Can become an international portal for innovation

News 24 October 2019

Can become an international portal for innovation

What will it take to turn the Elgeseter area into an innovation district of international standard? This was the main question when nearly fifty public and private actors in Trondheim joined a creative workshop on October 17.

Four people around a table with post-its for workshop.
Lars Teien (Statsbygg), Thomas Berman (SoCentral), Hanna Malene Lindberg (Trondheim Public Library) and Karoline Abildsnes (Student Parliament) discussed how Elgeseter facilitates knowledge activities. Photo: Valeria Gaitan. 

Written by: Hanna Maria Jones

On Thursday, October 17, Trondheim Municipality, NTNU, Sintef, the Student Welfare Organization (Sit), Trøndelag County Municipality and the Mid-Norway Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NiT) invited to a creative workshop to look at how the Elgeseter area can become an innovation district of international standard. Among the participants were people from the University municipality cooperation, Miljøpakken (the Enviroment Package), Statsbygg, the Welfare Parliament, NHP Eiendom, Siva, Coop, the Students Society, Sparebank 1 and others.

Woman pointing at posters with post-its
Ulf Rian from Siva and Gro Helene Lerflaten from Proneo presented the results from one of the working groups with industry as a theme. Photo: Valeria Gaitan.  

All prerequisites are in place

Trondheim, and the Elgeseter area in particular, have all the prerequisites in place.

Project Director at NTNU, Merete Kvidal, points out that NTNU already has a well-functioning innovation network with the research environments, laboratories and partners included in NTNU's core business.

– The collaboration with Sintef is ranked as the foremost university and business collaboration in the world according to Times Higher Education. Trondheim is unique on a worldwide basis by combining outstanding centers of innovation and entrepreneurship in education. Missing are the arenas for sharing and visibility that can lift the potential of what is happening here.

Kvidal receives support from Espen Suegg, Real Estate Director at Sintef. He believes it is about lifting the benefits we already have.

Trøndelag County Municipality is concerned about what resources we have in the region, including raw materials, food production and industry, and how an innovation district can provide access to a larger network.

NTNU's food laboratory in the food region of Trøndelag was one highlighted example during the workshop. Here, it is possible to increase interaction, links and networks between different players to a much greater extent, thus taking advantage of the potential for innovation.

Berit Rian from the Mid-Norway Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NiT) is clear on Trondheim's competitive advantage:

– The city and the region are small enough to achieve a central interaction between many different actors. We have knowledge actors with an international network, an offensive municipality, an innovative business community and should seize the opportunity to act now when the state invests billions in NTNU’s campus.

Outlines what is needed for a successful innovation district

During the workshop, participants identified what works and what is missing in the Elgeseter area to create the ideal knowledge exchange. What will make it attractive to business and at the same time ensure a vibrant environment and a city life that makes a diversity of population groups want to stay here?

Four people around a table with post-its
Unni Sølberg (Eggs design), Håvard Prytz (Project Manager in Sit), Brita Pukstad (Dean of Innovation, Faculty of Medicine and Health, NTNU) and Pernille Thingstad (Project Manager University Municipality, Trondheim Municipality and NTNU) looked at what is needed to get people to stay in the area even outside working hours. Photo: Valeria Gaitan.  

Some challenges are the lack of sharing culture, the busy Elgesetergate, closed and introvert buildings and facades. Other challenges are lack of diversity, “private” or exclusionary with sense of belonging only for those who live, work or study here. The need for more people in the area is also challenging, if there is to be a market for business and services outside working and study hours.

Participants believe that some measures will feasible in the short term, as a step in the right direction. Among other things; proposals to establish Elgeseter as a test district, where regulations and bureaucratic obstacles should be opened to try out new activities and solutions. And introduce principles for sharing among those who are established and want to establish themselves in the area.

It ranges from simple things such as painting house walls in joyful colors, to innovative ideas on how both private and public companies and organizations in the area opens up and share their premises. Is it possible to imagine a sharing solution to allow “AirBnB” in meeting rooms and office space, or to put students’ lectures in the companies located in the immediate area?

Key players can contribute in different ways

Some key contributors to reach the ambitions are NTNU, Sintef, the Mid-Norway Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NiT) and the County Council. In addition, Trondheim municipality is central, both in the role of community developer and as manager of frameworks and regulations that influence development.

At the end of the day, key leaders were challenged on what their organizations were contributing to.

Sintef will to a greater extent showcase everything they do. They acknowledge that to get one step further, they need to consider whether one must always go through rigorous security checks to visit a Sintef office.

NTNU will also get better at showcasing its innovation infrastructure, lifting and highlighting what is happening at NTNU and using the resources they have to an even greater extent. Among other things, the largest resource NTNU has in Trondheim, which is the almost 35,000 students here.

The Mid-Norway Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NiT) will create more commercialization and jobs in technology and knowledge, by motivating and mobilizing its member companies and contributing in the contexts where the instruments are placed.

The county is responsible for higher education, public transport, public health, culture, and industry, and sees itself as a policy instrument for Trondheim as part of a larger regional network.

Councilman Morten Volden is aware that he is working towards exciting goals from politicians. This means that the municipality of Trondheim must work to facilitate international industry and technology, take into account development through rolling plans and other municipal instruments, condense more in Elgeseter and get even more university here. An innovation center, maybe school, and generally facilitate more homes and people in the area.

Representatives from private and public organizations in a circle discussing
Nina Salvesen from the students Welfare Council (right) challenged the leaders of the central players Sintef, NTNU, the Mid-Norway Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NiT), Trøndelag County Municipality and Trondheim municipality on what their organization must contribute. Photo: Valeria Gaitan.  


Strategy for Innovation District Elgeseter

Strategy for Innovation District Elgeseter

The councilor in Trondheim Municipality, Project Director at NTNU, Property Director in Sintef, Managing Director of the Mid-Norway Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NiT), Managing Director of Sit, Trøndelag County Municipality and Project Director of Statsbygg meet monthly in what is called the Leadership Forum for City and Campus Development (lederforum for by- og campusutvikling).

Currently, many different actors within knowledge, industry and the city have extensive development projects planned in the district of Elgeseter.

Many things will characterize the area in the years to come: Unified NTNU campus in Trondheim, new building for the Health and Social studies in Trondheim, correlated projects at the Student Welfare Organization (Sit), new building for Studentersamfundet (Student Society) and the Environmental Package (Miljøpakken).

Therefore, in the fall of 2019, the Forum for City and Campus Development launched a gathering of actors to create a joint strategy and action plan for the district of Elgeseter.

The ambition is to lift the area as an innovation district to become an international portal to Trondheim's innovation and knowledge environments.