“I am super impressed with what UiA does with regards to innovation”, says CEO of Innovation Norway, Håkon Haugli. He brought the management group and the board on a visit to the University. He also received some specific challenges.
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The first challenge came from a robot at the main entrance on Campus Grimstad which welcomes guests and students.
“Please keep one metre distance”, the robot says and offers anti-bac and good photo opportunities. Thus, the tone is set for a morning session with information, conversation and guided tour.
“Norwegian industry is far behind when it comes to using robots. We are simply at the crawling stage compared to the rest of Europe”, says Bernt Inge Øhrn, head of the Mechatronics Innovation Lab (MIL) at Campus Grimstad.
As part of their visit to UiA, the guests from Innovation Norway are given a tour of two of the large labs at UiA; I4Health and MIL. Øhrn shows the battery back from a Nissan Leaf and explains that 99 percent of electric car batteries in Norway are being sent out of the country for recycling.
“We can train robots to disassemble car batteries”, says Øhrn and shows how UiA and MIL are involved in several projects for automated disassembly and recycling of car batteries.
“However, the challenge today is that far too few small and medium-sized companies use robots”, Øhrn continues and encourages Innovation Norway to look at how funding can be used to increase the level of robotics use in Norway.
“We need quick allocations in amounts in the hundred thousands. That would fund tryouts in different companies to let them see for themselves the benefits of the new technology.
“The robots are off the shelf. So, this is not about making robots, but to get them up and running. Sometimes adaptation is what counts, not always innovation”, says Øhrn and gets interested nods from the visitors.
Rector Sunniva Whittaker informed the guests about UiA's strategy and innovation. She referred to Professor Arne Isaksen's innovation research which emphasises that the University not only delivers innovation through research, but equally important has study programmes that include subjects about innovation topics that disseminate knowledge about innovation.
“Innovation is on the agenda of a number of our bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programmes. Our most recent offering is the master’s programme Shift entrepreneurship with specialisations in innovation, technology and business which contributes to strengthening our innovation studies”, says Vice Rector for External Relations and Innovation Gøril Hannås in her part of the presentation.
After two and a half hours, Innovation Norway continued on, and CEO Håkon Haugli took leave of the robot at the entrance.
“I am super impressed with what UiA does with regards to innovation, not least the focus on co-creation and interdisciplinarity. It is important to lead the development, push good solutions, and not least demonstrate them, as we have seen now”, says Haugli.
“I believe that teaching and research in themselves are very important to innovation; and perhaps something that is not mentioned enough, arenas that bring together good ideas and people who think differently”, says Haugli with reference to the labs he has just seen.
“We appreciate the visit from Innovation Norway, which is a key player when it comes to innovation. It inspires continued efforts, and we see good opportunities for further collaboration between the higher education sector and Innovation Norway”, says Rector Sunniva Whittaker.