Håkon Haugli : "The complementary competence and networks of Innovation Norway and CCFN, help us connect the right partners at the right time and place"

The CCFN opens its doors to Håkon Haugli, CEO of Innovation Norway.

You are Norway’s official trade promotion organisation. Could you share a few words about Innovation Norway’s role and ambitions, both at the local and international level?

Innovation Norway is Norway‘s main instrument for realising value-creating business development throughout the country. We have offices in all of Norway’s regions and strong regional partnerships, fostering start-ups, innovative growth companies and business networks throughout Norway. We also have 24 offices abroad that work to promote sustainable growth and exports. We aim to bring the best Norwegian solutions to global markets, supporting trade partners in their quest to solve challenges like the climate crisis. France for example has an extremely ambitious plan for the energy transition. Norway, with more than 50 years offshore experience and world leading developers in floating offshore wind, can be a strong partner in this transition. Similarly, we are both leading in electric transport, at land, at sea and in the air, where French and Norwegian businesses collaborate closely to take new, low-emission solutions to the market and to scale.


Practically, Innovation Norway helps companies in all phases of their growth journey; from start-up to growth, scaling, and internationalisation, and we help companies transform their business into greener industries. We offer both capital, competence and advisory services and network. We have a wide range of loans and grants schemes to support the growth of companies in Norway, and skilled advisors that offer their competence to help companies develop their business model. Especially in our offices abroad, we contribute with a wide local network to put companies in contact with the right potential partners and customers.


Innovation Norway has a growing office in Paris. How important is France as an export market for Norwegian companies?

Innovation Norway’s office in Paris is one of our largest international offices, with 7 permanent employees. We also work very closely with the Norwegian embassy in Paris. The office works especially with clean energy, green mobility, sustainable societies, and travel trade. The office size reflects France’s importance as a trade partner for Norwegian companies. France’s leading international role, significantly influencing European politics and policies, makes it important for Norwegian companies to take part in this large market. But Norway is also an interesting partner for France, demonstrated recently by a significant number of Norwegian CEOs being invited to the prestigious Choose France summit.


France has ambitions to be self-sufficient within what they consider as critical sectors, like the health sector. Earlier this year they announced the relocation of production of the 50 most critical drugs to France and published a list of 450 products where they want to secure the supply chains. This may make this – and other “critical” markets – harder to access for foreign companies.  France is also allocating significant public funding to take industrial leadership in select sectors. In addition to the abovementioned pharmaceutical sector, the hydrogen sector is an example of an area where France claims industrial leadership, with significant public funding to back political ambitions. Foreign – Norwegian – solutions and technologies become highly attractive in order to support this sectorial development. Innovation Norway and CCFN, being based in Paris, are therefore extremely important partners for Norwegian companies in order to understand the French market and translate the politics into commercial opportunities. To conclude, France is an important market for Norwegian companies in the sectors where there is a match between French needs and Norwegian solutions – and vice versa.


The French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce and Innovation Norway are both part of Team Norway in Paris and have been strengthening their cooperation in the last few years. How would you explain the success of this cooperation?

First of all, I think we recognised early that we have common interest. We are simply stronger together. The complementary competence and networks of Innovation Norway and CCFN, both in Norway and in France, help us connect the right partners at the right time and place. The Team Norway strategy for France is strongly supported by all Team Norway partners, as it has been developed by the team members themselves, and gives clear priorities. This makes it easier to work together towards common goals. The cooperation is also in constant development, showing an eagerness to explore new business opportunities and test new business models, in order to create opportunities for Norwegian and French companies in both markets.


My Innovation Norway colleagues on the ground also tell me that the cooperation is marked by openness, trust, and generosity, and that this goes for all of Team Norway, which also includes the Norwegian Embassy in Paris, and NORWEP. This I guess, is the “secret sauce” to all successful cooperation.


We have several common projects on the agenda such as business expeditions to France in the maritime and aviation sectors, a webinar on batteries and a French-Norwegian Green Industry Forum in Paris on 16 January. What cooperation opportunities do you foresee for 2024?

As Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future! Not many foresaw the rapid accessibility of ChatGPT, or the energy transition acceleration we now see due to the war in Ukraine. I think the current Team Norway strategy will remain valid still some time: Green mobility, clean energy and sustainable societies will most likely continue to be high on the agenda for a long time to come. We are currently launching an export program directed towards the green maritime sector, and we are continuing to promote French-Norwegian collaboration on offshore wind. Infrastructure for electric mobility is an area where Norway has a lot to offer, both on land and for maritime use. Agritech and digital health are areas where Norway and France have complementary needs and solutions. The Green Industry Forum in January 2024 will be an important French-Norwegian arena to discuss common areas of interest in order to decarbonise across several sectors. Also, I think we need to explore the digital space further: Cybersecurity, FinTech and AI are evidently examples high on this list.


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