Strengthening Norway's export opportunities

When the National Export Council asked for input to identify possible strategic focus areas, it was natural for NCE Smart Energy Markets to get involved and present the capacity, knowledge and potential our cluster partners represent.

In the Hurdal Platform from 2021, the government has stated that it will increase Norwegian exports other than oil and gas by 50% by 2030. To achieve this, the country needs new industries and export opportunities, and one of the measures the government has taken is the establishment of the National Export Council and the export reform Whole Norway Exports.

Through the new initiative, the authorities, the business community and the public funding agencies will work closely to achieve the Støre government's export goals, and Smart Innovation Norway's three clusters provided solid input on future export opportunities.

Strong communities of excellence

Inge Michael Bilet
Inge Michael Bilet leads the NCE Smart Energy Markets business cluster.

Energy, artificial intelligence and decommissioning are the areas of expertise around which the NCE Smart Energy Markets cluster, the Cluster for Applied AI (CAAI) and the Cluster for Decommissioning and Repurposing (DECOM cluster) bring together partners.

Norway has several actors in business, public agencies, research and academia with expertise in these areas. Many of these actors are partners in the networks of our three industry clusters, and they therefore represent a strong community of expertise in their fields.

The DECOM cluster and Smart Innovation Norway are part of the renowned Halden environment, which includes the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) and Halden Municipality. The cluster works to create new jobs and sustainable development so that Norway can take a leading position in decommissioning and reuse, and in their input, the three actors argue why decommissioning should become one of Norway's priority export areas.

Read the full contribution here!

Solid national and international experience

The partners in our NCE Smart Energy Markets cluster aim to be world leaders in smart energy and digital technologies. Norway must make the most of this advantage.

In Norway, significant resources are being invested in the digitalisation of the energy system. This not only solves national challenges, but creates technologies, services and expertise that can be used in other markets, and the work in NCE Smart Energy Markets has provided solid experience in research and development both nationally and internationally.

Norwegian companies are in a position to become important suppliers of energy solutions on an international market, and NCE Smart Energy Markets works closely with several of these companies. Therefore, the cluster provided input on which export opportunities it can contribute to.

Read the full contribution here!

- Exports must be facilitated

Together with Abelia, NHO's association for technology and knowledge companies, CAAI submitted a submission that, among other things, points out that ICT companies represent a separate industry in itself with the export opportunities it brings with it.

Marianne Jansson Bjerkman, head of the Cluster for Applied AI, is clear that it is important for Norway to take a larger share of the global market and at the same time get a better grip on the data economy. ICT companies can contribute to this.

- To achieve this, it is important to facilitate the export of digital products and services, even though this will require expertise and tailoring. The bonus is that we will then also have the opportunity to get a better grip on larger parts of other value chains," she says.

Read the full contribution here!

New leader in NCE Smart Energy Markets: - I already know the cluster, the field and the partners well

Inge Michael Bilet (47) takes over from Eli Haugerud at NCE Smart Energy Markets and will lead an active and international cluster that has never been more relevant - "The energy crisis, the need for renewable energy sources and developments in the energy market are at the heart of our activities.

So says new cluster leader Inge Michael Bilet. He is by no means new to the field, so he knows what he is talking about.

The Fredrikstad man has experience in market analysis, product development, sales and marketing from the grocery industry, the automotive industry and the energy industry, and since 1 May 2020 he has been employed at Smart Innovation Norway. There he has worked across clusters, disciplines and departments.

On 1 October 2022, he was promoted to Head of the Norwegian Centre of Expertise Smart Energy Markets (NCE SEM) energy cluster.

- Urgent need for new solutions

The broad background from previous working life and the 2.5 years at Smart Innovation Norway will come in handy in the new job.

- In-house, I have been a business developer in the cluster team and an advisor to start-ups in the Smart Innovation Venture department. I have worked with the research department and their projects in energy systems and energy markets, and I have assisted our two other clusters, the Cluster for Applied AI and the Cluster for Decommissioning and Repurposing. I have a good knowledge of the communities I will lead and collaborate with," says Bilet.

In light of the energy crisis, energy market developments and the need for renewable energy sources, NCE Smart Energy Markets is more relevant than ever.

- There is an urgent need for new solutions to improve the efficiency of energy supply. There is a huge potential to extract more capacity from the current electricity grid, thus avoiding long-term and very costly investments to expand the grid," Bilet points out. 

He is clear that there is great potential for Norwegian companies to develop efficient energy solutions on top of the energy players' information and data structures.

- We are talking here about countless solutions in energy optimisation, distributed production, storage and use, multi-vectors, sensor technology, digitalisation/AI and on to the value chain for batteries, etc. Both the innovation communities, clusters and the supplier industry are dependent on publicly supported projects and good consortia to succeed with good interaction with large and demanding customers. We will concentrate on this teamwork between cluster partners, other businesses and the public funding agencies in the time ahead," says Bilet.

Gold re-certified

Another factor that makes the energy cluster highly relevant is that it has just been approved as a gold certified cluster for the second time by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA). The first certification took place in 2019.

Gold certification is the highest award a cluster can receive in Norway, and at the beginning of December only nine of Innovation Norway's 38 clusters had valid gold certification.

- We are extremely proud and happy about this. It is a narrow needle eye to get through and shows that we run the cluster with high quality and in a good way, says a satisfied Bilet.

Eli Haugerud has led NCE Smart Energy Markets until she handed over the baton to Bilet, and she is happy to hand over a cluster in very good shape.

- "This is an active cluster, and with today's energy challenges as a backdrop, the cluster has probably never been more relevant than it is right now," Haugerud comments.

She will now take on new tasks as Head of Smart Innovation Communities, the department for the three clusters and Smart Cities and Communities.

Inge Michael Bilet and Eli Haugerud
Inge Michael Bilet has taken over as cluster leader of NCE Smart Energy Markets from Eli Haugerud. She joins as Head of Communities and will be responsible for Smart Innovation Norway's three clusters and the Smart City work. PHOTO: Anja Lillerud

Energy demand requires flexibility

One of Bilet's main tasks in the period ahead will be to ensure further progress in the strategy work that NCE Smart Energy Markets is currently undertaking. The aim is to further focus the cluster on the challenges that affect the whole of society in the areas of energy, energy systems and renewable energy.

- The goal of sufficient renewable energy in the right place at the right time can only be achieved through precise coordination between all energy actors in the power system. The cluster mobilises and facilitates cooperation to exploit new information infrastructures and prepare small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop solutions," explains Bilet.

Any new industry to be established in Southern Norway needs "new" power. New power in this case means capacity that does not exist in the grid and needs to be provided.

- To reduce the need to expand the electricity grid, it is important to increase the flexibility of the grid with, for example, local solar and wind generation, battery storage and conscious use. This must be combined with solutions that reduce or manage consumption," says the cluster leader.

NCE Smart Energy Markets will continue to coordinate projects and facilitate cooperation between actors in the energy supply chain, and the 47-year-old is looking forward to 2023.

- I am very much looking forward to continuing the good work in NCE Smart Energy Markets," says Inge Michael Bilet.

Now we have become even better at contributing to innovation

Europe does it, and Smart Innovation Norway does it. The Halden company is betting on "communities" and is strengthening its cluster activities, the Smart City initiative and its research work. By working more closely together and distributing resources better, more innovation is created.

In today's world, cooperation, community and participation are becoming increasingly important. It is felt outside Europe, and it is felt at home.

As a consequence of this societal development, Smart Innovation Norway is strengthening and expanding its investment in business clusters, smart cities and social science research. The company launches Smart Innovation Communities and prepares itself for further work by hiring more wise minds, entering into new and exciting agreements, working further

- A strength for being awarded new EU projects

- This is very exciting. There is naturally a difference in innovation by the municipalities in the Smart City work and by the private business life in our clusters, but many times there are the same drivers and the same challenges that are faced, and often the same tools that we need to use in use. Although we work in slightly different ways in the different areas, a lot is about creating security and commitment to driving innovation through sustainable thinking and making use of digitization opportunities. The Smart City work and the cluster economy are very closely linked, says manager of Smart Innovation Communities, Eli Haugerud.

Outside of Europe, there is a large and ever-increasing focus on the human aspect of research projects and innovation work. Smart Innovation Norway's research area for this is called Social Innovation. This competence is very relevant for both municipalities and cluster partners. Customer, citizen and user understanding is central to all innovation, and Social Innovation will therefore also focus on Smart City research going forward.

- We want to put the users in focus, and that is exactly what our social science researchers are doing. They look at the users and the users' needs and how innovation affects them, says Haugerud.

Each focus area will stand stronger by working even more closely together. Municipalities in Smart City work can be pilots in several social science innovation projects both in Norway and in the EU. The clusters know the business world and can contribute with the right research partners. The social science researchers contribute to the smart city projects and the cluster work with the human approach to the innovation work.

- This will be a strength for us when it comes to being awarded new and relevant EU projects, states Haugerud.

More learning between private and public actors

Over half of all value creation in Norway takes place in the public sector. One of Smart Innovation Norway's most important tasks is to help others become better at innovating, and the municipalities and public companies are important players both as customers and as clients for Norwegian business.

Creating a good interaction between the public and private sectors is absolutely essential, and the managing director of Smart Innovation Norway, Kjell Reidar Mydske, clearly sees that Smart Innovation Communities will improve and increase the innovation work of both parties.

- It is a strength of ours that we can use the expertise we have in and around the public and private sectors to mutually strengthen each other so that we both get better. Through Smart Innovation Communities, resources can work more and better crosswise, expertise is shared more, and we open up even more learning between the private and public sectors, he points out.

Mydske is satisfied that the Halden company is further developing its many years of good work within Smart City. The EU is very clear that Smart City and user participation are important, and the term "communities" describes a methodology which, among other things, is about working openly and together in order to be able to realize and commercialize research.

- We must invest in open innovation. We have to cooperate. The alternative is for the technologies to be developed and the innovation to take place in companies in China and the USA which will next come here and sell their services here. The EU will counteract that. That's why the EU is betting on "communities", and that's why we're betting on Smart Innovation Communities, says Kjell Reidar Mydske.


Eli Haugerud,
Manager, Smart Innovation Communities


+47 995 44 711


• Smart Innovation Norway AS conducts independent, applied research and specializes in research-based business development within smart energy, smart societies and new technology.

• One of Smart Innovation Norway's main tasks is to promote innovation among public and private actors.

• Many years of experience with innovation work is behind the company's launch of Smart Innovation Communities, which is a strengthening and expansion of the company's investment in cluster operations, Smart City work and social science innovation.

• In order to be able to contribute to innovation in an even better way in both the private and public sector, Smart Innovation Norway links the professional areas even more closely together and opens up for more collaboration across the board.

• The aim is to increase the pace of innovation and to realize and commercialize even more of the innovation through Smart Innovation Communities.

- We are in a market where we have good opportunities to gain attention

Newly elected head of the NCE Smart Energy Markets cluster, Mette Fritsch, enters the summer with clear thoughts about what the cluster can achieve in the months ahead. - We have put an exciting year behind us and are continuing to work hard to strengthen the cluster, she says.
NCE Smart Energy Markets cluster and Mette Fritsch
A hectic autumn and winter awaits Mette Fritsch and NCE Smart Energy Markets. Together with employees, partners and members of the Cluster for Applied AI, the smart energy cluster will work on the start-up of new projects as well as the completion of ongoing projects during the coming six months. - If we succeed in this, I am sure that all the cluster partners and our projects will get a lot of attention, she says. PHOTO: Private/Mari Kristine Buckholm

She has a long track record both with cluster partner Communicate and as an active contributor to NCE Smart Energy Markets. At the annual meeting in June, Mette Fritsch was elected acting head of the steering group, and the experienced business developer from Communicate is ready to stay on course during the period she has her hands on the helm.

- One of the most important things for us going forward is to get off to a good start with new, exciting projects and to complete the projects we have going on. We will also continue to work systematically to acquire new cluster partners and build the cluster stronger and safer, she says.

Seeking partners and synergies

NCE Smart Energy Markets has had an exciting year behind it. The financial plan had to be changed when it became known that the funds from Innovation Norway were less than budgeted, but the development of the cluster over the past year shows that the partnerships and membership are maintained, and that there is an influx of new partners as expected.

- We had to throw ourselves around to get the economy going, and we managed to do that thanks to skilled employees. In addition, the steering group has been involved in acquiring new cluster partners. I had two years as deputy chairman behind me when I agreed to be acting chairman, and an important task for the board members is to have an active role towards potential members, says Fritsch.

Active is also a keyword for cluster activities. The steering group leader is clear that one of the unique things about NCE Smart Energy Markets is that the cluster focuses on the end users. The aim is to contribute to energy-saving measures by gaining control over and managing electricity consumption.

- Smart buildings are the future, and here we can achieve great synergies with the AI cluster of Smart Innovation Norway, Cluster for Applied AI. If we succeed in this, I am sure that all the cluster partners and our projects will get a lot of attention, notes Fritsch.

AI cluster with big ambitions

The first half of 2022 ended in good cluster spirit when NCE Smart Energy Markets together with the Cluster for Applied AI invited all cluster members to annual meetings and a workshop followed by a summer gathering.

Cluster for Applied AI is still a relatively young cluster, but with great ambitions and a highly topical and important focus. Besides a number of exciting projects and activities, the conference AI+ can be highlighted as an important event for the cluster in the first half of the year.

- Here we were able to create an arena not only for cluster partners, but also for the national and international ecosystem for applied artificial intelligence, says cluster leader Marianne Jansson Bjerkman.

During the workshop session, Harald Nitavskis from cluster partner NMBU gave an academic presentation with high relevance for several of the members across domains and areas of expertise. At NMBU, work is being done on a larger project called "Smart Campus". The aim here is to facilitate more efficient use, as well as to reduce power consumption, energy consumption and environmental emissions from the buildings using smart technology.

- We would like to contribute to ensuring that the clusters can act as accelerators for the project, and to identifying current issues where several actors can collaborate, points out Bjerkman.

- It is important to meet face to face

There was also time to carry out an engaging and social collaborative task using the game app Wittario. Wittario delivers a solution to make learning and interaction more engaging and fun, and is used both for training, workshops and social purposes in several businesses today.

The day ended outdoors together with startup companies from the incubator Venture and other employees from Smart Innovation Norway.

- It was a very nice arrangement. We got to mingle with people, eat good food and be outside in the summer weather. It is important to meet face to face. Through such meetings, opportunities often open up that you don't get through lectures or websites. In general, one should become even better at arranging physical meetings and time for mingling, says Mette Fritsch.

Inge Michael Bilet

Inge Michael Bilet,
Business developer NCE Smart Energy Markets

Telephone: +47 474 61 228

Marianne Bjerkman

Marianne Jansson Bjerkman,
Leads Cluster for Applied AI

Telephone: +47 924 14 854

Viken politicians met with NHO and Smart Innovation Norway

- Digital entrepreneurship enables the green shift

The purpose of the meeting on 10 May was to increase the politicians' knowledge and understanding of the possibilities and importance of digitization for the development of Norwegian business and future workplaces.

- What do businesses need from politicians and what can politicians do to facilitate digitalisation?, asked regional director of NHO Viken Oslo , Nina Solli, initially during Monday's meeting between politicians in Viken, NHO and Smart Innovation Norway.

During two hours of presentations from the business world, including Smart Innovation Norway's cluster partners TotalCtrl, eSmart Systems and Völur, and a closing dialogue session between politicians and the speakers, the participants had the opportunity to promote their wishes and needs to each other.

- There were approximately 20 politicians who participated, and we are very satisfied with the presentations, the response and the questions we received along the way, says chairman Eli Haugerud, head of the cluster department in Smart Innovation Norway.

Need for innovation and job creation

The first speaker was Nina Solli, who spoke about NHO's road map for the future of business and the next move. She pointed out that the need for innovation and more job creation is only getting stronger and stronger, and that digitization offers great opportunities both for business, the public sector and society.

Kjell Reidar Mydske, Smart Innovation Norway

Managing director of Smart Innovation Norway, Kjell Reidar Mydske, followed Solli's introduction by explaining how digitization contributes to new business areas and green workplaces, with a particular focus on digital entrepreneurship.

- It is about creating or establishing something new, and it can be done by individuals or companies. Digital entrepreneurship is based on data and we go from delivering a product to a service. An example everyone knows is Spotify. Digital entrepreneurship enables the green shift, says Mydske during his presentation.

Cooperation across politics and geography

His message to the politicians was that innovation companies and clusters depend on support from the Norwegian policy apparatus and cooperation with regional politicians to succeed in creating new services.

- We must get better at collaborating across politics and geography for larger and more powerful projects, was his clear call.

After Mydske, Head of Research & Innovation, Dieter Hirdes, presented Smart Innovation Norway's work with applied research, including the success within the EU's framework program for research and innovation, Horizon 2020.

- The whole point of the research we do is to create value and new services on the other side. If our research projects do not lead to anything other than a report, there is no point in doing this, stressed Hirdes.

Three innovation examples

Before the dialogue session, the politicians were presented with three cases, i.e. examples of companies that have used technology and artificial intelligence to create new and sustainable services.

TotalCtrl and general manager Charlotte Aschim talked about the food waste project the company has together with Halden municipality, where the goal is to reduce the amount of food that is thrown away from nursing homes and kindergartens by 50-85 percent using a digital solution that gives full control over what kind of food is available where, expiry date and what is needed at all times.

- During the first month we tested, we reduced food waste by 20 percent and threw away 5,000 kilograms less food, Aschim revealed.

CEO of eSmart Systems , Knut Johansen, gave the participants a quick introduction to how his company has become a world leader in its field, which in short is about using artificial intelligence for automatic inspection of power lines.

From Völur and general manager Robert Ekrem, the politicians heard about how the meat industry can be made more efficient with the help of artificial intelligence and data-driven decisions in the production process.

- At the bottom are the sustainability goals. It is about utilizing precious resources, said Ekrem.

Fruitful dialogue session

During the question round, the politicians asked questions about everything from recruitment and competence within the companies, to how to achieve better cooperation between the politicians and the business world in order to succeed in creating new, sustainable jobs, to how digitization can solve the challenges in the public sector.

The result? A good dialogue and committed actors who want to help each other further.

After the meeting, NHO regional director Solli is well satisfied and points out that several of the regional companies deliver solutions and services to the whole world, but that the majority of jobs are still found locally.

- In the example of eSmart Systems, which automates the inspection of power lines using artificial intelligence, offices have been opened in several countries, but still retain 80 percent of the workplaces in Halden. This is important for the politicians too, she concludes.