Developing the industrial park of the future16 December, 2015 14:01 Del Del Del
– An exciting and visionary partner
This is how Maiken Bjørkan, a researcher with the Nordland Research Institute, describes the partnership with Mo Industripark AS (MIP AS) and companies at the industrial park.
“The Nordland Research Institute has broad, interdisciplinary specialist expertise relevant to business as a basis for contributions to MIP AS and resource-based industries that are important to development in both the Rana region and throughout Nordland,” says Bjørkan.
Maiken Bjørkan, who grew up in Rana, began working as a researcher for the Nordland Research Institute on 1 September this year. With her office in Mo, Bjørkan became the first researcher from the institute to be based in Helgeland.
“The Nordland Research Institute will grow in future. We are hoping to take on more staff in Mo, and we want to assist with skills development in the region,” says Bjørkan, who majored in social anthropology, holds a Masters degree in international fishery administration and a doctorate from the Norwegian College of Fishery Science and has several years of research experience.
The green shift
The Nordland Research Institute is organised into three groups: welfare, industry and the environment. Industry and the environment are of particular relevance to Mo Industripark AS and its emphasis on green development.
“For us, MIP AS is an extremely exciting partner for our green shift initiative. With flexible visions and a forward-looking approach, a lot is happening – and will continue to happen. We are already working together on a number of projects, and we are on the hunt for new topics that may be of relevance to the industrial environment.
The green shift is a highly relevant topic; not just for the Nordland Research Institute, but also for researchers from all over the world. This focuses on sustainable development of nature-based industries.
“Industry faces a number of challenges in respect of sustainability, pollution, emissions and use of space. There is major emphasis nowadays on how we should combine green growth, regional development and area planning, both nationally and internationally. At the Nordland Research Institute in general and the environmental team in particular, we are involved in looking at how we can bring about sustainable development of nature-based industries. We ask questions such as how can we bring about green growth, and what does the green shift actually mean? We are also researching recycling, emissions and development in industry, with particular emphasis on barriers to and opportunities for sustainable growth,” says Maiken Bjørkan, who points out a lack of communication between companies and authorities as an example of a barrier of this kind.
“The world is currently facing important challenges linked with climate and resource administration in particular. While we want to see general growth, we have to reduce waste and emissions and develop more eco-friendly technologies and energy sources. The Nordland Research Institute wants to be part of the solutions, and we are researching development and growth in combination with financial, social and ecological sustainability – green innovation,” says Bjørkan.
The industry team at the Nordland Research Institute assists by providing expertise in the fields of innovation, reorganisation and smart specialisation strategies.
“The industry team has been working with production organisation and reorganisation for MIP AS and other industrial sites and regions for many years. This provides us with a perspective from which we can work with today’s problems and opportunities,” says Bjørkan.
One specific project in this respect is MIP Recycling, which involves a partnership between MIP AS and the Nordland Research Institute.
“MIP AS owns the project, and lots of people are involved in it. Inkubator Helgeland is the project manager, and together we have carried out a series of interviews among the biggest of the companies, including Rana Gruber, and gathered data on product and energy flow at the industrial park. This has been incredibly exciting and informative for all of us, and we think this may form a foundation for many future projects,” says Bjørkan, who feels that the sustainability project is a good example of how natural science research and social science research can complement one another.
“As social scientists, we are trained to carry out interviews methodically and we enjoy carrying out research into more general issues such as organisation, trust and innovation processes. Natural scientists are, by their nature, more “nearsighted” in their approach and typically have expertise on the products themselves,” explains Bjørkan.
Dominant in the north
The Nordland Research Institute is working directly with stakeholders such as MIP AS on a number of projects. It has indirect links in other contexts, such as when working with an innovation strategy for Nordland County Council. In this respect, the Nordland Research Institute has recently been awarded a follow-up research project for the introduction of smart specialisation in Nordland, which is a considerable project extending over four years.
“In this respect, we have established a foundation for closer communication with the MIP environment as the dominant industrial environment in the north. In particular, we are working towards greater resource efficiency and more organic, sustainable resource flow that also meets the need for area development and coexistence with development of the region. We have also applied to the Research Council of Norway for funding on this theme. The Nordland Research Institute is the project manager for this, and we have put together a team of experts,” says Bjørkan, listing the Norwegian University of Science and Technology from Trondheim, SINTEF Energi in Oslo, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Kalundborg Symbiosis Park in Denmark and their expertise on the circular economy.
“The main emphasis here is on the industrial park and Mo, and MIP AS is involved in a number of ways,” says Bjørkan, who emphasises that this project is still undergoing evaluation and faces tough competition from many other projects when it comes to grants and funding.
The Nordland Research Institute does not just work with local partners. Bjørkan refers to Interreg projects involving transboundary networks, where the Nordland Research Institute has partners in Europe and in Nordkalotten, with experience which may benefit MIP AS.
“This relates to how interaction is organised between research, education and industry by developing local joint arenas such as Campus Helgeland. The industrial environment can take on board relevant expertise in this respect, and MIP AS can gain access to research and development stakeholders such as the Nordland Research Institute and other R&D stakeholders and form a foundation for a more relevant R&D presence and support.
“We also work in partnership with the technological and social sciences research environment at SINTEF/the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, as well as the Industrial Business Development Centre. These environments complement one another and also offer greater, more relevant research support for the development of Mo Industrial Park and the industrial environment in general,” says Maiken Bjørkan of the Nordland Research Institute.
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