What happened at Oslo Innovation Week 2020?

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Published by Oslo Business Region, 20 December 2020

With over 25.000 attendees, 87 sustainable solution events and 400 speakers, the first ever digital edition of Oslo Innovation Week took place 21-25 September 2020.

Since 2005, Oslo Innovation Week has brought together entrepreneurs, leaders, investors, innovation drivers, technology experts and creatives in the city of Oslo.

This year we wouldn’t be meeting physically in the city of Oslo. Covid-19 had hit and we had to think differently - the need to adapt and think creatively was more important than ever. Oslo Innovation Week is a dugnad, a collaboration - many events decided to postpone or cancel but we never considered that an option. We decided to go ahead, 100% digital and emphasise the need for our community to build; hence this year's theme: ‘It’s time to build’: highlighting the people and processes that need to place for innovation to happen.

Going digital provided opportunity. We saw a doubling in attendees, more international participation than ever before with other 50 countries participating (45% international attendees) and a record number of event organisers (157) putting 46% female speakers and 30% startups on stage.

There were many highlights during the week - too many to mention in a short article but here are a select few:

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Day 1 was the day of Circular Economy and our studio guests for the day, ICT Norway taking residence in the old library, downtown Oslo. They curated three sessions focussed on challenges and ambitions connected to new circular economy strategies, the digital circular economy and C40 circular economies.

Day 1 would not have been complete without an official opening. We were lucky enough to be joined by Victoria Marie Evensen, Vice Mayor of Business Development and Public Ownership from the City of Oslo, and Håkon Haugli, CEO of Innovation Norway who discussed opportunities in Oslo for startups, founders and investors. We then brought two international guests to our screens; firstly, Mette Lykke, CEO of Too Good To Go. Mette discussed together with our host Kristine Koslung how they have grown as a company, what mistakes they made and how they plan to grow even further into a sustainable global force. To finish, the award winning author of Loonshots, Safi Bahcall held a keynote from his home office in the US. Safi talked about how to nurture crazy ideas, transforming industries and the skill needed to accept failure and learn from it.

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The day began with DNB NXT 100 Pitches entry round. A record-breaking 329 startups applied from over 50 countries. The startups competed in 5 tracks: Ocean - supported by DNB Bergen, Health - supported by Norway Health Tech, Energy - supported by Techstars Energy, Equality - supported by Plan Norge, and Smart Cities - supported by U4SCC. The top 15 companies in each track presented their solution live from OIW studio presented by our 100 pitches host, Bjørn Lapakko from Startup Norway.

In addition, our studio partner, Energy Valley produced three sessions on green tech together with 10’s of industry partners, there were many interesting events including Epicenter looking at how larger organisations can become startup ready and Patentstyret at how to build and grow your company.

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The global pandemic has resulted in us thinking more than ever about health innovation which made the collaboration with Norway Health Tech particularly important. Norway Health Tech gathered health innovators from around the globe to discuss Covid-19, the value of health data and the growing increase in Norwegian health innovation going global.

Norway Health Tech’s involvement didn’t end there as they also judged one of the five OIW 100 pitches final tracks held on Wednesday afternoon. The competition was fierce but the jury managed to whittle the 329 applications to the 5 winners; Citispotter (UK), Bulbitech AS (NO), Metapod (NO), AC Biode (LU) and Material Mapper (NO).

Wednesday also included one of the most seen events of the week hosted by the Finnish Embassy, ‘Wood is the new plastic’.

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Accelerating Growth was the subject of the day in the OIW Studio with our partners Antler hosting three sessions including a masterclass on what investors want with Andreas Birnik, a conversation with Kahoot! CEO Eilert Hanoa on whether Norway can build unicorns and finally a deep dive into how startups and corporates can partner for success.

In addition to Antler, OIW Scaleup Workshop took place; this year's topic was scaling ocean and energy technologies. We invited investors, entrepreneurs and resourceful people to join the workshop alongside our partners, BI and Argentum.

Outside of the studio, PWN launched an exclusive podcast series for OIW on women in tech, highlighting the impressive stories of women from around the world who have succeeded in building up themselves and their industries.

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With 25.000 attendees tuning in over the week, the attention was on our final studio partner: Cisco. The tech company curated three sessions on the ever relevant topic of Future of Work. Cisco played a key role in the first ever digital OIW helping provide hardware and software allowing for speakers and attendees to participate in OIW from around the world.

OIW 2020 was wrapped up in perfect fashion with the Oslo Innovation Award. The award aims to highlight purpose driven companies leveraging technology and venture capital to create scalable and sustainable businesses. This year's award went to No Isolation, a Norweigan startup founded in 2015 whose mission is to reduce involuntary loneliness and social isolation by developing communication tools that help those affected.

Thank you to everybody who took part. Oslo Innovation Week doesn’t happen without you. We look forward to welcoming you all back to Oslo Innovation Week 27-30 September 2021

If you missed out on any of the OIW studio action then catch up here: