A Unifying Force for the Green Development of the Future

North Sweden Cleantech has developed to be the unifying force for green development in a dynamic region, it is the climate-smart innovation site of the future. In Västerbotten and Örnsköldsvik there are a multitude of small and medium-sized enterprizes that are at the forefront of climate- and environmentally friendly solutions.

– It feels great that we have taken on the role of the natural catalyst that makes visible and strengthens companies for sustainable growth. It is a market in which we will see continued large investments, says Peter Hedman, project manager for North Sweden Cleantech.

The term cleantech includes business ideas, companies, products and services in green technology, clean energy and sustainable solutions. As a regional innovation and export platform with employees in Skellefteå, Umeå and Örnsköldsvik, North Sweden Cleantech has the goal of strengthening the region and its companies and developing the market for sustainable growth with green technology and clean energy from northern Sweden. During almost ten years of work to make visible and communicate the three focus areas – bioeconomy, energy and smart and sustainable cities – development has almost exploded.

– We operate in a region where there is an incredible amount of investment in cleantech, not only with all the big things happening in Skellefteå with Northvolt as the natural engine. Today, major investments are taking place throughout northern Sweden and new companies see opportunities. Having co-workers with good local knowledge in three locations, gives a holistic approach and can communicate from all over the region. This means that we have three times as many good cases to work with than if we were only from one place, says Peter.

What makes North Sweden Cleantech unique is that the actions and efforts take place all the way from initial business support.

– The normal thing is an incubator that supports in the start-up stage, but we can support from "start to finish" even when the company has grown and needs other types of efforts and support, says Peter.

Over the years, the projects have become more numerous and larger with strong support from the business community. Among new companies, the latest project, The Climate-smart Innovation Site of the Future, has identified 130 ideas, of which 60 have been taken further and as a result, 17 products have been launched.

– We are proud that 17 new green solutions are on the market and we should also not forget all the ideas that are also important, says Peter.

Support Lifted Conifer Vision

In total, there are about 100 companies in North Sweden Cleantech's platform and are part of the important business network which makes it easy for outside investors to find the right partners.

One of the companies in the catalogue is the start-up Conifer Vision, which has developed unique AI solutions for forest inventory. With a digital image analysis system and self-steering drones, large amounts of data are collected for cloud storage. Forest owners then use the analyses as a basis for decision-making to conduct more efficient, environmentally friendly and more profitable forestry.

Conifer Vision has received help from North Sweden Cleantech through Arctic Business in the development phase.

– It has provided a platform for media exposure and towards various investors that has been valuable. I have the background as a long-time business developer and strategist, but there are other challenges for the small company and when you are sitting on the other side of the table, you need someone who can look at us from a different point of view, says Roger Öhlund, CEO and founder together with colleague Jonas Granström.

Thanks to the senior business developers at North Sweden Cleantech/Arctic Business, Conifer Vision has seized the opportunities.

– It would not have happened otherwise on the investment issue in particular. We have been in a position where external events have made investors more cautious, but we have not been disheartened by that. Now we have fulfilled our investment goal and will sign an agreement, at the same time as pilot projects are underway," says Roger.

News That Creates Visibility and Pride

The communicative part weighs heavily in the execution where North Sweden Cleantech serves as a news channel for the green transition.

– We put a lot of focus on news from the companies and publish them in our channels, giving the companies an extra channel to reach out through. The Company of the Month has, for instance, become an activity which creates visibility and builds pride, which also goes for when we present news about all companies, says Peter.

Edvardssons i Bredbyn AB is one of the examples that has received communicative traction and guidance. They operate a few miles west from Örnsköldsvik in the community of Bredbyn. It is a family-owned carpentry that stands on three product legs – manufacturing packaging for industry, furniture for the public sector and event floors aimed at arenas. Edvardssons i Bredbyn was one of the four companies that participated in North Sweden Cleantech – The climate-smart innovation place of the future one-year business program with the aim of developing the linear business model into a circular one. They have always worked to use the resources long-term and create furniture that lasts a long time, can be reused and repaired. To their help, they have had business coaches from North Sweden Cleantech and the incubator BizMaker.

– We had not marketed it but discovered it in the project and then valuable help to package it as an unusual offer to show the quality and strength of the furniture. When a restaurant only needs to freshen up the chairs after 17 years, instead of buying new ones every three years, we talk about good economy and sustainability. These are the kinds of arguments you have to get out to customers, says Ann Strandberg, CEO of Edvardssons i Bredbyn.

Meeting Places That Match

The next big part of the offer is to create meeting places, Cleantech Meetup is one of these where different themes are interspersed and always with a focus on the future where start-ups or companies are given attention and get to pitch their ideas.

– We are a facilitator who tries to put together the right people with the right skills. By, among other things, holding webinars, workshops and international meetings, I think we have succeeded well in all our focus areas, including, says Peter.

The Bioekonomiriksdag was arranged for the first time in Örnsköldsvik and attracted well-known speakers. It became an appreciated meeting place that has grown into a recurring event where Umeå will host in February 2023. Energy ConFusion, which is an international knowledge event that has been held on two occasions in Skellefteå. In Umeå, the focus has been on circular business development with the event Let's Talk Circular Business, which attracted an audience from all over the world.

International Visits Creating Business Value

As Smart City Sweden's northern branch, North Sweden Cleantech acts as a natural partner for innovation visits from other countries. During the Covid pandemic, it was done digitally, but recently the business delegations have once again begun to physically travel to the region. In the past three years, 50 innovation visits have been received and guided to an exciting facility or company that has been matched up in advance. There, the visitor gets to take part in the most interesting technical environments and meet the right people.

Internationally, the Finnish cooperation with Vaasa and Kokkola has grown even stronger now also with Jakobstad and is looking forward to a new project under the name Bothnia Green Energy. All six municipal energy companies on the Swedish and Finnish sides gather there to develop the energy solutions of the future.

– It feels extremely interesting and is a very promising project. There, North Sweden Cleantech will help to find analysis based on a business benefit and the right company that can take the project forward, says Peter.

”We Keep the Green Compass Direction”

Fredrik Holmgren has been the chairman of the steering group for a few years and points to the development that has taken place.

– We have always worked from a conviction that companies with a green profile will have a business advantage – we were right! Today, it is an obvious question that many take for granted and a strong competitive and success factor that all investors demand. We will play an important role in the future for municipalities and companies that want to keep a green and sustainable compass direction, says Fredrik.

There are higher demands on circularity and residual streams. In bio-based industries there are also residual streams that must be taken care of and in Örnsköldsvik they are driving development.

– These are stakes that generate investment. What was previously burned can now be made into business and we can act as a catalyst to show that garbage does not exist today. Just look at Liquid Wind, which sets up its Flagship One with ship fuel extracted from the biogenic carbon dioxide from the combined heat and power plant in Örnsköldsvik," says Fredrik.

Cinis Fertilizer is another example which is expected to start production in Köpmanholmen, outside of Örnsköldsvik, next year. The world's most environmentally friendly artificial fertilizers will be extracted from biomass that will be useful in the production of food. The investment of about half a billion is expected to provide 50 jobs.

– North Sweden Cleantech's work in Örnsköldsvik has played an important role. We saw how Metsä Board Husum changed its production and that there could be residual streams. Through the project The climate-smart innovation site of the future, we have initiated a study that shows that there are large residual streams to take advantage of in the future and turn into concrete business benefits.

– Everyone who works in the projects feels that something is happening and it is liberating to find companies that have an idea and connect with a partner who makes you move forward. It will be a workshop in a double sense of that, says Fredrik.

The project, The Climate-smart Innovation Site of the Future is funded by EU's European Regional Development Fund, Region Västerbotten, Umeå municiaplity, Skellefteå municipality, Örnsköldsvik municipality, Skellefteå Kraft, Umeå Energi, Vakin, Bostaden and Umeå kommunföretag. Click here to read more about the project The Climate-smart Innovation Site of the Future!

Photo: Fredrik Larsson


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