The End of an Era for Director Frode Mellemvik at the High North Center

Frode Mellemvik, direktør Nordområdesenteret

Frode Mellemvik is the Director of the High North Center and Professor at the Nord University Business School. Mellemvik has previously been the dean of the Business School and principal at the Bodø University College. He was central in the establishment of the High North Center and for Nordland to gain its own university in 2011. (Photo: Hogne Bø Pettersen/the High North Center)

This month, Frode Mellemvik (70) steps down as Director of the High North Center after 17 years. The search has now begun for someone to take the wheel. His time at the center has offered many opportunities but also demanding developments, says Mellemvik.

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This month, Director and Professor Frode Mellemvik (70) steps down as the leader of the High North Center for Business and Governance at Nord University after 17 years on the job. Thus, an era is over for the engaged and ambitious director, regarded by many as a pioneer within High North cooperation.

"Leading the High North Center has been very exciting. This is one of the most interesting workplaces, in my opinion. So much is happening!" says Mellemvik in his usual enthusiastic manner in an interview with High North News.

Now, the search has begun for a new leader of the international center, which Nord University describes as one of the region's most exciting research, education, and dissemination centers. The application deadline is set for June 20th.

The new leader will take the center forward at a time when interest in the Arctic and the High North is increasing, and new opportunities and challenges come into play.

"The security policy dimension is becoming increasingly more significant in the North. And although we are not specifically working on this, we are concerned with how security policy affects business and the societal development in the High North," says Mellemvik.

Director Frode Mellemvik says the High North Center's roots stretch all the way back to 1991. At the time, Mellemvik was the dean of the Business School in Bodø and was tasked by the Nordland County Council to help develop cooperation with educational institutions in Russia, mainly in St. Petersburg. Several major Norwegian business actors and public authorities helped contribute to the establishment of the High North Center. (Photo: the High North Center)

Seize the opportunities

Mellemvik believes that whoever takes over will have a fascinating job in following the development, and he elaborates on how one must seize opportunities as the leader of the High North Center:

"In economy, we talk about 'the window in the market.' That is, when there is an open window in the market, one must be there. Being close to the relevant actors and understanding how things develop is important. And when changes come, it is important that we understand what this will entail for the business sector in the North and what opportunities can be created," he says.

The High North Center

The High North Center for Business and Governance is an international center at the Nord University Business School in Bodø, Northern Norway. 

 The Center aims to contribute knowledge about value creation in the High North through research, education, and dissemination.

The High North Center has developed a close and committed cooperation with institutions in many countries.

The High North Center receives basic funding from the state budget in addition to financing via a variety of large projects.

The Center hosts the independent online newspaper High North News, which features daily news and analyses from the High North.

The Center organizes the annual international conference, High North Dialogue.

The Center has an international professional environment consisting of 19 people in main positions and several affiliated researchers.

The focus on Russia

The period from the center's start to now has been characterized by major changes, providing opportunities and challenges.

Mellemvik was central in the establishment of the High North Center, which was formally opened in Bodø in 2007 by then MFA Jonas Gahr Støre. The establishment took place at the same time as the High North moved further and further up on the national agenda.

Throughout the 2000s, High North white papers and strategies were launched, and the focus on the High North started to take form. Russia, oil and gas operations in the Barents Sea, mineral operations, and fisheries were central.

"We entered at a time of strong development. The center aimed to develop and disseminate knowledge about the business sector and society's opportunities in the High North."

Frode Mellemvik during then MFA Jonas Gahr Støre's visit to Bodø and what was the University of Nordland in 2011. Støre presented the High North whitepaper together with the then Minister of Transport Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, Minister of Education and Research. Tora Aasland, and Minister of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen. (Photo: Bjørn Erik Olsen / the High North Center UiN).

Mellemvik says the focus on the North continued to increase, describing the relation to Russia and the opportunities for business activities and cooperation across borders as being highly interesting at the time.

"Then changes came in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula and complicated the work. And now the cooperation has been put on hold. Since we have worked so closely with our neighbor in the east, it is naturally demanding. At the same time, we also see openings. Among other things, we have developed a strong cooperation with the US, including the University of Alaska Anchorage and with Harvard University in Massachusetts."

Mellemvik also points out the center's relationship with Ukraine. The High North Center has long cooperated with Ukrainian organizations on the retraining of Ukrainian officers and has developed cooperation with several Ukrainian universities.

"The cooperation with Ukraine and the focus on the business dimension between Norway and Ukraine is very important to us."

Several major milestones

What stood out during your time as the leader of the High North Center?

"The establishment of the center in 2007, which was driven forward by public authorities and businesses, is a major milestone in itself."

At this time, Mellemvik went from being rector of what was then the Bodø University College to becoming director. He says the center's vision was to become a pillar. Today, the High North Center is considered an important part of the university's High North profile.

"Not many such centers receive their funding through a parliament decision. The government on both sides of the political spectrum has supported this and allocated funding. The basic fundings we have received have also been major milestones, as they are the foundation of much of what we have, and it has made us more solid," he continues.

The director also emphasizes the establishment of High North News as a major event. This year, the independent international newspaper will be ten years old, and the editorial staff has been based at the High North Center since its inception. 

"Being quick to inform about what is happening in the High North and that people can read about this in a high-quality newspaper has meant a lot. Few newspapers have the High North as their focus area and I consider it a major milestone that we were able to build this communication pillar."

"In addition, every project we have had, every High North Dialogue, and examinations of people connected to the center are major events," says Mellemvik.

Hanne Solheim Hansen, Ida Pinnerød, Jonas Gahr Støre, Frode Mellemvik møter HND Acadamy

Rector at Nord University Hanne Solheim Hansen, the then mayor of Bodø, Ida Pinnerød (Labor), PM Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor), and Director of the High North Center, Frode Mellemvik, greets the student of the High North Dialogue Academy during the High North Dialogue conference in Bodø, Northern Norway, in April 2023. (Photo: Trine Jonassen).

Look towards the USA, Asia, and the EU

What do you think will be important for the center going forward?

"It will be very important for the center to land large and good research projects and for the center to continue to develop relevant expertise. The relationship with the EU will also be significant. So will the cooperation with the US and the Nordic countries. In addition, we have also turned our attention to Asia, where India, among others, is showing increasing interest in the High North."

Mellemvik says the new leader should naturally focus on the center's three main areas: research, education, and communication. However, he also clarifies that the role holds great potential.

"An important task is to interpret what is important to the business sector and society in the North and where it will be important for the center to make an effort. This way, new opportunities can be created. The new person will probably be very happy doing this," he says enthusiastically.

Please note that High North News is an independent online newspaper published by the High North Center at Nord University.

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