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Kongsberg: Working together for growth

| Text: Gunhild Wallin

By investing in networks, partnerships and closer co-operation between research and private industries, Norway intends to concentrate on growth and innovation over the next ten years. This initiative, entitled "Value Creation 2010", was launched at a conference in Kongsberg at the end of October.

When the Norwegian Navy needed new sea defence missiles, Kongsberg's Defence and Aerospace AS, KDA, started thinking. The project involved developing over a relatively short period a completely new missile, which would have wide application for customers at a fixed price.

An initial analysis showed that it would involve a lot of development work in uncertain territory. 150 to 200 engineers would need to work on developing the new missile over seven years. Some of the partners involved were French. There were also a lot of other interested parties such as customers, companies and other skills environments. KDA realised early on that it would need help in getting everyone to pull in the same direction. If the project were to succeed, new organisational forms were needed, as would a development process which would take into account human relations and which would assist co-operation across traditional borders.

To this end, Per H. Engelstad, a professor from the Work Research Institute in Oslo, was invited to join the project from its start.

"It involves co-operation based on human relations with the main focus on wide-scale contribution from all players," explains Engelstad.

Dialogue conferences were used to achieve this, each spread over two days. "It is a method which enables a large group of people to enter into intense discussion over a short period and provide project leaders with a broad information base in terms not only of objective knowledge but also of what people think," continues Engelstad.

The first conference was seen as a starting point for focusing on new ways of working, in other words, the concept regarding the work itself took shape. The next two concentrated on work processes and the fourth on the organisation. All the relevant groups and departments were involved from the outset and a few years later, the customer was invited to attend a fifth dialogue conference. Those involved were keen to point out that the results of the co-operation between the research groups and companies were positive for all parties.

"We found previous solutions and previous changes and that made it cheaper. There was also a good definition giving us something to build on right from the start, which is vital," says Halvdan Glørud, project leader for the new missiles.

The work involved in producing the new missile is an example of what can be achieved with the "Value Creation 2010" initiative. It was a matter of organising innovative meetings between many different players on all levels. This is where research meets business. It is also where social partners, on governmental and municipal level, can make a concerted effort to stimulate innovation and creativity.

"Value Creation 2010" is described as a ten-year innovation project. The premise is that the mainland industries need to become stronger in order to keep up with international competition. It's not easy being one of the world's richest countries. Norway's experience has shown this with its high growth in oil-related industries, but trailing productivity development in mainland industry in comparison with many other countries.

"There's a saying which goes "necessity is the mother of invention", but in Norway there's an absence of any real or known threat restricting productivity development," says Erling Øverland from the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry, NHO.

The thinking now is that over a ten-year period, we will work towards increased growth, innovation and development in mainland industry. Giving their support to the venture are the Research Council in partnership with the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO), and the Norwegian Trade and District Development Fund, (SND); in other words, the basis is the traditional partnership between the state, employers and employees. Such co-operation has a strong tradition in Norway and the idea is now to use this as a competitive advantage in the rejuvenation of industry.

It is stressed that all changes must be based on employee participation on all levels.

"The Norwegian partnership is important for development which must start from within companies. It requires broad co-operation and it must be real. It is also important for democracy and the feeling of control over one's work," says Roar Flåthen from LO.

 

 

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