens, to be green energy, that the energy for heating or cooling our public buildings should be green, or that the public buildings should be built with sustainable materials. The development of innovative green solutions can be pushed with cities as the drivers.

The Living Lab visits have provided food for thought for what we can do in Aalborg - and how we can make our city challenges and visionary projects visible for citizens and enterprises, as Gothenburg has done. We have also learned how we can introduce green values in our budget or have an accelerator programme in relation to our procurement, as Oslo has done. Aalborg is already working on procurement and circular economy, so adding an extra dimension to that work has potential. Looking at how Business Region Gothenburg has made a visual overview of their testbeds (living labs), has also given inspiration.  

This is also a way of defining how Aalborg is green and sustainable. By acting as drivers for innovative solutions we also define what we mean, when we talk about green growth. We show our DNA - where we stand out from other cities as well as where we have cooperation potential.

Instead of only talking about the green economy, we turn the talk into concrete actions and use it to fulfill our innovation potential.