Norwegian companies finding more and more business success in U.S. market

The last several years have been extremely good for Norwegian companies striving to enter the U.S. market. Norway has emerged as a model of success in transatlantic cooperation with the U.S.

By Van Hipp

Chairman of American Defense International, Inc.

Cooperation between the two nations in the areas of niche technologies is literally now in the billions of dollars. Further, what is most impressive is the fact that the majority of these successful Norwegian companies have been small and medium sized business enterprises.

Norway’s success stems from several factors. First, Norway is well-known by the U.S. government and American commercial entities for its core competency in energy/environmental, medical, defense and agriculture/aquaculture technologies. Norway’s science and engineering in these sectors is known to U.S. authorities. Much of it is the result of Norway’s early use of simulation based modeling in developing technologies, long before it became a standard for the U.S. government or U.S. industry. I will never forget years ago when one senior technology official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense identified Norway as one of only four countries in the world as having certain niche technologies lacking in America. Norwegian companies who have been successful in recent years have capitalized on this technological advantage.

Secondly, Norwegian companies have been much quicker than other European companies in adapting and conforming to the American business model. Norwegians feel at home in the U.S. The fact that many – if not most – Norwegian CEOs, have a cousin in North Dakota or Minnesota certainly makes a big difference! Seriously, though, Norwegian business executives understand the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In short, the Norwegian companies that have been successful in the U.S. market have been those who incorporate an “American Business Development Plan” in their strategy.

Teaming with the right American partner makes a big difference for a foreign company in succeeding in the American market place. Over the years, I have observed that those Norwegian companies who have been the most successful in the U.S. understand that “biggest is not always best” when it comes to a teaming partner in America. In fact, Norwegian companies that have been the most successful in the U.S. are those who have teamed with a smaller to medium-sized U.S. business. In such cases, the teaming relationship has been a “win-win” for both companies. For example, most European medical companies would not think of teaming with the University of North Dakota Medical School in Grand Forks, N.D., to pursue medical funding with the U.S. government or the medical industry. However, for many Norwegian medical companies, such a partner like the UND Medical School may be just the right kind of partner they need to succeed in the U.S. Plus, the fact that the UND Medical School has more Norwegian Americans as part of both the student body and faculty than just about any medical school in America, doesn’t hurt. Further, the UND Medical School is ranked as one of the best medical schools in America focusing on rural health, which is where more and more health care dollars are being allocated today in the U.S. This makes sense to a Norwegian medical CEO who understands the need to “follow the money!”

Successful Norwegian CEOs have understood in recent years the unique role the United States Congress plays in the American business process. The foundation for this uniqueness actually rests in our Constitution. Historically, the U.S. Congress has been much more involved than European Parliaments in both funding and working with government agencies and departments in developing requirements for new technologies. Norway has understood this and actually worked with the U.S. Congress to develop the “Friends of Norway Caucus” in the US Congress to foster better business relations between our two nations. Much of the credit for this goes to former Norwegian Ambassador to the United States, Tom Vraalsen. Ambassador Vraalsen’s vision is now a reality. Today, the Friends of Norway Caucus is comprised of approximately 55 members of the U.S. House and Senate. Over the last 10 years, the Friends of Norway Caucus has served as a great vehicle for both the Norwegian Government and Norwegian commercial interests to present new and exciting technologies to the United States.

Lastly, good old fashioned Norwegian humility and sincerity goes a long way with Americans. American Government and business officials know they are getting a good deal as Norwegians almost always “undersell” what they have, in typical Nordic fashion. As one former senior U.S. government scientist once told me, “They [the Norwegians] could have a cure for cancer and AIDS and would bury it on the back-shelf, downplaying its significance.” Needless to say, this U.S. government scientist was a huge proponent of the United States doing more and more with Norway.

In closing, it’s great to see Norwegian niche technologies succeed in the United States to fill critical unmet needs here in America. Those Norwegian companies who have been successful with the U.S. government have consistently seen that success transferred over to the U.S. commercial sector and with increased business back home in Norway. The U.S.-Norway business model in recent years has seen much success. It is a successful working model for transatlantic cooperation.

Van Hipp is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in government affairs, business development and public relations.  Over the years, ADI has been instrumental in helping Norwegian companies secure over $2 billion in funding in the United States.  Mr. Hipp is also the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Norwegian American Foundation.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 16, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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