Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the Nordea Accelarator program-meeting in Oslo, 26 August 2016.
Check against delivery
It is a great pleasure for me to be here – at the Nordea Accelerator program.
I am impressedby those of you who have participated with passion and new ideas this week. And I want to congratulate those of you who have been selected to join the accelerator program.
It is always inspiring to meet passionate entrepreneurs with new ideas, strong motivation and growth ambitions.
And when I say “passionate entrepreneurs with growth ambitions”, I mean people like Kim Humborstad. Still a student, he developed fingerprint technology and established the company Zwipe. Five years later, his student project was worth 370 million NOK. Last year he launched the world’s first MasterCard credit card with fingerprint where his company delivered the technology.
We need more people to start businesses and turn their ideas into successful new products. Norway’s future competitiveness will depend more upon your skills and ambitions, than upon the abundance of our natural resources.
We know that new ideas, goods and better services often are brought to the market by entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are constantly challenging our existing businesses – who are forced to be alert and to innovate to stay competitive.
We also know that new businesses grow faster and are more productive than the businesses they replace. This dynamic leads to change and growth in the economy.
Nordea is one of the companies that have understood why entrepreneurs with great ambitions are so important, by inviting entrepreneurs to work together with them.
Today – when we experience declining oil prices and slower growth in the global economy – transformation and innovation are the keys to success.
Norwegian firms have proven capable to adapt before. And they will prove capable again.
Even though entrepreneurship rates have been declining the last ten years, I now believe there are good reasons to be optimistic.
We see that the Norwegian start up scene is blooming. Recent figures from Statistics Norway (SSB) show that 14,977 new companies were formed in Q2 this year, a 4.2% increase compared to the same period last year, and an all time record high, with an increase of 70% since these statistics started in 2001.
We also see that the attitudes toward entrepreneurship are changing. Since 2003, the percentage of Norwegians who believe that entrepreneurship gives a high status has increased from 59 to 83 percent.
And a high share of the population believes there are good opportunities for entrepreneurship in Norway. These developments are promising.
Our role as politicians is to provide the conditions required. My goal is to make Norway a good country for developing and starting new businesses.
My Government’s ambition is not modest: We want Norway to be among the most innovative countries in Europe.
In order to achieve this ambition, several measures have been undertaken since this government entered office. Let me share with you the most important areas where we have and will concentrate our efforts:
Firstly: Norway cannot offer the cheapest services and products. Norway can offer smart services and products. Therefore, knowledge is essential for our competitiveness.
My Government has made an historical increase of funding to research, and strengthened programs stimulating R&D for businesses and research institutions.
Secondly, we need more entrepreneurs with growth ambitions. Therefore, we have increased entrepreneurship grants and established two new seed capital funds that will invest in young companies. And we have presented a new plan for entrepreneurship, which focuses on three important dimensions: capital, competence and culture.
We will facilitate innovation and growth by improving access to capital at an early stage, improving the access to competence and making it more attractive to become an entrepreneur in Norway.
We also need to foster the entrepreneurial skills of our younger population. We invest in our teachers and increase our focus on skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Thirdly, we need good and stable framework conditions that reduce insecurity and costs for our businesses. That is why we have introduced general growth enhancing tax cuts, by reducing the capital tax and income tax, and removing the inheritance tax.
And finally: We will continue to simplify, renew and improve the public sector. The government aims at making the public sector more competent and efficient. We want businesses to spend more of their time on innovation and production, and less on reporting to public authorities.
Today we rank 9th globally in terms of ease of doing business, but 24th in terms of starting a business. We want to do more to enable entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life. (http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings)
In the short run - the greatest contribution to growth in our economy will come from our existing firms. We need both to trigger innovation and growth in established businesses - and to develop new businesses.
To meet the changes we are facing, it is crucial that our established businesses – especially our leading companies - take responsibility and lead the way.
I also believe cooperation is crucial. New ideas – and the development of new businesses, products and services does not happen in a vacuum.
Collaborate whenever possible – compete only when necessary. I believe this is a good formula to succeed with innovation and growth.
Nordea seems to already follow this formula by starting this Accelerator program.
Cooperation across borders is also crucial.
Last year my Government presented our plan for Entrepreneurship. One of the key priorities in this plan is making Norway an attractive country for entrepreneurs.
We need to be able to attract and keep good entrepreneurs from other countries. That's why we will explore a new fast track scheme – called Start in Norway. If realized - this will be a fast track scheme for particularly promising foreign entrepreneurs who want to develop their ideas in Norway.
Progress comes faster when we work together across borders!
Norway is an open economy that continuously has to adapt to the global trends.
We need new ideas.
We need new companies.
We need existing companies to renew themselves.
And, we need to succeed in innovating and restructuring the Norwegian industry.
I wish all the participants good luck in the months to come in the Nordea Accelerator Program.
I hope the startups in this program will convince you that I'm not being too ambitious!