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Telenor collaborates with Norwegian education providers on digitisation

Educational institutions in Norway are working with telecoms supplier Telenor to help businesses better understand technology

Telenor is collaborating with leading educational institutions to strengthen the telecoms provider’s position as a significant player within the digital technologies realm in Norway.

Telenor, Norway’s largest telecommunications group, joins the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in the collaboration.

Trondheim-based NTNU is Norway’s largest public research university, with campuses in Gjøvik and Ålesund. The Bergen-headquartered NHH is Norway’s leading business school, and part of a global network of business schools and universities.

The initiative aims to combine knowledge to propel growth and develop new industries within the digital domain. As part of this, an Open Collaboration Arena (OCA) for digital transformation and innovation has been launched at the NHH’s campus in Bergen. The OCA’s mission is to develop advanced competencies in the primary focus areas of technology transformation, digital innovation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Telenor plans to use its collaboration with the NHH and the NTNU to drive the pace and success of Norway’s efforts in the digitisation sphere, according to Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke.

“Small countries like Norway need to assert themselves internationally. To achieve this, the top domestic players need to share and collaborate,” he said.

The OCA model offers a platform to enable Telenor, NHH and the NTNU to more evenly share the knowledge and expertise amassed by large companies to help the commercialisation of technology, said Brekke.

“Small countries like Norway need to assert themselves internationally. To achieve this, the top domestic players need to share and collaborate”
Sigve Brekke, Telenor

“The objective is to build a national powerhouse for digital transformation. Our ambition is to help facilitate accelerated and sustainable digitisation of Norwegian business and industries,” he said.

OCA’s knowledge-sharing value is reflected in the Bergen centre’s ambitious array of offerings to partner and client users, such as public institutions, private companies, entrepreneurs, students and academia. The dominant focus will be driving research related to technology-driven innovation, digital transformation and behavioural economics.

Engagement between a large number of researchers and PhD candidates will expand the scope of the OCA’s research and development digital-directed specialisations. It will also develop a network of partners through close business collaborations outside of the NHH, NTNU and Telenor cooperation loop.

The prospect of attracting new corporate partners is enhanced by the OCA platform’s cooperative arrangement with the Norwegian Open AI Lab, which was co-founded by  Telenor, the NTNU and the Trondheim-located independent research organisation Sintef in 2016. The partner list now includes DNB Bank, Equinor, DNV-GL and Kongsberg.

Growing AI knowledge

The Norwegian Open AI Lab’s expanding role is taking place against a backdrop where Norwegian companies continue to scale up their investments and expertise in AI.

Norwegian companies are becoming increasingly aware of the critical importance to “fill competence gaps” in their understanding of AI and its potential value to their businesses, said Kenneth Fjell, the NHH’s deputy head of research.

“Business people need to understand more about technology, while technologists need to understand more about the commercial and societal implications of AI. We expect to encourage more Norwegian companies to engage and learn with us, laying the foundation for improved digital competition power and further industrial development,” said Fjell.

“Business people need to understand more about technology, while technologists need to understand more about the commercial and societal implications of AI”
Kenneth Fjell, NHH

The three collaborative partners are a perfect fit to grow the OCA and the digital AI knowledge project, said Torbjørn Svendsen, director of NTNU Digital.

“Telenor uses AI in its business areas. At NTNU, we develop AI, while the NHH’s specialisation is to put AI into a business context,” said Svendsen.

Telenor has visibly increased its capital and non-equity engagement with Norwegian tech companies active on the digital and AI innovation and technology development spectrums since 2016.

The telco formed a partnership initiative with Trondheim-based IoT ProtoLab in 2017. IoT ProtoLab, which launched in 2018, was established as a powerhouse centre of excellence to build internet of things (IoT) innovation and competencies to bolster Norwegian competitiveness. The IoT ProtoLab is open to startups, developers and academia that are looking to fast-track prototype originations and develop IoT products and services for the domestic and international marketplaces. 

“Norway needs more companies, both established enterprises and startups, that can succeed based on their digital competitiveness,” said Brekke. “We are facing the perfect storm of technologies: IoT, new network technologies like 5G and AI are coming together and accelerating digitisation. We need cutting-edge expertise to enable us to exploit the opportunities that are being created by this development. This is about Norway’s role as a digital leader.”

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