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Is Norway’s oil wealth stifling innovation?

Nicholas Newman Eniday July 2017

Nordic walking in Norway

Norway is the world’s third-largest natural gas exporter, eighth largest exporter of crude and Europe’s largest petroleum liquids producer. Oil and gas have made the 5.3 million citizens of Norway part of one of the wealthiest countries on earth, with a gross domestic product reaching $75,000 per person…

Government revenues from oil and gas have been channelled into the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global. Fondly called “the Oil Fund,” it is worth around $880 billion. With withdrawals from the fund limited to four percent a year, it can support government spending of $524,423 over the lifetime of each citizen. Norwegians are therefore secure in the knowledge that, even when the oil runs out, “the return on the fund will continue to benefit the Norwegian people.”

Norway’s place in Innovation rankings

Is there any price to be paid for this comfortable cushion of prosperity? Has it impaired Norwegians’ appetite for innovation? According to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2016, Norway ranks below both neighboring Sweden and the UK and lies in 22nd place out of 128 countries across 82 measures of innovation. In comparison with countries that are equally resource dependent, Australia ranked 19th, just beats Norway. However, Norway is much more innovative than other leading petro-economies such as Kuwait in 67th place, Saudi Arabia in 49th place and the UAE ranked at 41. As for innovative cities, Oslo is rated at just 28, behind Barcelona in the Innovation Cities™ Index 2015: Europe. This low ranking is partly explained by the tendency of startups, when they reach a certain stage, to migrate to major European innovation centers such as London, Vienna and Amsterdam, in order to take advantage of innovation synergies. But perhaps these rankings are not the whole picture?

When North Sea oil was discovered, lots of local firms and research organizations in low-tech industries including shipbuilding, mechanical services and textiles sectors as well as high- tech research in nuclear energy and automation, diversified into oil and gas. As the oil industry expanded, demand for engineers and individuals with skills in technology and software was met by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. High pay, good conditions and the prestige of this homegrown industry attracted Norway’s innovation community to concentrate on meeting the needs of the oil and gas industry. Read more https://www.eniday.com/en/human_en/norways-oil-wealth-stifling-innovation/

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