The startup scene in Norway is flourishing and its capital is on the top of the list of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Oslo is already making its mark with programs and investors opening up rapidly to push the next generation of startups into meeting the demands of tomorrow. In the past couple of years the number of registered startups has gone up significantly with almost 26,000 in 2015 compared to 14,000 in 2009 (more info here). In 2016, the trend continued to grow with 78 investment made compared to 30 in 2015. That is an increase in investment of 160%. The amount of capital also rose significantly in 2016 from the previous two years at nearly 8x times as much, totalling US$200m invested in new startups. This ranks Norway in quite a special place among the Nordic countries, as only Sweden is growing at a faster rate in terms of investment. However, it is worth to stress again that the startup scene is still relatively fresh. It should therefore come as no surprise that most of the funding takes place at the early stage and according to the data on The Nordic Web, nearly ⅓ of the investments are below US$500,000. 

There are many reasons for the increase and interest in entrepreneurship in Norway: economic and governmental stability and the nation’s hunger to adopt and use new technology are perhaps the most important ones. The capital is also one of the easiest countries to do business in according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank Group, ranking sixth among the 190 countries (all the ranking here). A great number of the startups that are being seeded are a result of the oil crisis, which resulted in massive layoffs from the oil industry. Equipped with heavy industry experience and knowledge of real world problems and demands, many have set out to use their expertise to tackle the sector with products and services ranging from high tech consultancy to cost efficient solution platforms, and everything in between. This is especially true in regions where the oil industry has been the focal point such as Rogaland

Where do startups initiate and how do they get funding you may ask? As the startup scene has been blowing up, so has the number of accelerator and incubation programs in the country. Although the majority of them are situated in the capital, Oslo, and three out of four investments are made in Oslo there has been an increase in programs in the other cities as well, notably: Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger.

Here are some of the incubator and accelerator programs:

There are many more, but of the above, Innovation Norway is the one acting as the National Development Bank and thus all the funding through it comes from the state.

So now the obvious question becomes: where does space belong in all of this? Most of the aerospace companies in the country are state-owned with only a handful privately owned companies having space related activities such as Kongsberg and Nammo. Furthermore, space activities are handled by the Norwegian Space Center (NSC), including contracts with ESA and national activities. Through NSC it is possible to get verification, for both startups and established companies, for their products and services to be suited for space. It is thus possible to get a review from the NSC for a full or partial funding of the product or service as long as it is space related and fills a set of requirements. In addition, they will be able to provide expertise and further funding sources in many of the technological and engineering challenges the product or service might encounter.

In the past few years, NSC together with Norwegian Center for Space-related Education have tried to stir up the public interest in space by running projects and programs for both teachers and students at the Andøya Space Center. With their effort, there is a clear growing interest in space. If you combine that with the growing startups, it comes as no surprise to see the first Norwegian space startup, Ripple Aerospace, being established. With the help of the incubators Innoventus Sør and the University of Agder’s Nyskaping, they have been able to raise funds through the government initiative STUD-ENT in 2016. Their idea? Designing, manufacturing, and launching rockets from the ocean, inspired by NASA’s Sea Dragon rocket project from the ‘60s (more info here). 

With the emergence of New Space, there will also be demand for a stage in which space startups can present their ideas. Festivals like Spaceport Norway in Stavanger and Cutting Edge festival as part of the Oslo Innovation Week —which is Europe’s largest innovation convention—give astropreneurs the spotlight they deserve to discover, partner, or collaborate with others who are equally passionate about innovation in space and technology. With all that said and done, the startup scene is relatively young and New Space has not fully embraced Norway yet, but significant increase in funding sources and incubation programs will hopefully make it feasible in the near future for astropreneurs to take over Norway.

Posted by Shafa Aria