Posts Tagged ‘DIGS’

Make Trondheim
60David Nikel

David NikelAugust 4, 2014

Introducing Trondheim’s Maker Movement

There’s a buzz going around Trondheim at the moment.

And it’s not the excessive number of insects drawn by the stupidly hot July. It’s Trondheim’s growing reputation in the maker world.

Before I dive into detail about what’s exactly happening in Trondheim, I want to talk a little about the maker movement in general, in case some of you are unfamiliar with it.

I sat down with Frode Halvorsen, CEO at Trondheim Makers, and began with one simple question: What is the maker movement?

“I am not sure where to start. I got fascinated by the maker movement a few years ago, there’s been a lot of makers in Norway and all over the world for a long time but without a “tag”, so finally we have a name for what we are doing. A few days ago I read an article at MAKE Magazine which describes the difference between a hackerspace, a makerspace, and a tech-shop.”

“In 1995 there was the first Chaos computer camp in Germany, a hacker camp, they started the first hacker space. Around ten years ago a group of people from America visited the camp, became influenced by the movement and took it back to the US. They started hacker spaces in the US. Also around 2005, Dale Dougherty was planning to start a magazine, he called it initially Hack, but his daughter suggested he call it Make, because everyone likes to make stuff and it sounds a lot more positive, so he called it Make. From there the hacker and maker movement grew, so really maker is a more positive way of describing a hacker.”

“Typically it’s for tech-heads, but I like the way the maker movement embraces textiles, food and beverage, for example. As long as you make something by yourself, you are a maker. You don’t have to have a PhD in electronics or micro controllers as long as you are making stuff and building stuff, you are a maker.”

Maker movement Norway

To get a different perspective, I hit up Wikipedia:

“The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses new and unique applications of technologies, and encourages invention and prototyping. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.” – Wikipedia

So to me, the maker movement is nothing new.

We all had an elderly relative or eccentric uncle who used to spend their weekends tinkering in the shed or garage, right? Maker!

The maker movement in Trondheim

In addition to the engineers, designers and makers of NTNU, Trondheim also hosts Hackheim, and a soon-to-be workshop for makers at DIGS.

Returning to Frode Halvorsen, I asked him to describe how the movement came to Trondheim, and what they have planned.

Alf Egil Bogen, co founder of AVR, saw a need for a better culture of innovation and new opportunities in the city, so Trondheim Makers was established. It’s a membership organisation working for a better community and environment to allow a maker movement to flourish in Trondheim. Last year we held a test maker-faire at Pstereo festival. This year, we are going for a real big one.”

“Over 100 maker faires of varying sizes have been held around the world. This year’s event in Trondheim will be a featured event alongside the likes of Tokyo, Paris and Shenzhen. We had to do a lot of convincing to the heads in San Francisco but we created a document about Trondheim’s tech culture, the number of tech-focused students, and the density of research-based technology here in Trondheim, which helped a great deal. We will welcome people over from Make magazine and TIME has already mentioned us, so this will really do something for the city.”

Maker Faire Trondheim

Trondheim Maker Faire takes place at Torvet over the weekend of 29 & 30 August. Expect up to 75 makers and businesses showcasing their projects, alongside workshops, talks and seminars. Get involved in such activities as learning to solder, roasting coffee, sewing iPhone cases, and the nerdy derby, a car race for small wooden cars. There’ll also be robot kits available and a robot race.

Photo credit: Intel Free Press

DIGS street-front entrance
60David Nikel

David NikelJuly 15, 2014

Developing Trondheim’s entrepreneurial scene

Recently Technoport held a small workshop to discuss what is missing from Trondheim’s entrepreneurial scene and what Technoport can do to help fill those gaps. Representatives from Leiv Eiriksson Nyskaping, the NTNU Technology Transfer Office, Entreprenørskolen, DIGS and other interested parties gathered for a session on the high seas (!)

I sat down with Technoport CEO Gøril Forbord and Head of Events Hermann Ørn Vidarsson to find out what they wanted to know, and whether they found out.

Hermann – “as every lean startup thinks, you need to test your hypothesis with the customer. so we are trying to think like that. We wanted to talk to those who represent some of our target groups, in particular startups. The question we posed was simple really – How can our operation, events and activities sustain and support their needs? More specifically, how can we increase commercialisation of knowledge and technology in the region, how can we create a better entrepreneurial ecosystem, and what can Technoport do to support this?”

If you missed the event then don’t worry. It’s likely you’ll have another chance to have your say, as repeating this event on a regular basis was one of the key takeaways, with many participants saying it was their first opportunity to meet some of the other players in Trondheim’s entrepreneurial community.

Hermann – “It’s absolutely the start of something, not just a one-off workshop. We discussed the idea of hosting a quarterly sector meeting to bring all the parties together more often to enhance visibility.”

Goril – “We want to improve and always be relevant for our target groups now and in the future. Their needs could change so we need to continue this discussion to keep ourselves up to date.”

The Technoport workshop boat

On the boat (yes, the venue was a boat. This is Norway, after all!), the participants were split into three groups to discuss the questions in-depth. Here’s what happened!

Lowering the entry barriers to entrepreneurship in Norway

One of the biggest talking points was about bridging the gap from being employed in a big company to entrepreneurship, a problem very specific to Norway where the benefits of employment are so high. But that lead on to some interesting takeaways for Technoport, including a whole new potential target group, the unemployed.

Gøril – “It’s about not only lowering the barriers for the currently employed, but lowering the barriers for anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur. We mean psychological barriers as well as money. We can’t have too many people working on lowering these barriers.”

Hermann – “We haven’t looked at the unemployed as a target group previously, but there is a big need there. In Norway entrepreneurship seems to be a last resort. You need to have lost your job and been applying for jobs for a while before the limited support from Nav becomes available to you.”

Let’s get customers, not investors

One surprise was the focus on getting pilot customers rather than investors. A lot of events already facilitate the meeting of entrepreneurs with investors, but relatively little information is out there about getting your first sales. This touches on the excellent talk from Jonas Kjellberg, former VP of Global Sales at Skype, which is well worth a watch:

Specific to Trondheim

Creating meeting places, social get-togethers and the importance of making the entrepreneurship environment visible were the main takeaways specific to Trondheim.

Hermann – “All three groups were in unison that the Technoport conference should remain an international event, but we should host smaller events with a local focus throughout the year.”

Gøril – “One of the most surprising responses was that people wanted to hear more failures than success stories, so maybe we need to have a new celebration of failures here in Trondheim. It’s harder to find these stories, but maybe that’s one of the jobs it’s important for us to do.”

Hermann – We continued our theme of open innovation and in my group we talked a lot about the need for openness and the sharing culture to succeed with innovation. We talked about creating a bank of ideas that people have but don’t have the resources to implement themselves. Of course if you publish an idea there, you waive the rights to the idea. This is something we’d like to look at developing.”

What’s next?

In total, Technoport recorded 14 clear action points from the workshop. Over the summer, all these points will be looked at and some developed further. Join our newsletter for updates and to be notified when future workshops and events will take place.

DIGS logo
60David Nikel

David NikelNovember 29, 2013

DIGS brings co-working to Trondheim

Innovation and entrepreneurship in Trondheim is dominated by academic influence. NTNU’s School of Entrepreneurship churns out eager graduates year after year, while their Technology Transfer Office looks to commercialise the institution’s extensive research.

Of course, this is no bad thing.

Academic strength has positioned Trondheim as Norway’s knowledge capital. But what is there for people outside the academic bubble?

The answer – until quite recently – was not very much. The Leiv Eiriksson Nyskaping (LEN) R&D incubator provides valuable assistance to entrepreneurs but in a traditional working environment. Little other infrastructure existed, driving many of those talented NTNU graduates down to Oslo, or even abroad, to grow their business.

The global co-working phenomenon

Co-working provides a professional yet relaxed work environment for people looking for a creative, affordable way to work, collaborate, and innovate. It’s nothing new, variations exist all over the world with a range of aims, from supporting hip tech startups in NYC to driving social change across Africa.

Oslo’s MESH is the flag-bearer for Norwegian co-working, but up until now, Trondheim lacked anywhere similar.

Introducing DIGS, a versatile and highly-visible space on Olav Tryggvasons gate. It’s only been open for a few months and is a long way from completion, but has already attracted high-calibre visitors such as Liv Signe Navarsete, the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development at the time.

DIGS street-front entrance

Open-plan office space

When the renovations are complete, DIGS will offer 1,000m² of offices, open-plan desks, event spaces, and even a street-facing cafe. Co-founder Arnstein Johannes Syltern told me about the concept and what “success” would mean:

“We spent a year travelling as far as San Francisco looking for inspiring co-working concepts. But one thing was important – we couldn’t just lift a concept from Berlin or London and expect it to work in Trondheim. With DIGS we’ve tried to design a concept that will work for a smaller town and our unique environment.”

“It’s important for us to widen access to Trondheim’s innovation scene and give thinkers and creators an independent place to meet and mix. I’d love the city of Trondheim to be known for knowledge and innovation more generally, not just because of NTNU.”

Success through collaboration

While remaining independent, close co-operation with academia will of course be essential to DIGS’ success. The early signs are positive. In fact as I write this, DIGS tenants AssiStep just announced receipt of an NTNU Discovery grant of NOK 900,000. The news was greeted with congratulations and back-slapping from every single member, highlighting the collective spirit that’s quickly developed here.

Collaborative environment at DIGS

Marine technology startup Searis was one of the first tenants at DIGS. Co-founder Bernt-Johan Bergshaven is in no doubt of the benefits to his company, and the city in general:

“DIGS is a very healthy environment for us as we can instantly speak to other members with totally different skillsets. Each week someone new stops by who asks us challenging questions from a private-sector perspective.”

“After I finished my Cybernetics degree, 70% of my class left Trondheim, and many others stayed on to do research. People are already seeing DIGS as a reason to stay and are starting to think about possible ventures they can start.”

As a tenant myself I am somewhat biased, but I’m in no doubt that DIGS will provide a place for Norway’s expert engineers to create value for Trondheim long after their studies are over. Work is ongoing but you are welcome to pop in for a tour. Get in touch via digs.no.