Arctic entrepreneurship for sustainable growth

Although challenged by demographic development and climate change, there are vast opportunities for sustainable development in the Arctic. Projects funded under the prosperity heading promote innovation, entrepreneurship and local business development in relevant sectors, such as food and tourism. They also explore the benefits of digitalisation, especially for remote communities.

The legacies of mining in the Arctic

Mining is one of the major industries in the Arctic and has had significant importance for the establishment of entire settlements and infrastructure. However, due to lower prices, reduced demand and climate concerns, many of the mines have been closed or suspended.

Sustainable communities and the legacies of mining has explored the ways in which post-industrial mining communities deal with their legacy and the physical remains from the mining activities. Three sites have been studied: Kiruna, where mining is still ongoing, an abandoned coal-mining settlement in Qullissat in Greenland, and mining towns in Svalbard.

“In Kiruna, old mining sites, buildings and infrastructure have been redefined as cultural heritage, making them an important resource for tourism development,” says project manager Dag Avango of KTH Royal Institute of Technology.  The mining communities in Svalbard are exploring similar opportunities. “We can conclude that it’s quite possible to transform the legacy of abandoned mining towns into something useful for the future.”

New generation of entrepreneurs

The last heading of the programme is the partnership category, that is both cross-cutting but also contains projects supported on that basis alone, as the project described below.

Supported by the Nordic Arctic Cooperation Programme, four universities in US, Greenland, Faroe Islands and Denmark have joined forces to develop a competency building in innovation and entrepreneurship for Arctic students. The project is called Educating Arctic entrepreneurs – The next generation of sustainable pioneers.

“It’s well documented that millennial students in higher education are highly motivated to engage in meaningful change processes,” says Sune Nordentoft Lauritsen, Senior Adviser of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Technical University of Denmark.

The objective is to develop capacity for entrepreneurial ventures in the Arctic, not only in commercial start-ups but also in non-profit social enterprises, municipalities and public organisations. Hands-on experience is an important aspect of the programme – making real-life observations, identifying problems and developing sustainable solutions.

“To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need two sets of competences,” says Lauritsen. “You need the mainstream entrepreneurial skills, and then you need to believe in your ability to change the world, even in the face of opposition. One of our most important tasks is to instil such an entrepreneurial mindset in our students.”


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