Innovation comes with international co-operation as technological diffusion from advanced economies fuels growth in emerging markets. With China aiming for technological leadership in what many acknowledge as the Pacific century, Norwegian expertise is within reach and beneficial to the goal.
"Norway and China business-wise are a good match - we are very often complementary, economically speaking," says Knut Sorlie, Beijing-based Innovation Norway regional director for China and commercial counsellor at the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Innovation Norway is a pillar of Norway's international trade.
The two countries collaborate on climate technologies and environmental and welfare research through the Norwegian Programme for Research Cooperation with China (Chinor). With an annual budget of 20 million Norwegian kroner (HK$28.2 million) until 2017, Chinor funds basic research and industry-oriented research in its focus areas. It is open to new initiatives covering information and communications technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology, and other promising fields such as agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries.
Steeped in health care innovation, Norway can also play a role in helping China advance local capabilities. Norway's cancer research is concentrated in the Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC), which is backed by more than 80 years of local expertise. OCC opened an innovation park last year to hasten the commercialisation of innovative cancer treatments in its pipeline.
Innovation Norway is well-positioned in Asia to advance Norwegian technological diffusion in the region. It has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and is considering a third on the mainland. Its presence extends to Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Delhi and Jakarta - reflecting Asia's increasing importance to Norwegian business and industries.
"We want to build on our strengths - maritime, offshore oil and gas [O&G], energy including renewables, and seafood," Sorlie says.
The timing is right for the massive build-up of the region's liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure - a development that transforms the O&G industry.
Norwegian companies are distributed across the entire LNG value chain - from transport and distribution, bunkering, storage, engineering activities and management all the way to the LNG fuel and vessel markets. They are experienced in the use of LNG as fuel for ships and small-scale LNG distribution, with the most advanced maritime solutions also being developed in Norway.
Such know-how is crucial to stabilising the regional market amid an expected massive shift to LNG-fuelled vessels and the rise of Asia's intra-regional LNG trading.
Innovation Norway supports two important Norwegian business groups on the mainland: the Norwegian Environment and Energy Consortium (NEEC) and INTSOK. NEEC leverages on Norway's energy and environmental legacy to promote a globally sustainable future by creating the critical mass for green solutions in China. For its part, INTSOK promotes Norwegian achievements in enhanced recovery, cost reduction strategies and health, safety and environment measures. Through regular networking activities, NEEC and INTSOK have built goodwill with Chinese authorities and industry players.
"Our ambition is to do more and better in China," Sorlie says. "We should strengthen networks and partnerships to attract more Norwegian companies to China, especially SMEs. At the same time, we should also be very open towards Chinese companies wanting to invest in Norway."
Shanghai is a suitable place for the innovation exchange. Innovation Norway is in the process of setting up an incubation centre at the Shanghai Knowledge Innovation Centre in the Yangpu area.
"Norway is in the upper value chain in its industries," Sorlie says. "China is underway in developing a more innovation-based industry and society. It has a long way to go, and Norwegian companies can assist in this endeavour."
Innovation Norway www.innovationnorway.no