Northern Connections

Transnational Working Days putting partnership into perspective

18 June 2018 - Published by Christina Knudsen
Christina Zink Folmand Knudsen, who is a International Project Coordinator at Aalborg Municipality and a partner in Northern Connections, has written a editorial about our Transnational Working Days and the outcome of the conference.

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?

So 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. 

Nevertheless, after our visit to Edinburgh, the potential outcome of Northern Connections has become very clear. Seeing the proposed living lab in Grangemouth and listening to the discussions deriving from that – about what a living lab can be, I must say, that the purpose of the cities in Northern Connections and as a driver for innovation is clear. The cities definitely have a role to play – and a quite significant one indeed. 

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

We cities set the vision and frame for the green economy transition. Our politicians have (to a greater or lesser extent) the possibility to prioritize; that they want the supply of energy to the city, to their citizens, to be green energy, that the energy for heating or cooling houses or the electricity should be green, or that the public buildings should be built sustainably. The development of innovative green solutions can be pushed. 

The visit provided very concrete food for thought for what we can do in Aalborg - how we can make our city challenges (living labs) visible for citizens and enterprises, as Gothenburg has done, or how we might introduce green values in our budget or have an accelerator programme in relation to our procurement, as Oslo has done. Aalborg is already doing some work on procurement and circular economy, so adding an extra dimension to that work is interesting and has potential. Looking at how Business Region Gothenburg has made a visual overview of their testbeds (living labs), has given inspiration. In fact in such a degree, that our Business Council after seeing the Gothenburg example, this week has decided that we should begin looking towards that method and see if we can follow that example.  

However, these are not only ways of pushing for innovative solutions and green growth, but they are also ways of defining how Aalborg is green. Defining what we mean, when we talk about green growth hereby showing our DNA - where we stand out from other cities as well as where we have huge cooperation potential. These are ways of turning the talk about the green economy into concrete actions. Concrete actions is what is needed for creating the frame and foundation for fulfilling the innovation potential.

Mayor of Aalborg Mr. Thomas Kastrup-Larsen speech to Northern Connections conference 6-8th June 2018.