Since November 1, 2019, Innovation Norway has a new director in Brazil.
Former Kongsberg executive Håkon Lerum Ward has been in Brazil, on and off, since the mid 1990-s. From late 2011 to Q1 2014, he was the head of Kongsberg Oil and Gas Technology do Brasil. Mr. Ward has a degree in engineering from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and in November he assumed the position as director of Innovation Norway in Brazil. This time, he would like to stay at least another two years.
Innovation Norway is the Norwegian Government’s most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry, and the agency provides international market advisory services in more than 30 countries around the world.
“This is probably the most exciting moment ever to arrive in Brazil. There is an optimism reigning, but with more sobriety than the last time I was here. Today we see growth within renewables, and expectations are high in the oil, gas and energy sectors. After several slow years, the activity level is picking up”, says Mr. Ward.
In his opinion, the Petrobras divestment program and related reforms have created a new dynamic in the market, and more players, both domestic and international, now want a piece of the pie.
“We see ripple effects, and I believe that Norwegian suppliers, service providers and other players have good chances of taking part in this going forward.”
Innovation Norway in Brazil has special focus on oil &gas and energy sectors including renewables, on aquaculture and technology sectors in addition to research and innovation. Further improving the position of Norwegian stakeholders, especially in the energy sector, is on top of Mr. Ward´s long list of priorities.
“Time has come to consider Brazil even for those who got burned the first time around. We know that Norwegian players now are looking to get closer to their Brazilian clients. Innovation Norway is here to facilitate access to the Brazilian market, and we also work closely with organizations like NORWEP in the energy sector. Together with Team Norway we accomplish more.”
“We are stronger when we stand together. We share information, network and strategies and we all work to promote Norwegian interests.”
But despite many positive developments in the Brazilian market, there are obvious challenges.
“You need to be patient. There are no quick solutions and you need a solid strategy. Hooking up with a local partner that provides insights on the market could be a way in. Innovation Norway can also assist with information, advice, contacts and even financial support, but in the end, the companies need to know the market, the clients and the competition.”
Share to grow
Innovation Norway in Brazil is actively promoting concepts like green business, sustainability and gender and diversity issues. But Mr. Ward is not in Brazil to lecture.
“We are here to share experiences, and I think we can make important contributions, but always with a great deal of respect for culture and history and of the complexity of the Brazilian society. Take sustainability as an example. The nature, the ocean and its resources are fundamental to Norway and it is of vital importance that we exploit these resources in a sustainable way. This is also the case for Brazil. When it comes to innovation, Brazil has a lot of great research and very competent academia and is highly ranked in academic production based on volume, but the country is behind on innovation indexes based on patents. In Norway we have developed business clusters as an ecosystem for innovation, and we would like to share these experiences with Brazil, also because we believe a closer collaboration could create opportunities for new partnerships between companies and academia in both our countries.”
When he is not at work, travelling is something that Mr. Ward is passionate about.
“You are never done with Brazil. The last time I lived here, with my family, we used weekends and vacations to travel, and we didn´t go home to Norway for two years. I enjoy the sun, the beach and the Brazilian food and culture. Brazil is really fascinating, with huge regional differences, and this is very exciting to a foreigner. The nature, like the Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls, the cultural variations, represented by the Pataxó indigenous people outside Porto Seguro. From Bahia to Santa Catarina, where you find cities where people still speak German! This time around, I intend to learn Portuguese to get an even better understanding of this fascinating country.”
Mr. Ward will spend Christmas in Norway with his family. “Daddy home for Christmas” was actually on top of the wish list of his daughter.
“My wishes for the new year are that even more companies look to Brazil and see all the opportunities that this country represents, and also that Innovation Norway can play an important part as advisor and facilitator for value creation in this exciting market. With these words I also wish all of you working in Norwegian companies in Brazil a merry Christmas and a happy new year”, says Håkon Ward.
By Runa Hestmann, NBCC