Nordic Innovation Summit 2022

Anniken R. Krutnes gives keynote address

nordic innovation summit

Photo: courtesy of National Nordic Museum
Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes (center) was in Seattle for the celebrations on May 17 and the Nordic Innovation Summit, May 18–19. She is pictured here with Viggo Forde (left), honorary consul for Norway to Washington and Idaho, and Eric Nelson (right) , executive director and CEO of the National Nordic Museum.

LORI ANN REINHALL
Editor-in-chief
The Norwegian American

It was a busy and exciting week in Seattle, when Norway’s ambassador to the United States, Anniken Ramberg Krutnes, was in town to serve as grand marshal for the 17th of May Seattle parade in the historic Ballard neighborhood.

There were several official stops scheduled, including a trip to the University of Washington in Seattle, Microsoft in Redmond, the Boeing factory in Renton, and a visit to the Port of Tacoma and numerous receptions. But without a doubt, Ambassador Krutnes’ keynote speech at the Nordic Innovation Summit at the National Nordic Museum on May 19 was one of the highlights of her visit.

For the fourth year, the summit has brought together industry leaders from the Nordic countries and the Pacific Northwest to discuss new developments in technology. After two years of going online, it was exciting to be able to meet in person for this year’s conference.

With the theme “Innovating for the Future,” the program dealt with current challenges in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the threat of cyber attacks and the need for enhanced security and energy independence.

Ambassador Krutnes opened her keynote speech “Innovating for the Green Transition” by emphasizing that there is already very strong cooperation between Norway and the United States when it comes to technological innovation. She pointed to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed between Innovation Norway and the Washington State Department of Commerce at the same summit four years ago for cooperation within maritime industries.

With over one third of the Norwegian ferry fleet already operating on electricity, Washington and the rest of the country is free to learn from Norway’s experience in this realm. It was also very exciting to hear that Norwegian-based Corvus Energy had signed an agreement with the Port of Bellingham to open a new factory to produce maritime batteries.

“We are innovating for the future,” said Krutnes. In this context, she made reference to former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, who once said with great insight and vision, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Her words have been adopted as the slogan for the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Both women, Brundtland and Krutnes, can be seen as trailblazers for Norwegian women, Brundtland as the first woman to serve as prime minister of Norway, and Krutnes the first woman to serve as Norway’s ambassador to the United States.

The question becomes what we want for the future and what it will take to get us there. Krutnes sees security as a core fundament to a healthy society and world. We want an environment that is safe for present and future generations in terms of climate, economy, and global relations. Krutnes once again quoted her role model and inspiration Brundtland: “We need to think globally but act locally.”

But the Norwegian ambassador expressed that she is acutely aware of the precarious world situation, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, stating quite frankly, “The new war in Europe scares me.” Russia’s brutal attack has caused her to re-examine and affirm our democratic values, and according to Krutnes, the relationship between Norway and the United States has never been more important.

“The bonds between us Nordic countries and the United States are particularly strong, and they will be even stronger when Sweden and Finland join NATO …. The U.S. is Norway’s most important ally,” Krutnes said. She explained how this started with the first immigrants who arrived here in the early 19th century, continuing on to this day.

In this context, she shared how new Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft were on their way to Norway to surveil the Norwegian coast for Russian submarines. This is very significant for the security of Norway, with a maritime area five times as large as its land mass. Cooperation within the defense sector is critical for both our nations and the security of the world.

In all areas, working together is critical for building a sound and sustainable future, as Krutnes pointed to other areas of innovation where Norway is leading the way.

On track to become a low-emission society by 2050, the one-third of all Norwegian ferries operating on electricity was achieved quickly during the last five years, and Norway will soon have its first ferry operating on hydrogen. The ship Yara Birkeland is currently transporting fertilizer from where it is produced  in Porsgrunn to its port of shipment. Yara, one of Norway’s oldest companies and an industry leader in its sector, is also working to produce clean ammonia for fuel.

And there are the many Norwegian innovations in offshore energy. The Norwegian government has plans to launch 1,500 offshore windmills by 2040 in Norway that will produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity, about what the entire country consumes in one year. This allows for some of the power to be exported to Europe, where the demand is great.

Krutnes pointed out that the continental shelf off Norway is very deep, creating the need for floating windmills, and  here, expertise from the Norwegian oil and gas industry can play a key role for the United States and the rest of the world. There will be an increasing need for maritime companies to cooperate, much in the same way that Equinor is working along the coastline of New York. Licenses for offshore wind are being put in place along the West Coast, and several Norwegian companies will contribute to this effort.

“Norway and the United States are bound together by the sea and our closeness to the sea, and also culturally and economically … particularly here in Washington state,” the ambassador said.

She continued to point to one of her favorite examples from the 1800s, with the figure of  Thea Foss, another Norwegian immigrant woman who was able to break a glass ceiling. Foss was one of the first women anywhere  to start a business in the maritime sector, and Foss Maritime became the biggest tugboat company in the Pacific Northwest region.

“Thea Foss was a Norwegian innovator. She brought her knowledge and her drive to the U.S., and she did what she was good at …. And that is exactly what Norwegian companies and entrepreneurs are doing today,” said Krutnes.

“For me there is no doubt that we need to work together across borders if we want to achieve the green transition,” she said in conclusion. “We have to partner up; we need to use the best solutions available out there.” She pointed to how the MOU between Innovation Norway and the Washington State Department of  Commerce is already showing results. There is strong cooperation between Washington Maritime Blue and its Norwegian equivalent, and now there is the venture with Corvus in Bellingham. This is  “a perfect example of what the green transition is all about,” said Krutnes, as we look toward the future together.

 

This article originally appeared in the June 10, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.

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