Oslo Innovation Week 2018

Oslo Green Capital of Europe

I was lucky enough to attend Oslo Innovation Week (OIW) last week. It was my third one, and my first since it was moved from cold November to sunny September.

Run by Oslo Business Region, Oslo’s agency for supporting the local startup ecosystem, it has really gone from strength to strength over the last few years, and there is an impressive bond between the government side and the startup clusters. This year’s biggest name was Barack Obama who talked about environment sustainability being the biggest global challenge to a buzzing audience.

This year’s theme was ‘dugnad’, which sounds like Olde English (and a bit like my name), and means collaboration in Norwegian, and is expanded on in Oslo Innovation Week’s manifesto: “the attendees, keynotes, partners and event organisers create Oslo Innovation Week together”.

The first thing to say about OIW is how gender balanced it is - a product of it being so carefully and thoughtfully organised by OIW organise, Siw Andersen and Head of Oslo Business Region Fredrik Winther.

The first day was hosted by the impressive social entrepreneur Isabelle Farzaneh Davodi, founder of Folk Oslo, which brings together people and businesses to create solutions to solve societal challenges. A two-hour session focussing on Blockchain was presented entirely by women. We heard from Nathana Sharma of the Singularity University who described blockchain as a ‘giant Google Sheet with a detailed editing audit trail’. And then Anu Bhardwaj hosting a panel with Susan Oh and Natalia Ameline speaking about how important is is to collaborate (dugnad, again) and add to the open architecture of blockchain, and help legitimise it. They also talked about their networks Crypto Chicks and QRYPTO QUEENS, hosts of Blockchain on the Beach in California in November (sign me up!).

So why was I there?

Throughout 2019 Oslo will be the European Green Capital. Remarkable City are working with the London Borough of Hackney, helping develop their strategy around international partnerships, and Hackney has been working with the City of Oslo for the last six years, supporting startup trade and sharing best practice. So I travelled over (at no cost to the council) to hear more about Oslo’s plans for next year.

I first worked on the relationship between Oslo and Hackney relationship in 2012 when Hackney was one of the hosts of the London Olympics. One of the main driving forces was entrepreneur Johan Brand who had seen the fruitful relationship between Hackney and Austin (see if you can spot Johan’s orange beanie in the photo below). He saw opportunities for the Oslo and Hackney startup sectors to work together, with both areas being strong in creative technology and having environmental sustainability agendas.

So what what can I report back about Oslo’s plans for European Green Capital 2019?

The first thing to say is that Oslo are serious about sustainability - the phrase I heard several times, ‘keeping the green green and the blue blue’ is central to how they run their city, it’s not an add on. They even publish an annual climate budget. Oslo is in a good position to be so proactive, being a wealthy city and therefore able to invest in this area. In addition to this they have the political support to be able to deliver on big visions that might be difficult elsewhere, for instance because of them having a short term detrimental impact on the economy. So they are a great exemplar and will really do the European Green Capital title justice.

There will be special events, conferences, activities and showcases throughout the year. The programme is currently being finalised, but you can find out the latest information here and by following @GreenOslo2019.

We got a taste of it at the opening event on Sunday, where the startup Chooose presented. Companies are able to pollute more by buying carbon vouchers, and the mission of Chooose is push up the prices of these vouchers. The event was hosted at restaurant Asia, which prides itself on not using single use plastic and wasting very little food. We were treated to a salad which had a sauce made from three waste products including the water that they boil their chickpeas in.

And then throughout the week City of Oslo special advisers Kristin Anderssen and Petra Andersen hosted a series of events in a pop-up tent outside Oslo city hall (you can see the tent on the left in the photo above). Talks and presentations explored some of Oslo’s Green Capital themes such as air quality, zero waste, public health, creating a car-free centre, more efficient goods transportation and compact urban development.

All in all, it was inspiring stuff - go Oslo!

Duncan RayCities, Business