Incubator for ideas

19.12.2016
Budding entrepreneurs in Stavanger can now share expertise and equipment. Many are engineers and IT personnel from the oil industry with a dream of creating their own thing.

| Jorunn Braathen Eia and Monica Larsen (photos)

Helper. Jan Tore Usken, business developer and entrepreneur in Creator Makerspace, wants to bring creative people and industry together and help them to take the next step in establishing new companies.

Helper.
Jan Tore Usken, business developer and entrepreneur in Creator Makerspace, wants to bring creative people and industry together and help them to take the next step in establishing new companies.

 

We’re part of the fourth industrial revolution,” declares Jan Tore Usken, business developer and founder of the Creator Makerspace company.

Many “hobby creators” are to be found in workplaces, in cellars and in garages, he points out. “But good ideas make no progress because people don’t know how to put them into effect.

“They lack the necessary equipment and finance. At our premises, they can meet to try out their ideas on others and to build prototypes.”

Characterised by the rapid growth of digitalisation and the web, the fourth industrial revolution promises changes to existing business models, social norms and the political landscape.

“We must think along completely new lines,” says Usken. “Things are moving fast, many exciting things are happening, and we want to be part of this. The future is fantastic.”

The petroleum sector is a technological locomotive in Norway, and one of the country’s most knowledge-heavy, technically advanced and engineer-dependent industries.

Technology from this business has already been transferred to a variety of other sectors – and this is the route that Creator Makerspace aims to exploit.

The idea for the company came from Rogaland Makers, founded in 2010. Run on a non-profit basis, it creates a meeting place and workspace for creatives and entrepreneurs.

This allows its users to test new technological ideas, demonstrate what these can do, and produce prototypes. The goal is to create 100 jobs in two years and 1 000 in five.

“We want to bring together people with ideas and their potential industrial partners, and help them to take the next step to establishing a new company,” Usken explains.

“With substantial unemployment and many highly competent people looking for work in our region, we need to take new approaches. Talking together leads to innovation.”

Over the past year, he has seen a big influx of engineers and developers from the oil industry who are in full swing with realising their creative dream.

Expertise and tools are shared to produce everything from drones to robots. Workshop facilities include three-dimensional printers, laser cutters and photoplotters.

In addition come milling machines, angle cutters and a lot of equipment for working with metal and wood as well as electrical systems.

According to Usken, producing a prototype at Creator Makerspace is 80 per cent cheaper than doing it at home. “That’s because we share everything.”

 

Joining forces. Creative people work together in Bolder’s open-plan office to find more intelligent solutions tailored to each person’s i Creator. Arnfinn Matre playing UFO Hunter. He is nterests and needs.

Joining forces.
Creative people work together in Bolder’s open-plan office to find more intelligent solutions tailored to each person’s i Creator. Arnfinn Matre playing UFO Hunter. He is nterests and needs.

 

New revolution

The fourth industrial revolution will occur at a speed and at a scope without historical parallel, according to Klaus Schwab, the German professor who founded the World Economic Forum.

In a new book, he talks about the dizzying perspectives which open up when billions of people are linked via mobile units with endless capacity for calculation, storage and accessing knowledge.

New technological breakthroughs will occur in such areas as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, driverless cars, and 3D printing.

Robot, nano and biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computers are other key ingredients in the revolution.

Sophisticated robots, more artificial intelligence and the use of advanced materials will make their entry in industry, and not least manufacturing.

Automation and digitalisation will allow goods to be produced virtually untouched by human hand, and be distributed to customers and users in innovative ways.

The challenges presented by these developments affect not only the developed west but also developing countries and emerging economies.

The revolution will impact on virtually all sectors, with millions of jobs set to disappear, while many new ones are going to emerge.

Industrial workers will see robots taking over, while academics such as lawyers, doctors and economists could find part of their expertise being handled by new technology.

An intelligent robot can already be taught almost anything. The technology has also become cheaper. Energy costs per kilowatt-hour will decide where enterprises are located in the future.

 

Happened before

The first industrial revolution is said to have started in 1784, when the steam engine was introduced. Almost a century later, in 1870, the conveyor belt inaugurated the second revolution based on mass production. The third, involving increased use of computers, electronics and automation, began around 1969.

 

Creator. Arnfinn Matre playing UFO Hunter. He is one of the inventors thriving in the creative environment at Forus.

Creator.
Arnfinn Matre playing UFO Hunter. He is one of the inventors thriving in the creative environment at Forus.

 

 

New initiative in oil town

 

Active. Bolder is working to create Norway’s largest indoor centre for an active and conscious lifestyle, and collaborates with the City of Stavanger on digitalising a hiking network. Founder and general manager Eirik Skjærseth is second from left.

Active.
Bolder is working to create Norway’s largest indoor centre for an active and conscious lifestyle, and collaborates with the City of Stavanger on digitalising a hiking network. Founder and general manager Eirik Skjærseth is second from left.

 

The petroleum industry downturn has cost many people in Stavanger their jobs. But it has also inspired several new companies, making the town a test arena for intelligent technological concepts.

“You can save 10-20 per cent of your ventilation costs if you make the system cleverer,” says Sjur Usken, CEO of Smart Plants. “That could work out at NOK 150 000 per annum for a small building of 4 000 square metres.”

His company won the Angel Challenge in Stavanger this October with the launch of ClevAir, which makes buildings intelligent through self-regulation of temperature and lighting.

Established in Oslo in 2015, the Angel Challenge brings together start-ups to compete for an investment pot of NOK 1.3 million.

“We’re working with Kverneland Group, which has optimised its factory floor,” reports Usken. “The system notifies if anything goes wrong with the machinery, so repairs are immediate.”

He adds that large-scale greenhouses in the Jæren region south of Stavanger are also among Smart Plants’ customers.

 

Winner. Smart Plants launched ClevAir in October and won the Angel Challenge in Stavanger. “We produce systems which make buildings more intelligent,” says general manager Sjur Usken.

Winner.
Smart Plants launched ClevAir in October and won the Angel Challenge in Stavanger. “We produce systems which make buildings more intelligent,” says general manager Sjur Usken.

 

Power bike

Per Hassel Sørensen is working in the Elpedal company to develop the Podbike, an electric bicycle with four wheels and an enclosed compartment.

This gives users the environmental and health benefits of cycling with the same personal comfort as a car. In the longer term, Podbike will be able to park and recharge itself.

 

Inspired

“We had a dream of building an environment where companies with creative personnel worked together – a place where you inspire and get inspired,” says Eirik Skjærseth.

With an MSc in marine technology and a background in shipbuilding, he runs Bolder as a lifestyle company backed by technology and as a showcase for personally tailored content.

The idea is to create an arena for an active and conscious lifestyle concentrated on the individual.

“Our goal is to equip people to use intelligent solutions which are personally tailored in terms of content and education,” adds Gian Kolbjørnsen, Bolder’s chief technology officer.

“Together with such partners as the Stavanger city council and the University of Stavanger, we want to make the town a testbed for intelligent technological concepts aimed at people.”

The company plans to create a regional laboratory, which will include Norway’s largest indoor centre for an active and conscious lifestyle.

Enterprises will work together in this space, sharing knowledge, welcoming visiting groups, schools and families, and establishing new growth industries in Norway.

Bolder is also working with the City of Stavanger on an “intelligent citizen” concept, digitalising a network of hiking trails as part of creating, optimising and testing services in the town with its residents as active participants.

Another project being pursued by the company is a new solution for the Nordic Edge conference in 2017, which will be tailored to each participant.

When registering, everyone is asked about their personal interests and purpose with attending. They then get guidance on where to go and who to talk with. Invitations to other relevant conferences will be provided after the event.

Bolder believes these projects have the potential to create 4-5 000 jobs in the region through partners and suppliers, and expects to have 40-60 employees itself during 2017.

 

Rights

The Håmsø Patentbyrå patent agency in Sandnes south of Stavanger emphasises the necessity of securing rights to newly developed technology.

“We’ve got a good overview of inventors in this region,” explains Krister Mangersnes, who heads the company’s patent department.

“Applications for patents, designs and trademarks have increased over the past year, including ones from the petroleum and fish-farming industries.”

This is a good time for innovation, he says, and the agency has recruited several new staff. “We had more than 200 applicants for one job, and at least 150 of them were highly competent.”

A patent adviser at Håmsø will have a heavyweight technical background, often as a researcher, in addition to legal expertise.

More intelligent solutions come to the fore when companies cut their costs. Many established enterprises have freed up time in recent years and plucked good ideas from their desk drawers.

Awareness is growing about intangible rights and intellectual property assets in general, Mangersnes says, and adds that Norway has been backward where patent protection is concerned.

“Patenting an invention can be very beneficial. It prevents others from stealing your ideas. And a trademark or registered design offers substantial competitive advantages.”

Håmsø helps inventors and researchers from all over Norway to establish their own companies and patent their solutions – but regrets that it cannot guarantee commercial success.

Clients operate in such fields as nanotechnology, renewable energy, petroleum, aquaculture, agriculture and the construction sector.

It usually takes two to 10 years from submitting applications for and – if successful – securing patent rights in various countries.

 

Agent. Patenting an invention can be useful. Krister Mangersnes at Håmsø Patentbyrå helps inventors and researchers to establish their own companies and secure patents.

Agent.
Patenting an invention can be useful. Krister Mangersnes at Håmsø Patentbyrå helps inventors and researchers to establish their own companies and secure patents.