How are innovative scaleups such as the Nordic Scalers Alumni tackling Covid-19? In this article at NordicBaltic.Tech, a partnership between the Nordic Council of Ministers and PUBLIC Denmark, we spoke to Anna-Maija Sunnanmark, Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation.

Can you share a bit about Nordic Innovation: who are you, what do you do? Tell us a bit about your role and tasks at Nordic Innovation?

“Nordic Innovation is an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers. Nordic Innovation aims to make the Nordics a pioneering region for sustainable growth and works to promote entrepreneurship, innovation and competitiveness in Nordic business.

I am a Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation. I run Nordic Scalers initiative with my colleague Nina Egeli. Nordic Scalers helps Nordic scaleups to accelerate and manage their next stages of growth through access to new growth competences, skills, networks and capital. In total 33 scaleups from the five Nordic countries have participated in Nordic Scalers pilot initiative (2017 – 2019), with their revenues ranging from 2M€ to 18M€. The vision of the Nordic Scalers initiative is to make the Nordics the leading region in the world not only for starting up but also for scaling up businesses.

Currently we are planning the next phase of the Nordic Scalers initiative. More information on Nordic Scalers 2.0 will be announced in Autumn.”

In April, you released a new catalogue that showcases Nordic Digital Health Solutions tackling Covid-19. Can you describe some of the key insights?

“Ever since the global community received information about the onset of the COVID-19 virus, Nordic companies have tirelessly been developing innovative solutions to address threats and challenges posed by this new unwelcome enemy. Sometimes crises of this nature also bring forward new innovative solutions. A myriad of new digital solutions have been created in the Nordics that address the trials and tribulations posed by this virus, and some of them are already being used with great positive effects. At Nordic Innovation, we see it as our responsibility to share the knowledge of these solutions in our region and globally. With this in mind, we created a digital catalogue showcasing ten Nordic-made ready-to-use innovative solutions from Nordic companies that all can be utilised in the battle against COVID-19. We are delighted by the positive responses and to see new Nordic solutions being swiftly created and used for the benefit of the people and companies.

My colleagues Rasmus Malmborg and Thordur Reynisson who run the Health, Demography and Quality of Life program at Nordic Innovation are behind the catalogue.”

Have you seen other tech solutions or initiatives that help solve Covid-19-related issues? 

“Nordic Innovation’s programs and initiatives have made their own judgment on how to support Nordic businesses and organisations during and after Covid-19. For example, Nordic Innovation cooperates with the Nordic national trade promotion organisations to support the four Nordic Innovation Houses in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and Silicon Valley. Now in the face of Covid-19 challenges, Nordic Innovation has provided the Nordic Innovation Houses additional funding to make sure that current and potential members can continue to maintain and build international networks through Nordic Innovation Houses. My colleague Mikael von Dorrien is responsible for Nordic Innovation Houses inside our organisation. Similarly, our Nordic Smart Mobility and Connectivity program will showcase the nine Nordic Innovation mobility projects which have received our funding so far. My colleague Nina Egeli is responsible for that program.”

You have worked with Nordic growth companies, the so-called scaleups. How can scaleups work with you to solve Nordic challenges?

“There is an increased consensus that scaleups are important for countries’ value creation and maintaining the current standard of living and our welfare societies. Scaleups are rapidly expanding companies which account for an above-average proportion of the economic growth. Export orientation and innovation capabilities are significant distinguishing characteristics of scaleups, and they are more productive than their peers.

But growth should not be an end-goal in itself but rather as an instrument for the renewal of our economies and solving our societal challenges. It is important that our support do not focus solely on the company growth but also on how scaleups grow and how they create value.”

Scaleups – and the solutions they have to offer – may be under threat from the economic impact imposed by Covid-19. How do you see they are coping with these challenges? What kind of help do they need in the midst of Covid-19? 

“It is important to bear in mind that scaleups are not startups. Scaleups are companies growing from 10 to 5000 employees and beyond, having specific requirements for talent and skills, management and leadership, access to markets and customers and finance. That’s why any support needs to be tailor-made to the specific needs of scaleups.

We have carried out a survey to our Nordic Scalers alumni on how they are coping with the Covid-19 crisis. According to our survey, Nordic Scalers alumni need a similar kind of support which they needed before the Covid-19 crisis, meaning that the support they need is very company specific. They need support, for example, in relation to scaling sales and marketing, pricing, finding global talent, in business development, redefining strategy or acquiring other companies.

They also have similar Covid-19 related challenges as other companies do e.g. needing more friendly short-term credit and fast reopening due to Covid-19 or needing more exposure, especially in relation to fundraising. They may also need to develop new creative product launches with the very limited means they currently have available due to Covid-19.”

Tell us a little bit about Nordic Scalers Growth Solutions Covid-19 pamphlet.

“This pamphlet puts a spotlight on 10 of the Nordic Scalers Alumni each of whom have their own unique story to tell when it comes to scaling in the face of Covid-19. Together, these companies represent almost €50m in annual turnover, employ over 500 people, and project continued revenue growth in the coming 18-months at an average rate of +160%.

We hope that these scaleups become a source of inspiration for companies all throughout the Nordics both in terms of how they have been able to continue to grow despite the circumstances and how they have been able to renew their business models and find novel ways of operating and new partnerships despite the pandemic.

The pamphlet can be found here:”

10 companies of the Nordic Scalers Alumni: Kognity, Gigstr, Navaa, Whereby, Fishbrain, Zervant, Kaptio, Secomea, Nordic Unmanned, ViaBill.  

Further reading

Have a look at the evaluation which has been carried out on Nordic Scalers. The evaluation, together with the literature review published as a supplement to the evaluation, portrays a good picture on characteristics of scaleup companies, what kind of support they benefit most from and what makes a good scaleup program.

Contact information:

Anna-Maija Sunnanmark

Nina Egeli

Mikael von Dorrien

Rasmus Malmborg

Þórður Reynisson

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