Northern Denmark Northern Connections

Northern Connections is about unlocking the potential of Northern Denmark’s most important industries, clustered around Aalborg and near-by cities of Jammerbugt, Rebild and Vesthimmerland. Funded by Denmark’s Northern Region, the project aimed at building the inter-sectoral dynamics of clusters.

An overview of the project is outlined below and is taken from the Executive Summary of the Northern Denmark: Northern Connections Report (December 2009).

Executive Summary (Northern Connections report)

Northern Connections is a project that has delivered significant collaborations between companies.

The project began with our first company meetings in March 2009. The first public announcement came with local engineering company TRECO, which had fast tracked a research and development project with software engineering company Rose Technologies. This resulted in the release of the next generation prototype of an intelligent display system at the international Postal Expo in Hanover Germany in October this year. Through the Northern Connections project the business consultants of Aalborg Cooperation, with the support of funding by Vaeksthus Nordjylland, turn this joint venture into a reality (see below for further details – Case Study: Treco A/S)

Now imagine a local Aalborg software company partnering with one of the largest companies in the world to develop applications that will help to revolutionise the world of “info-tainment”. Imagine no more! These are just two of the fifteen local and global business networking and joint venture, research and development projects coming out of the Northern Connections pilot project.

Northern Connections is a project that demonstrates what can happen when local knowledge and stewardship provided by Aalborg Cooperation is put to work in a bottom up supply chain business and outcomes focused project. Northern Connections is a practical and hands-on project. Its aim is to develop actual new collaborations and joint ventures between companies that can create new business opportunities and, in the process, new jobs.

Results arising from this project will also enable companies and Aalborg Cooperation to create new tools that can be put to work in the development of collaborations and business ventures, leading to new investments and market opportunities.

Working with what you have

Northern Connections begins with a disarmingly simple proposition: “Work with what you have”. In the case of the Aalborg Cooperation, this means working not only with some of Denmark’s leading companies, but also with some that are global leaders in their particular field.

“Working with what you have” is about unlocking the vast energy, resources and creativity of the companies immediately around Aalborg. It is also about unlocking Aalborg’s history and industrial DNA! We too often forget that a “region’s industrial trajectory comes from the industry it already has”.

And what an extraordinary industrial history this region has. Let’s just take its ship building industry as an example. Its legacy has led to the creation of a new generation of industries across several sectors:

  • Turn-key engineering for the offshore oil and gas industry;
  • Software and engineering applications from artificial intelligence to providing smart systems that literally power up global energy and production projects;
  • Telecommunications and tracking applications across transport, storage and logistics industries right through to delivering with the speed and efficiency required in the postal system and in airports around the world; and
  • Smart building design, from IT systems to energy solutions.

  • These are knowledge intensive industries that form the backbone of some of the world’s fastest growing economies and underpin future growth and prosperity.

    Investing in the future

    Countries around the world see these sorts of industries as underpinning future competitive advantage. And for Aalborg Cooperation, what new opportunities and new industries will they, in turn, create in the decade ahead?

    Whilst we can try to predict what the future may hold, let’s not forget that much hard work still needs to be done today. Northern Connections, by creating new collaborations and focusing on specific opportunities between local companies and their suppliers and customers, can and does generate new business opportunities.

    Activating these new business opportunities directly leads to new investment. This, in turn, leads to an investment in new:

  • skills
  • technology
  • ideas and,
  • ultimately, markets

  • These investments, when taken together, have the capacity to propel Aalborg Cooperation to the forefront of the industries of the future.

    The case study below is a highlight of Northern Connections success in activating these new business opportunities and turning them into new investments. The case study shows the importance of these investments and how it can introduce companies and the region into new global markets and pursue opportunities beyond their shores.

    Case Study: Creating Business Networks - TRECO A/S

    Results of creating a new business network and product for the postal market – “Working from the bottom up”

    Rolling up our sleeves!

    I have participated as a consultant in the Northern Connections business networking and R&D process with TRECO A/S and another business consultant, Mogens Grøn of Rebild Erhvervskontor. I joined the process after the third meeting and immediately we had rolled sleeves up and were working hard at the task at hand.

    In the previous two meetings Genoff had explored the company’s vision, its strategic directions and collaborations that could unlock new business opportunities for the company. In fact, Genoff had, as he says, “opened the box” on the development of a next generation digital display unit for the postal market with one of TRECO’s IT and electronics partner companies; Rose Technologies. This was an exciting break through for TRECO and a great new business opportunity.

    Perfect timing – fast tracking the development of a prototype and getting to market

    I was quickly thrown in the deep end in the meeting with the two companies and Treco’s Sales Manager. In retrospect, the timing was perfect! The region had just introduced new funding for companies through the VITU program. This enabled us to fast track funding for the development of a prototype digital display system – or stage one of a R&D process.

    TRECO was the first company to receive a grant from this program. The work started in earnest with the aim of launching the prototype at the Post Expo 2009 in Hanover in October 2009.

    And then with a lot of hard work – the prototype was completed in time for the expo and to be exhibited to the company’s customers; from existing ones, to new ones.

    Putting business networks and collaborations to work – learning from the process

    The process developed through Northern Connections has been a very worthwhile one and a great learning experience for me.

    The bar was set high at all times with a solid focus on the development of business opportunities and on the actual business networking process.

    An essential part of this process was the focus on the company’s communication plan. For example, exploring opportunities to feature in local and national newspapers and industry magazines, and post-expo magazines. Our aim was to “tell a good story” about the product, the collaboration and joint venture between the two companies, the region and, most of all, TRECO itself.

    In conclusion, creating results from this project has been an exciting process. We will continue to build on Genoff’s approach. And in the process, we will adapt and tailor these learning’s to our own needs and how we engage with the companies we work with; while continuing to “raise the bar” even higher.

    (Written by Luise Linnemann Rasmussen, Manager, Business Link Centre, North Jutland, one of the members of the project team)

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