Ieva Martinkenaite

Norwegian innovators with global minds for AI

How can tech-companies, seemingly different in size, experience and clout, be exchanging hands on how to strategically leverage emerging AI and IOT technologies all around the world?  In London, ranked as second most connected place for tech in the world, Norway’s tech accelerator have scale ups connecting with corporatesAnd the latter do have a clear strategy on collaborating with scale ups. 

Innovation Norway’s Tech city Executive Accelerator, TEA, is set up in London. TEA have twin goals to empower ambitious Norwegian tech executives to grow faster and to build new capabilities for performance. Equinor, DNB, and Telenor are all corporates participating and supporting TEA at one of Europe’s largest tech incubators, Level39. They are all companies with international presence and access to inhouse research and development.  

What value do they find in teaming up with companies just a fraction of their own size focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial Internet of Things (IoT)? Quite a lot, it seems. 

Digital natives with global mindsets 

– We probably have more to learn from startups and scaleups than they can learn from us, Ieva Martinkenaite states. She is Vice president of Telenor’s AI and IoT initiatives, and representative of an industry that is redefining its future. Understanding both tech- and business models built by digital natives is an investment in the future. To keep up with the change, a large and successful company like Telenor has to continuously learn, challenge itself and innovate. Telenor try to do this through interacting with a pool of talented startups and scaleups. 

The most promising scaleups have global mindsets, which reconciles with Telenor’s philosophy on being a global company. In a world where boundaries between markets and industries are blurrier than ever, it is increasingly important to explore the startup ecosystem.  

The telecom-industry is not the only one on the verge of being disrupted. Banking is another industry where new players are about to enter the pitch, aiming for their part of the banking business. Finance has traditionally been dependent on trust from users. But as we are getting more and more accustomed to using financial services provided by other than the traditional banks, the advantage these have had are likely to decrease and vanish. Traditional banks experience a sense of urgency. The time frame to do strategic positioning is here and now. 

Prove your concept 

DNB has redefined itself from being a bank into being a tech company with banking license. Change in customer behaviour, new technology, as well as regulatory changes are all drivers for change. Their success with VIPPS has proven they can build powerful game changers, and has nurtured the appetite for developing new services.  

We collaborate with other talented actors to spike our own innovation power within DNB. We use this strategically, both to solve defined problem statements, build new products and to improve internal processes, says Petter Lee-Johannessen, Head of Strategic Partnerships at DNB. An important motivation for joining the TEA-program is to get in touch with new companies which may boost their innovation-beat. 

DNB is among the most attractive companies in Norway to have as client or partner if you are in fintech. Even though there are many companies that might be of interest for DNB, it takes a bit to get in a position to work with the company. Those who come knocking at the door with merely an idea and a PowerPoint-presentation may spare their breath. A proof of concept is mandatory to be assessed, as they only work with those best fit to solve their needs. In a world full of entrepreneurs, it can be hard distinguishing the companies. By taking part in programs like TEA it is possible for DNB and other corporates to understand the potential in the various scale ups, as well as for the scale ups to understand what it takes to be in a partnership with a corporate. 

Co-innovating to bring new ideas 

A change in business- and operating model is also a priority in Equinor. Investing on autonomous platforms to reduce need for transport, introducing both security, sustainability and financial criteria in their optimization, is among their priorities. Renewable and sustainable technology will be hygiene factors in future business models. 

 We are always scouting for new solutions that might be useful. We have data and environments suitable for prototyping and testing, so let’s innovate together! Dr Ahmed Khamassi is Vice President of Data Science at Equinor and has built a team with a broad and various background. They are responsible for building an innovative ecosystem within Equinor to ensure broad perspectives when solving challenges. They look for mature startups beyond their own sector and natural environments. By co-innovating they hope to bring up new ideas and solutions they wouldn’t think of themselves.  

As all the corporates in the TEA-programme, Equinor is in dialogue with several of the scale ups.   

London among best places to interact 

The reason why TEA is taking part in London is not accidental. London is e.g. by DNB considered their most important international hub, and Telenor rates London among the best places to interact.  The city has one of the world’s best AI-ecosystems, with investors, technology, universities and research centers and labs available.   

However, with a global mind comes a global competition. The biggest challenge is access to talents, which can be both an advantage and a hinder for Norwegian companies. To excel in the global race Norwegian scale ups must have a vision they truly believe in and a proven business model. When you are in a scale up you have already tested your product, you have been through capital acquisition and already have some funding. These are necessary prerequisites to start.   

Everyone want to be at the place with access to the best knowledge, resources and customers. It is a no brainer that this can be found in London, concludes Ieva Martinkenaite from Telenor. 

Photo: Ieva Martinkenaite, Vice president of Telenor’s AI and IoT initiatives


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