Listening to the customer

One secret of success of Norwegian seafood is the close cooperation among the different organizations involved in the ongoing accomplishments being experienced by the industry. Naturally, the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs is one central key to this success. One vital partner in this cooperation is Innovation Norway, and the ongoing project called the Marine Value Creation Programme is one excellent example of the added-value such cooperation can bring.

 The Ministry is consistently seeking ways to connect the strong Norwegian seafood industry with the global market, focusing on activities that facilitate success within the value chain that is strengthened every step of the way from harvest all the way to the final consumer. This coincides well with Innovation Norway’s goal of helping companies to increase their product or service impact within Norway as well as part of the global market, and the seafood industry as one focal point.

Marine Value Creation Programme
The Marine Value Creation Programme (MVP) is the result of an initiative originated in cooperation between the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs and Innovation Norway. The ultimate goal has been ongoing increased dynamic interaction between companies and the marketplace, based on an understanding of activities and synergies all along the value chain.

Innovation Norway took the challenge to put the initiative into action, and based on strategic guidance provided by the Ministry, developed a strategy that encompassed the vision of the project. Petter Ustad of Innovation Norway has led the project through the different phases, one that is based on the goal of clearly showing Norwegian companies how they can achieve added-value through all phases of business related to the seafood industry.

The Programme is divided into different categories in order to best provide the support necessary to companies. Although coordinated from the capital city of Oslo, the different elements of the MVP uses expertise from Innovation Norway’s regional offices throughout the country in order to ensure that their “finger is on the pulse” of the fishing activities all through the value chain. At the same time, close collaboration with research and educational institutions ensures that the Programme remains on the cutting edge – both on a theoretical as well as practical perspective.

 

MVP trainee Alice Stabell together with Paul Bocuse, Eiving Hellstrøm and others from the Norwegian Seafood Export Council. © Alf Börjesson, NSEC

 

The New World
The key of the MVP has been to move away from the traditional seafood industry tendency of a certain “old world” mentality where producers would harvest as much as possible, and then hope that customers would want to buy it. With any supplier-customer relationship, this “old world” strategy would often result in the goods being sold, but at a spot price and often not to the advantage of the producer. The Norwegian seafood industry is transcending this old world.

According to the Ministry, “It is important that the Marine Value Creation Programme helps to strengthen the opportunity for Norwegian seafood companies to take advantage of their position in the market. The Ministry’s view of the programme so far is that companies that want to strengthen the strategic perspective of the international market have had the knowledge and the tools to make this possible through the MVP programme.”

Naturally, communication with Norwegian seafood companies is critical. One advantage of the MVP lies in the fact that it indeed does span the entire country of Norway by bringing into the project a range of regional Innovation Norway offices, each with specific expertise and personnel specially chosen in order to ensure the highest quality support for Norwegian seafood companies and the project. The bottom line is that an ongoing close coordination with Petter Ustad and the Innovation Norway Headquarters in Oslo as well as the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs has been a central key to success.

The Marine Value Creation Programme increases the opportunity for Norwegian seafood companies to take advantage of their position
in the market.

© NSEC

Ready & Willing
The Norwegian industry is ready, willing and able to continue to adapt to the ever changing marketplace. Says Ustad, “One strength of Norwegian companies often is adaptability, and to achieve the goal of continual improvement, Innovation Norway offers a number of services, including the Expertise Programme, aimed to help seafood producers better understand and use the value chain, with a proactive focus in research, marketing, environment and sustainable investments in the future.”

The programme is divided into four areas, each led by persons and organizations best suited to the task:
• Market Oriented Company Network (“Bedriftsnetwork”)
• The Expertise Programme (“Kompetanseprogram”)
• Trainee Programme (“Traineeordning”)
• The Adaptability Programmes (“Internasjonalisering, Uviklingstiltak, Kystnæringen mot markedet”)

Excellence through Learning
The Expertise Programme portion of the MVP is coordinated by the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH) in the west coast city of Bergen, and is designed to provide participants with greater knowledge in the areas of strategy and marketing, as well as contribute to developing skill in applying this knowledge in real-life situations. Participants gain a greater knowledge regarding the marketplace – with the strategic basis to help them penetrate and succeed in the market.

Through case-studies, problem solving, coaching as well as traditional lectures and course attendance, there is a focus on broad participation from various branches of the seafood industry as well as the all-important connections to the various links in the value chain. Lasting over the course of a year, the programme consists of the phases that included strategic analysis, international marketing, strategy implementation, trademark management, marketing communication as well as project presentation and closing.

Learning through Doing
Another facet of the Marine Value Creation Programme is the International Trainee Scheme, designed to facilitate the closer contact and understanding with the entire value chain. Each company is tasked to formulate the goal of their stay based on their specific needs. Innovation offers the key staff chosen the opportunity to have a market assignment of up to one year, depending on the needs, with the first part of the assignment often taking place at either Innovation Norway or Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC) offices. This programme is aimed at providing employing with a better understanding of the value chain and market needs, resulting in a higher level of adaptability in the company.

Networking & Adaptability
Any company’s network is extremely important to the bottom line. Innovation Norway understands this and has created the Market Oriented Company Network as an important part of the MVP. This scheme helps the company build up and strengthen such a network in a systematic and professional way that facilitates success. This scheme assists companies that may have a product advantage that can lead to attaining a higher market price – but are too small alone to achieve this goals. This support also can help in such aspects as assisting companies in establishing a new brand through cooperation with other companies – regional, national or international.

Adaptability to and understanding of the changing marketplace through all facets of the value chain is central in the Adaptability Programmes portion of the MVP, with the end result being that participating companies often end up with stronger, more focused employees, and the company itself gains a better knowledge of not only their own activities but all of the customer’s needs. The bottom line is that the customer benefits from a supplier that understands its nuances and needs.

 

A trainee in Shanghai, Lill-Maren Mogster made the most out of the knowledge made available through the MVP programme. © Alvin Koh

 

Sustainability in Focus

Says Petter Ustad in summing up the importance of the Competence Programme to the Norwegian seafood industry, “Through this program, the Norwegian seafood industry is made more aware that as part of the competitive global environment the seafood industry we must continually improve market adaptability, all the time taking into account the deliberate and careful efforts to protect the oceans, fish stocks, and near shore aquaculture habitats that form the very foundation of the industry’s sustainability.”

As a small nation, the strength of Norway must not only be to develop expertise in core areas of operation, it is to communicate what they do and how it can be of value to other countries. In this process, the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Seafood Export Council and other key involved organizations are dedicated to working with companies through different phases of their business development process, beginning with assessment of marketing opportunities and priorities, and moving onwards to entrance strategies, establishment and expansion.

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