Clusters celebrated their partners: "The most important highlight of the year

The Partner Conference 2022 gathered around 100 people in the Smart Innovation Arena and engaged the audience throughout the day with a packed program that engaged, challenged, enlightened and socialized the participants.

A lot of good things come out of face-to-face meetings between people. The Partner Conference 2022 is a good example of this, bringing together partners from Smart Innovation Norway's three clusters, the Cluster for Applied AI, NCE Smart Energy Markets and the Cluster for Decommissioning and Repurposing.

- This created engagement!

Stian Melhus (in the middle). PHOTO: Anja Lillerud

A key item on the program was the interaction arena.

Using the World Café method, participants were able to unleash their creativity, engagement and knowledge through discussions around defined and very real issues.

The aim of the program post was to create a safe space where everyone could share experiences across fields of knowledge.

- "When we use the World Café method, we break up the big groups and make it easier for everyone to be heard. This created real engagement," says an enthusiastic Stian Melhus from Smart Innovation Communities.

He was responsible for the organization and implementation of the World Café and points out that one of the most important aspects of the interaction arena is building relationships by solving problems together.

- This creates conversations that would not otherwise come up, and it opens participants up to listening and building trust between partners. "Many people exchanged business cards during this part of the program, suggesting that it was an arena for relationship building as much as problem solving," says Melhus.

- A fun way to work

A meeting place for airing and discussing challenges has been requested by municipalities, cluster partners and portfolio companies with which Smart Innovation Norway collaborates. The interaction arena is a measure to meet this need.

During the Partner Conference, the municipalities of Marker and Halden and the technology company Ophion from Fredrikstad presented their challenges to the participants.

The challenge from Halden Municipality concerned mobility options in connection with a large sports arena under construction in the city center. Marker Municipality brought an energy issue to the table, and Ophion wanted input on funding solutions for their pilot project for sensors that detect leaks in water pipe networks.

Ronny Andersen from Ophion.

Ronny Andersen from Ophion appreciated all the input from the rest of the conference.

- There was a lot of engagement and a lot of ideas. The proposals are good, and even though there were some approaches that I was initially a bit skeptical about, during the World Café I became convinced that they are interesting anyway. This was very useful," he continued:

- This has given us some very good contacts that we are excited to talk to in the near future.

 Pål Warset works as a sales manager in the water data company Intoto. He attended the World Café as a participant and worked on the challenge for Halden municipality.

- It was very interesting to have so many different people working on the same task and across borders. A very fun way to work, he concluded afterwards.

Watch the video from the conference:

Rich conference

The total of around 100 people who participated digitally and in person enjoyed an eventful day with three interesting presentations.

Jan Fredrik Beck-Bjørntvedt is an engaging speaker.

NRK's Jan Fredrik Beck-Bjørntvedt gave a terrific presentation based on his collaboration with former kayaker Eirik Verås Larsen on how to win Olympic gold. Beck-Bjørntvedt explained how the theory of becoming the best in the world can be transferred to business and society.

CEO of Nord Pool, Tom Darell, came to Halden to give the conference participants the latest news from the power market and the electricity price situation.

Fred Martin Langøy of cluster partner Smart Energy Systems AS and battery company Hreinn talked about exciting plans for what will be one of Norway's first battery factories.

In addition, the day included presentations by various cluster partners, a summary of the year for Smart Innovation Norway's three clusters, information about Smart Innovation's offer of competence broker and EU networks, good mingle breaks, lunch, a panel discussion and the announcement of the Cluster Partners of the Year 2022.

The award ceremony was the last item on the agenda. The secrecy surrounding the awards is great, and the joy and surprise of the winners is equally great.

This year's winner in the Cluster for Applied AI was Simula Consulting AS, while Smart Energy Systems AS came out on top at NCE Smart Energy Markets.

From left. Inge Bilet (NCE Smart Energy Markets), Fred Martin Langøy (Smart Energy Markets AS), Eli Haugerud (Head and Smart Innovation Communities), Anders Aamodt and Elias Myklebust (Simula Consulting AS) and Marianne Jansson Bjerkman (Cluster for Applied AI). PHOTO: Anja Lillerud

- A great arena

The aim of the Partner Conference is to create a meeting place for the cluster partners of CAAI, NCE SEM and the DECOM cluster. But a content-rich program does not come by itself, and the preparations for the Partner Conference take a long time.

- "This day is the most important highlight of the year where we focus on those who build this environment that we are so fond of and proud of," says Head of Smart Innovation Communities, Eli Haugerud, and emphasizes that she has a great team both on stage and behind the scenes.

Eli Haugerud summarized the past year for the three clusters Cluster for Applied AI, NCE Smart Energy Markets and Cluster for Decommissioning and Repurposing. PHOTO: Anja Lillerud

The recurring good attendance of the conference shows that cluster partners appreciate a full day of useful lectures and presentations and valuable socialization.

The data center company Storespeed from Halden has been a member of the NCE SEM cluster since 2017, and founder and CEO John Ragnar Amundsen is one of those who prioritize attending the Partner Conference.

- I am attending to get to know more. Just by being here, we have made very valuable and good contacts with other partner companies, and it provides a synergy that we find very exciting," he says.

Amundsen has actively used the cluster network in many ways, which has helped Storespeed to deliver several major results.

- "The cluster is a fantastic arena to be able to collaborate with companies that are interested in what we do. It's a fantastic environment to be in," he says.

- Meeting relevant companies and people

Another partner is the consulting company Amesto NextBridge. There, Vincent Aardalsbakke is head of AI and emerging technologies, and he sees great value in the cluster membership on behalf of his employer and himself.

Vincent Aardalsbakke from Amesto NextBridge. PHOTO: Anja Lillerud

- We want to be present where relevant people and companies are. Therefore, it was natural for us to become a member of the Cluster for Applied AI because here there are many people who want the same thing and help each other to achieve their goals. A big part of my job is to be out there and take in needs and trends to be able to translate that into competence and plans for employees, and in that way the Partner Conference is fantastic. There are many companies here and many different elements. It allows you to introduce yourself and make new acquaintances, and this is much of the point of cluster activities as I see it," he says.

The state agency Norwegian Nuclear Decommissioning (NND) is tasked with decommissioning the country's nuclear facilities and safely storing radioactive waste. NND is one of the founders of the DECOM cluster and sees the work of the cluster as a key part of the efforts to build a knowledge network on decommissioning.

- If we get partners to work with us and share the knowledge and expertise we build up, we can create new and green industries with export opportunities abroad. We can't do it ourselves since we are a government agency, but we want to help establish a network that can create more than the green lawn that we deliver when we have finished decommissioning. We are creating that network through the DECOM cluster," says Martin Andreasson, Sector Director Communications at NND.