Op-ed: High North Growth Requires New Knowledge, International Cooperation and Dialogue
The High North abounds in resources that may provide the basis for enormous wealth creation. However, we need new knowledge in order to profit from this potential. Such knowledge would be relevant to all Arctic nations as well as many others. How can we develop it?
The High North may solve global challenges
By 2050, the increase in the global population will lead to a need for 60 percent more food than what the world currently produces. We will need 50 to 100 percent more energy. This represents a huge global challenge that the resources in the High North may help solving. The Norwegian government’s High North Strategy, entitled ‘Between Geopolitics and Societal Development’, signalizes that the High North is important both in a global as well as a local context. International cooperation and knowledge are two out of five pillars of this strategy. The challenge is how to create the knowledge development and the important international cooperation required.
International cooperation is decisive for developing the knowledge required
At Nord University, we work targeted to contribute to relevant knowledge as well as with stimulating international cooperation. We build joint education programs with universities in other Arctic nations. For instance, we have extensive cooperation with Russia, in particular when it comes to business and social sciences. Some of this work is about to be extended to also include Chinese universities, a.o. through a joint master’s program with recognized universities in Moscow and Shanghai. The theme of this programme is ‘International Business and Governance’, which is highly topical for anyone concerned with societal and business development in the Arctic.
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Cooperation across disciplines and borders
We need multi-disciplinary and internationally oriented research. Such research is demanding and not easy to fund. One example of such research is the ‘Scenarios for Petroleum Development in the Barents Sea’ project, a Norwegian-Russian project involving researchers from natural sciences, technology, politics and economy. The project was demanding, in particular because Norwegian and Russian research tradition are rather dissimilar. Nor are approaches to natural sciences and social sciences the same. The researchers succeeded with the project through making an integration model in which the various perspectives and traditions met.
We need to feel the pulse of the High North
In order to develop the knowledge required, we must know exactly what the current situation is. We need to assess what goes on in the Arctic, in particular in its regions. We have developed our very own ‘Business Index North’, the intent of qhich is exactly this; knowing what goes on in the Arctic regions.
So far, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia are involved. We are currently working on bringing Canada, the USA, Greenland and Iceland on board. During the current High North Dialogue conference in Bodø, Norway, we are presenting the 2018 Business Index North. At this important conference dialogue, we discuss how to ensure sustainable growth in the High North. The challenges are significant and the potential is enormous.
Even though there is a lot going on, there is nevertheless a significant need for strengthening internationally oriented research cooperation in the Arctic. Our worry is that the challenges and opportunities for sustainable growth – and the mechanisms to make it happen – are almost exclusively seen through the eyes of natural sciences.
Need to stress knowledge of society and business
A University of the Arctic report about Arctic research trends showed that research on the High North by and large is based on natural sciences. There is little social science research. Future research related to the High North must provide a bigger image, and we need interdisciplinary knowledge development.
We need knowledge of how to increase the number of innovators and innovation in the Arctic. we need knowledge about how to provide the capital required for investments in the High North, and about how Arctic regions can cooperate to a higher extent to create a sustainable development in the High North. We need knowledge of what it takes for products arising from the High North to get access to markets, in particular in the current days of increased protectionism and trade barriers.
The resources that are to secure future wealth and welfare for Norway as a nation while also contributing to facing global challenges when it comes to life necessity resources, lie in the High North. We therefor need strong international professional communities that can develop the knowledge we need to realize these values. At Nord University, we are prepared to take our share of the responsibility for making this happen.