Meet the unique competence community behind AI+:​“Nothing but fantastic to have this environment

Together, Smart Innovation Norway, Institute for Energy Technology, eSmart Systems, and Halden Municipality have created a leading conference on applied artificial intelligence, AI+. The goal is increased knowledge of the technology’s value and more green jobs.

By Mari Kristine Buckholm, 23 March 2021

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is an enabling technology with an enormous potential to make existing processes more efficient, contribute to the development of innovative solutions and products, and to contribute to more sustainable development. Nevertheless, it is still an area where many people feel that they lack knowledge of what is possible. Therefore, our community wants to contribute to increased value creation by making the technology better known to more players,” says Marianne Jansson Bjerkman.

She leads the Cluster for Applied AI network, which is managed by Smart Innovation Norway. The cluster is co-host of the digital conference AI+ together with Smart Innovation Norway and the cluster partners Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), eSmart Systems and Halden municipality.

Together with Østfold University College, these actors form the unique AI community in Halden, an open competence environment that collaborates across sectors and complements each other seamlessly.

Leading the way in Norway

“It is important to have a national artificial intelligence community. In Halden, we have companies that are so strong in this area that it is important to lead the way. The intention is to connect a large network and get more attention around what we are doing, and also more opportunities,” comments Knut Johansen, CEO of software company eSmart Systems.

He explains how the initiators of the conference contribute and complement each other as follows:

  • Smart Innovation Norway is incredibly important in managing the conference and making it work professionally through its network and cluster initiative Cluster for Applied AI.
  • IFE has been involved in applied research for many years and has a network of energy companies and organizations in countless countries, which is essential in this setting.
  • eSmart Systems brings in the industrial business part. The company is out in the market with its applications, taking it from applied research and into reality.
  • Halden municipality has been a strong supporter in all these activities. The municipality has been the first to adopt new solutions from the AI community and serves as an important testing arena.

40 years with AI

Dr. Tomas Nordlander, Research Director at IFE, points out that the Halden environment’s AI strengths are not only about competence and long experience in the field, but rather that the businesses have had a uniquely solid cooperation over many years.

“It is the multiplayer. We have several organizations that have been working within artificial intelligence and applied artificial intelligence for almost 40 years. IFE was one of the few organizations in the world that started implementing AI solutions in safety-critical industries, such as oil, gas and nuclear power plants, almost 40 years ago,” he says.

During AI+, IFE contributes with expertise from many areas of artificial intelligence, including knowledge of the development and implementation of applied AI. In addition, IFE can assist with knowledge boost on AI and opportunities for both local and national companies.

“We are also deeply involved in national AI strategies and advisors for private and public investment organizations,” notes Dr. Nordlander.

A forward-leaning municipality

For Halden municipality, AI+ is an important step towards fulfilling the vision of the community plan for 2018-2050, which points to three main challenges that need to be solved.

The first is about creating new jobs in Halden at the same time as more people become employed. Number two is about increasing the level of education of citizens while also preventing young people from dropping out of school. The third and final is about the climate challenge that the whole society must contribute to solving.

“As a municipality, we are facilitators and a driving force for the success of businesses and academia in Halden. We believe that the AI+ initiative can help us solve all three of our main challenges, and especially the first. At the same time, Halden aims to be Norway’s most innovative municipality, and this is a good fit,” says Jens-Petter Berget, Head of Department for Community Development in Halden municipality. He adds:

“It is nothing but fantastic to have this competence environment in our municipality!”

For useful and good purposes

The research and innovation company Smart Innovation Norway exists with the purpose of creating green jobs and helping to solve the climate crisis.

“We are working to leverage technology and ensure that it is used to solve societal problems and create jobs. That is exactly what AI+ does. The conference aims to disseminate information about the technology, show what opportunities it provides and how this can help create sustainable jobs. AI is like all other technologies; it can be used for good purposes and less good purposes. It is the useful and good application of artificial intelligence that we want to spread through the conference,” explains Kjell Reidar Mydske, CEO of Smart Innovation Norway.

AI+ will be held for the second time on 19-20 May 2021 and the ambition is to make the initiative an annual, magnificent event in Halden. The following day, Friday 21 May, an academic sister conference organized by Østfold University College and IFE, called ICAPAI, will be held – targeting those who have more professional interests in artificial intelligence.