Remarks at Seed Forum

Oslo, 12 November 2015

State Secretary Elsbeth Tronstad’s remarks at Seed Forum and the launch of Norwegian–Estonian cooperation on innovation, e-governance and cyber security.

Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to you all.

Thank you very much for inviting me to Seed Forum and the launch of an exciting new page in Norwegian–Estonian cooperation.

Since its establishment in 2002, Seed Forum has grown into a global phenomenon with a presence in more than 40 countries. The reach of your concept is impressive. The opportunities it creates are inspiring. And it is hardly a surprise that Seed Forum is a success in Estonia. Few countries have a more vibrant start-up culture.

Estonia is a country where Norwegian companies feel very much at home. Our economic ties have developed successfully. Norway is the fourth largest investor in Estonia, and is also an important market for many Estonian companies.

We are now seeing a diversification into new areas, for instance in the intersection between energy, environment and information technology. This speaks to a dynamic relationship with excellent potential for further growth.

The Green Industry Innovation programme under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme is clearly very promising in this respect. It is also creating opportunities for cooperation between Norwegian and Estonian companies.

Innovation and competitiveness will be among the top strategic priorities for the EEA and Norway Grants in the coming years.

Our cooperation within the framework of the Grants is a model of constructive partnership. It has brought further substance to our already close bilateral relationship in a wide range of sectors.

The EEA and Norway Grants are also an important part of the reason why we are here today. Support from the bilateral fund has made it possible to bring together leading innovation, e-governance and cyber security experts from our two countries.

The use of the bilateral fund for this project indicates a strong political will on the part of both governments.

Seed Forum and Seed Forum Eesti, the e-governance academy in Tallinn, Watchcom and other stakeholders represent expertise in different, but related disciplines.

The partners in the project also share a commitment to international work. In fact, the inspiration for the project stems from another joint strategic priority: support to Ukraine. All of the project partners are also active partners of the Ukrainian Government.

When working towards a common goal, the first thing to do is to ensure effective exchange of information and coordination. This was the purpose of your roundtable meeting in Tallinn a few months back. This meeting was clearly a success, and the work can now proceed from coordination to cooperation.

Over the coming weeks and months, you will explore in depth ways in which Estonian and Norwegian work in the areas of e-governance, innovation systems and cyber security is compatible, and where efforts can complement each other. We hope that this will create a solid foundation for taking cooperation in these sectors to the next level.

This has obvious value for bilateral cooperation. Strong cross-border innovation and e-governance systems are vehicles for growth. Cyber security is a prerequisite for this, and therefore an important and integrated component in the cooperation.

Furthermore, we believe that Estonia and Norway and the other Nordic countries should be at the forefront of the innovation and e-governance agenda in Europe. I hope this project can stimulate such cooperation.

I also hope that your work will lead to further cooperation on the ground in Ukraine and in other countries where you meet.

This is exactly the kind of cooperation that we are hoping to see more of when the next period of the EEA and Norway Grants starts.

There are a number of challenges in Europe that can only be tackled through a regional approach. This is why a regional fund is being established under the EEA and Norway Grants to support cross-border initiatives and measures – including efforts involving neighbouring third countries to beneficiary states, such as Ukraine.

For all these reasons, I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the outcome of the work you are starting today. I hope we will meet again soon and I wish you every success in the work ahead.