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Not only do Norway’s maritime clusters possess unrivalled expertise, but they are also nimble on their feet. Now they are on their way into new, sustainable ocean industries.
A “Silicon Valley of the sea” is emerging along the Norwegian coastline, driven by industrial clusters. Clusters are geographical concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. Cluster members collaborate along many segments of the value chain and build on one another’s competencies and technologies.
Norway is home to many world-leading clusters in the maritime sector. Three of these are GCE Node in Kristiansand, Blue Maritime Cluster in Ålesund, and GCE Ocean Technology in Bergen. All have been awarded the status of “Global Centre of Expertise”, as well as the “Cluster Management Excellence Label GOLD”.
“We have a unique culture for maritime value creation and innovation,” says Per Erik Dalen, CEO of ÅKP, which runs Blue Maritime Cluster.
The maritime industries are one of the cornerstones of the Norwegian economy. Some 89 000 people are employed in these industries, generating a turnover of nearly USD 50 billion. In comparison, in Europe as a whole there are 5.6 million maritime jobs with a turnover of over USD 560 billion.
The ocean offers tremendous growth potential: 90 per cent of the ocean depths have not yet been explored. There are, for example, major opportunities in seabed mining and marine biomass for food and feed. And, not least, the ocean is in constant movement, with the wind, waves and tides providing a renewable, inexhaustible source of energy.
It is this potential that provides the foundation for sustainable growth based on marine resources, also known as blue growth. Blue growth involves launching and expanding new ocean industries, while reducing the ecological footprint of established maritime industries.
In Norway, much blue growth revolves around the transfer of technology and expertise from the oil and gas sector to new, sustainable industries – and the country’s maritime clusters have an important role to play here.
“It is difficult for a single company to turn the tide on its own. Blue Maritime, however, encompasses a complete value chain – from design to equipment, shipyards and all the rest. This enables us to change course quickly,” Dalen points out.
Blue Maritime Cluster is comprised of a number of companies that originally worked with development and construction of vessels for the offshore industry. It is therefore in an excellent position to make the transition to new, blue industries.
“We are among the quickest in the world when it comes to restructuring. We are a cluster that previously worked only within the oil and gas sector, but now we are heavily into other markets, such as offshore wind, fishing vessels, aquaculture, nutrition and the cruise market,” he says.
Clusters facilitate collaboration between companies across industries, which creates fertile ground for crossover innovation. Anne-Grete Ellingsen, CEO of GCE Node, describes how know-how from the oil and gas industry generates renewable growth.
“We see many crossover innovations in our cluster. One example is offshore wind, which uses a lot of technology developed for the oil and gas industry, including anchoring systems, heave compensated gangways, sensors, control systems and concrete foundations.”
According to Ellingsen, the members of GCE Node also use their blue competencies to promote green growth.
“One of our companies, Qmatec, is in the process of delivering a geothermal-powered drilling rig to Indonesia. This will help many actors to phase out diesel generators and make the full transition to renewable energy,” she says.
On land and at sea, Norwegian companies with offshore expertise are well equipped to create a green future in the blue ocean space. The potential is enormous and clusters such as GCE Node and Blue Maritime Cluster are well underway in turning opportunity to action.
“Blue Growth” is the title of the EU’s long-term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. The strategy – and the term blue growth in general – refers to five sectors with high potential for renewable growth: aquaculture; coastal tourism; marine biotechnology; ocean energy; and seabed mining.
The term “cluster” was coined by the economist Michael Porter in 1990, and refers to a geographical concentration of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. According to Porter, clusters are important for competitiveness, as they increase companies’ productivity, drive the direction and pace of innovation, and stimulate the formation of new businesses.