Debate article: Digital growth through regional cooperation

in Debate, News

The Baltic Sea Region is world leading within the digital sectors. If we want to stay competitive in a globalised world, we should continue to stimulate international success in the area of information and communication technology. Therefore we need to strengthen the regional cooperation and remove barriers for growth. If we don’t, then we risk to loose our front line position.

Internet has profoundly changed the way we make business, and is a prerequisite for the speed at which we have experienced globalisation over the last 20 years. Internet has not only given us emails, video chat and social media, but has also paved the way for businesses regardless of size to have global reach and commercial success.

One of those businesses is the Swedish company Mojang. Mojang, which was founded only five years ago, is the company behind the global success Minecraft. The enterprise is now about to be acquired by Microsoft for 14,4 billion DKK. With only 50 employees, that is an impressive 280 million DKK per staff member. Mojang is one in a string of investments that Microsoft has made in the Nordic and Baltic countries: Navision in Denmark, Fast Search in Norway, Skype (Danish and Swedish founder) in Estonia, Press Play in Denmark, and Nokia in Finland – acquisitions which combined make the Baltic Sea Region the region outside the US where Microsoft has made the most investments.

This is proof that this is a region which is world leading in ICT. But there are still indications that the Baltic Sea Region is not living up to its full potential.

With the ambition to keep the Baltic Sea Region in the lead, Baltic Development Forum and Microsoft have joined forces in establishing a regional ICT think tank for the Nordic and Baltic countries: ”Top of Digital Europe”.

Considerable challenges

If we want to stay competitive in a globalised world, we should continue to stimulate international success in the sectors of information and communication technology.

According to the first report from Top of Digital Europe ”Searching for the Micro Multinationals”, many small and medium sized companies (SMEs) in Denmark and the Baltic Sea Region are hesitant to embark on global growth ventures. Across countries they are expressing concern about the challenges that exist in connection with establishing themselves on the international stage. Of even more concern is the fact that some of the SMEs do not have the ambition to grow and expand their business. This is important to remember when new political initiatives are established. If the companies themselves do not wish to grow, such initiatives risk not having the desired effect.

Establishing an academy

The think tank has put forward several recommendations on how we can stimulate growth among the SMEs in the ICT sector through public-private initiatives across national borders. Among those recommendations is the establishment of a Baltic Sea Academy for the SMEs. This academy should develop the ICT related niche competencies through online classes and strengthen regional collaboration between business and universities. Another suggestion is a regional crowd-funding platform to provide the SMEs with startup capital. Furthermore there is a need for goal oriented tax reductions – such as the reductions on household services in Denmark – for consultancies and other relevant services.

The new growth plan for digitalisation which the Danish Government made public in December focuses on creating an improved framework for digital growth and job creation in Denmark. This is a welcome development, but we can reach even further if we also take advantage of the possibilities of a strengthened regional collaboration with our neighbours in the Baltic Sea Region.

A leading position comes with obligations. Especially for a global model region which will create new digital solutions and export opportunities.

BY Nanna-Louise Wildfang Linde, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft Nordeuropa, Lene Espersen, Chairman, Baltic Development Forum

Article originally published in Jyllandsposten 20 January 2015 (Danish)
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