Is Oslo the next business hub of Europe?

Laura Mullan
- Leadership - Oct 05, 2018

A powerful economy, rapid industrial growth, and a booming talent pool — the Norwegian capital Oslo has it all, as Business Chief found out...

Earning the title of Europe’s fastest-growing capital, Oslo has positioned itself as an attractive location for firms, investors and talent alike.

The Norwegian capital’s gross domestic product (GDP) was worth $398.8bn in 2017, one of the highest in Europe, with crude oil, fresh fish and aluminium being some of the country’s top exports. Known for its robust political, social and economic environment, IFC and World Bank named Norway as the sixth ‘easiest place to do business in Europe’ in 2015. Looking forward, the future looks bright for Oslo, but how has the capital achieved this stellar reputation?

Modern Oslo: A business hub

The Norwegian capital has proven itself to be a major player in Europe’s business scene. Oslo’s rapidly growing metropolitan area has a population of 1.71mn with a growth rate exceeding 2% in recent years, according to Statistics Norway.

Not only is the population booming, it is also talented, highly educated, and young — with the 25-35-year-old age group predicted to grow by 40% over the next decade, according to Oslo Business Region. Topping the United Nation’s World Happiness report, the Nordic country is also praised for being ‘the happiest place on earth’, which has helped it retain a large recruitment base of highly-skilled employees. As a result, the Scandinavian capital is also credited as being the world’s fourth best city for talent by the Global Talent Competitive Index. 

Oslo’s startup scene may spend less time in the limelight than some of its Nordic cousins, but this is changing fast. In the past year, the Norwegian capital has seen a 160% uptick in startup investments according to Oslo's State of the City report – the second biggest jump in the Nordic region behind Sweden, which rose 171%.

With the highest wealth per capita, Norway is also one of the richest countries in the world so there’s no shortage of money for investment.  Last year, there were 78 investments in Norwegian tech companies, racking up total funding of $100 million, according to the 2017 State of the City report. The research firm, Nordic Web, also found that approximately 15% of the city’s tech investments were focused on sustainability - the highest among all the Nordic countries and indicative of the nation’s efforts to become greener. The Norwegian Government is also doubled down on its efforts to support startups by offering tax incentives to foreign investors. On top of this, it also provides start-up grants and funds to firms who want to set up business in the country.

Located on the tip of Oslofjord, which leads to the North and Baltic Seas, Oslo always has always had close business ties with the sea. It’s estimated that approximately 60 ships use the city's port every day and it handles 125,000 containers annually. The city is also home to the world's largest ship and offshore classification society DNV GL.

From ‘liquid gold’ to green energy

Norway produces a lot of renewable energy — 97% of the electricity that’s generated in the country is renewable, namely hydropower, says Innovation Norway. Yet, when it comes to the country’s exports, petrochemicals are undoubtedly still king. Norway is a nation built on oil and gas - the country is, in fact, the third largest exporter of gas and the eighth-largest exporter of oil in the world. However, as Oslo moves forward it is looking to forge a greener future.

Surrounded by the Nordmarka forest, a nationally protected area, as well as the Oslofjord, Oslo is a remarkably green city — and it has taken a number of environmental measures to protect this. Looking forward, the city plans to cut its emissions by 50% by 2020 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. To achieve this, the city has promoted zero emissions transport and has become the ‘electric vehicle capital of the world’ with 30% of all vehicles sold in the city now being electric. Thanks to these efforts, Oslo has been named the European Green Capital for 2019 by the European Commission.

Norway’s renewable energy sector is big business, comprised of approximately 2,000 companies, 50,000 employees, and a revenue of NOK200bn ($23.8bn). Similarly, it is also a frontrunner when it comes to the maritime sector. As the Nordic nation pushes ahead with technological innovation and sustainable thinking, it has continuously made waves in the maritime landscape. In fact, 95% of the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) propelled vessels ever built were Norwegian and, just two years ago, AMPER, the world’s first electric car and passenger ferry powered by batteries, also began service in the country. As a result, the country’s maritime sector is one of its most important industries, employing more than 110,000 people.

Big business in Oslo:

Renowned industry giants, Statkraft and Norsk Hydro, have both chosen to position their headquarters in the bustling city of Oslo.

Statkraft:

One of Europe’s largest generators of renewable energy, Statkratf, is headquartered in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. Employing 3500 people in 16 countries, Statkraft produces hydropower, wind power, solar power, gas-fired power and it also supplies district heating. In 2017, the group’s gross sales amounted to NOK69bn (US$8.2bn). Fully owned by the Norwegian state, Statkraft Group is Norway’s largest and the Nordic region’s second-largest energy producer. Christian Rynning-Tønnesen has been President and CEO at Statkraft for the past eight years.

Norsk Hydro ASA:

Headquartered in Oslo, Norsk Hydro ASA (commonly referred to as ‘Hydro’) is a fully integrated aluminium company with approximately 35,000 employees in 40 countries. Founded over a century ago, the firm operates in six key market segments: bauxite and alumina, primary metal, metal markets, rolled products, extruded solutions, and energy. The company’s current president and CEO is Svein Richard Brandtzæg and, in 2017, the Norwegian firm reported revenue of NOK109.2bn ($12.95bn).

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