Is Norway Leaving Its Tech Startups Out In The Cold?

I am regularly reminded of the amazing innovation coming out of the Nordic region. Countries like Sweden, Finland and even tiny Denmark regularly punch above their weight, producing global companies like Spotify, Rovio, Tradeshift and Everbread. But there remains one country which seems bizarrely content not to engage nearly as much with the global tech scene, and that’s Norway.

There’s a huge irony here. The web browser Opera started out in 1994 as a research project within Telenor, Norway’s main telco. If they’d played it right we would be continuing to talk about Opera, rather than Chrome, Safari or Explorer these days. And there remains a few bright sparks on the horizon like the innovative Bipper, founded by Silje Vallestad. But take a look at the stats and they are disappointing.

NORWAY BY THE NUMBERS

There are only 42 companies listed on CrunchBase for Norway. Because of its global nature, CrunchBase is usually a good indication for how internationally active the startup are in a country. In Finlad there are 55, Sweden 131.

And despite a world-renowned education system, social support system and a great quality of life, Norway looks like it is losing the battle to join the global innovation race.

In February, a report titled “Norway scores poorly on innovation” news site E24 noted that Norway came out badly on an EU Commission overview of innovation and R&D.

Indeed, Norway ranked as achieving only moderate levels of innovation, and was in the same bracket as Greece, the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Malta and Slovakia.

The best rated EU countries turned out to be Sweden first, followed by Germany, Denmark and Finland – so most of Norways close neighbours. Sweden was only defeated by the non-EU countries of Switzerland, the USA, Japan and South Korea.

According to the EU Commission’s report, Norway had great human capital, good research systems, and “relatively” good access to capital and assistance to entrepreneurs. But, it said, there has been a sharp decline in investment in innovation. The report also found Norway was low on its investment in innovation, the number of new patents, new products and new services.

The report did not go into innovation in the field of oil and gas, where Norway usually does well. But that’s hardly the point. If Norway is to develop further its going to need more than just natural resources.

Read the full story at Techcrunch