Monday, March 21, 2011

Ingenuity in Iceland

What do you do when the U.S. leaves a base with all its buildings? This happened in Iceland when the U.S. Military left the area after being there for 60 years. The area soon had staggering numbers of unemployment and foreclosures and threatened to turn into a ghost town.

But ingenuity is something Icelanders are never lacking. A new company, Keflavik Airport Development Company (Kadeco) was founded with the goal of putting the defense area and its facilities to civilian use. Kadeco is wholly owned by the Prime Ministry of Iceland.

The goal and purpose of Kadeco is to lead the development and transformation of the former defense area for civilian use. Part of that process is necessary preparation work, assessment of the area and facilities as well as assessment of development- and growth opportunities in cooperation with invested parties.

Keilir Atlantic Center of Excellence was founded in the spring of 2007 and the name symbolizes Iceland’s position in the globalized world; with the goals of the institute being to build up knowledge, teaching and research at a university level within the international academic community. Keilir’s main international focus is on two schools: School of Energy and Technology and an Aviation Academy.

Of course, the one that caught my eye is the Ásbrú Incubator at Ásbrú Enterprise Park which offers support and facilities for entrepreneurs, start-ups, early-growth companies, and R&D departments of established companies, in the areas of green energy, health and fitness, and aviation related businesses.

There are basically three ways for an entrepreneur to come to Ásbrú. The first is to buy or rent facilities. The second is Eldey entrepreneur centre where the Icelandic Innovation Centre provides facilities and support for entrepreneurs. The third way in is through the undergraduate diploma in entrepreneurship at Keilir School of Creative Industries. Its goal is to educate and graduate students who will use their creativity to further our society.

Their initiatives include an international centre for health and relaxation will rise at Ásbrú and health related tourist services will be marketed internationally and a cluster of companies that produce green energy, use green energy and improve energy utilization. The energy cluster at Ásbrú is unique on a global scale for its access to clean energy from the geo-thermal power plants in the area. And the Eldey entrepreneur centre, which is a joint project by Kadeco, the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Innovation Centre, specializes in green energy.

Innovation and entrepreneurs are always a good mix and in my opinion, too often ignored by our political representatives and funders. I look forward to heading back to Iceland in April and learning more about Asbru.

I’ll close with a Video Testimonial by Asbru Project Manager, Thoranna Keilir, who attended my “Be the Expert that You Are” seminar for the Iceland Trade Association that I conducted in October 2010.