2.1   Innovation ecosystem

Performance

Summary

Despite the shock of the pandemic, over the past year Oslo has continued to evolve its innovation and start-up ecosystem. The region continues to build its number of home-grown tech firms faster than others and there is growing evidence to suggest that these firms now also have access to more early stage funding. New data also shows that the Covid-19 pandemic has helped to spur growth and recognition in many of Oslo’s emerging specialisations in future industries, for example EdTech (e.g. Kahoot!), FinTech (e.g. Monner, Zwipe), and MedTech (e.g. via UiO’s SPARK programme).

However, there is still much more to do for Oslo to translate its innovation promise into more high value jobs and inventions. More focus is required to scale and finance innovative firms to become globally influential players, relative to other city regions.  Oslo is also not yet as recognised for its track record of publishing high impact scientific publications and patent applications.

Highlights

Performance

  • Fast growing ecosystem. In 2020-2021, the Oslo had the 4th highest year-on-year growth in the number of local tech-enabled firm HQs among 29 peers.14
  • Promising ecosystem size. Oslo’s all-round innovation ecosystem value of $2.6bn puts it 11th among its 25 ‘emerging ecosystem’ peers, or 9th relative to size.15
  • Specialisms in future-proof industries. Oslo is in the top 25% of its peer group for relative innovation specialisation in Clean and GreenTech, DeepTech and Disruptive Technologies, and FinTech and Financial Services. Oslo’s specialisation in BioTech, Pharma and Life Sciences is also growing.16
  • Fewer high-value success stories. Relative to its size, Oslo is 12th among its 25 ‘emerging ecosystem’ peers for the number of high-value innovation exits.17
  • Fewer globally disruptive tech firms. Oslo ranks 19th among 29 peers for the number of globally influential tech firms.18
  • Less visible track record of commercialising research. Oslo was not recognised in a global study of the top 115 innovation clusters for scientific publications and patent applications.19
  • Fewer venture capital investments. In 2020, Oslo was 9th among 10 European peers for the amount of VC invested compared to population size.20
Despite the shock of the pandemic, Oslo’s
cadre of high-innovation firms has grown rapidly

Figure 6: Year-on-year growth in the number of high-innovation firm HQs, Oslo and European peers

Source: Crunchbase (December 2019 to December 2020). *Small cities refers to regions with metropolitan populations of less than 2m.

Oslo’s ecosystem has great promise, but needs a consistent track record of scaling companies

Figure 7: Ecosystem value and high-value innovative firm exits per 100,000 people, Oslo and selected peers

Source: Global Startup Ecosystem Report.

Oslo is the 27th most trusted among European start-up founders and entrepreneurs, among 75 European start-up hubs.

The race for start-ups is heating up. Oslo remains outside the global top 100 for the size, scale and growth trajectory of its start-up ecosystem, despite having improved by 14 places since last year.

Highlights

Perception

  • Emerging fintech ecosystem. In 2020, Oslo gained enough assessments among global fintech experts to be included in the major study of promising fintech clusters.21 Oslo has the 8th most highly regarded fintech ecosystem among all featured smaller regions.22
  • Trusted start-up hub. Oslo is the 27th most trusted among European start-up founders and entrepreneurs, among 75 European start-up hubs.
Oslo’s innovation ecosystem is becoming
more specialised in future-proof industries

Figure 8: Oslo’s innovative firms by industry (word cloud) and specialisation in select industries relative to peers (table).

Specialisation
% of local tech-enabled firm HQs - Oslo
% of local tech-enabled firm HQs (peer regions
Rank among 29 peer regions
CleanTech and GreenTech
2.1%
1.6%
5th
DeepTech and Disruptive Technologies
6.2%
5.5%
5th
FinTech and Financial Services
7.4%
6.2%
7th
BioTech, Pharma and Life Sciences
1.7%
2.4%
19th

Influential all-round indexes

  • Investment driving innovation. Oslo is an impressive 15th in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the all-round ingredients for innovation (e.g. R&D expenditure, investment in high-tech sectors), as well as the outputs (e.g. VC investment, patent applications) in innovation hubs.23
  • Growing fintech specialisation. Oslo ranks among the top 10 small city regions globally for the all-round size, scale and growth trajectory of the fintech ecosystem.24
  • The race for start-ups is heating up. Oslo remains outside the global top 100 for the size, scale and growth trajectory of its start-up ecosystem, despite having improved by 14 places since last year.25

Implications for Oslo

In the post-Covid cycle, it will be important for Oslo to:

  • Make more of the successes of financing and scaling growth-minded firms, and what these say about Oslo’s entrepreneurial capability.
  • Target high growth innovation sectors (e.g. DeepTech, CleanTech, EdTech, BioTech) with a laser-like focus as the pandemic subsides. New and expanded industry-specific platforms, new procurement approaches, and incentives such as provision of dedicated spaces or client service agreements, can all help to make a step change. Ensure that the tech propositions are distinctive relative to how other cities and regions promote themselves.
  • Grow the confident communication around Norway’s first innovation district, Oslo Science City, as an experiment in a new model of collaboration and commercialisation.
  • Support investors to develop more flexible and amenable product and lease terms for start-ups and entrepreneurs, as well as the kinds of mixed-use spaces necessary to support co-working and exchange of ideas in areas outside the city centre.

2.2   Knowledge and skills

Performance

Summary

Oslo’s skills profile will underpin the region’s resilience as the pandemic subsides. Oslo is still a leading European region for higher education attainment and English proficiency, although others are gaining fast. A track record of high-impact academic research is becoming more visible and is helping to establish Oslo as an attractive city for researchers and innovators.

However, Oslo is not as STEM-ready as other regions. It has fewer STEM students and dedicated life sciences programmes and a less established track record of excellence in key STEM areas relative to other city regions. All-round talent competitiveness is also held back by a lower perceived value for money compared to others: high salary expectations for skilled jobs such as software engineers dampen start-up founders’, entrepreneurs’ and investors’ perceptions of the city's "bang for buck" on investment in high-tech sectors of the economy.

Highlights

Performance

  • Highly educated workforce. Oslo still has the 3rd highest % of adults with a degree level qualification or higher among European peers, though other regions are catching up.26
  • More progress in science. Oslo improved 13 places to 135th in the major measure of the world’s top science cities.27
  • Promising bilingual appetite. Oslo is in the top 5 global cities where English is not the first language for the % of the population who speak English proficiently.28
  • Broad interest in coding. Oslo is 4th among its 25 ‘emerging ecosystem’ peers for the number of registered coders on GitHub with more than 10 followers.29
  • Expertise in software programming. Oslo is 7th among its 25 peers for the share of top-rated coders on GitHub among all registered programmers.30
  • Diverse labour pool. Oslo is 35th globally for the percentage of foreign-born residents.31
Oslo is a leading region for higher education
attainment, but others are catching up

Figure 9: % of adults with a degree level qualification or higher, Oslo and European peers

Source: Eurostat. 

Influential composite indexes

  • Middle of the pack for tech talent competitiveness. Oslo scores 4/10 for all-round talent competitiveness, which measures the cost, quality and accessibility of tech and life sciences talent and amount of entrepreneur scaling experience.32
  • Less visible track record in natural sciences. Oslo does not yet feature in the top 50 science cities for life sciences, physical sciences or chemistry.33
  • All-round skills base has room for improvement. Oslo ranks 19th among 35 peer city regions for the strength of its all-round human capital base.34

Implications for Oslo

In the next period, it will be
important for Oslo to:

  • Use the recovery from Covid-19 to fine tune the skills supply for the innovation economy, for example by convening universities, colleges, entrepreneurs and corporates to share insights and developing a roadmap for more responsive and future-ready curricula.
  • Translate the region’s improving track record for research and innovation into efforts to collaborate more closely with external businesses and investors, in order to maximise outreach.
  • Work with universities and educational institutions to demonstrate to prospective international students and researchers that Oslo is responsive to evolving trends in what students seek from higher education after Covid, especially in terms of jobs opportunities.