Building a Maritime Innovation Platform in the Oresund Region: Restoring Maritime Culture and Esprit for Our Maritime Future

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The Oresund* strait joins the the southern Swedish provinces of Skåne and Blekinge with Denmark’s largest island, Sjælland. This hybrid geography, half land, half sea, is known as the Oresund Region. It is the EC’s only bi-national region, and also the only region characterized by the sea that it borders. Five hundred years ago, the Oresund was home to two great, competing Hanseatic capitals, Copenhagen (now Danish) and Malmö (now Swedish). Maritime spirit was strong, and the region exceptionally prosperous.

Maritime’s significance has since waned, more in Sweden than in Denmark. The collapse of the Kockums shipyard in the 1980s was traumatic throughout the Oresund. Malmö and most of the Swedish region turned its back on the sea.  Malmö became a post-industrial city.  Copenhagen, linked to Malmö since 2000 by the Oresund Bridge, largely followed suit, although Denmark remains a shipping power thanks to Maersk and determined policymakers.

Burgeoning east-west routes to the BRIC nations and other developing markets run right through the Oresund. Overall, however, the Oresund is unprepared for this coming tsunami of trade, mostly maritime, that will dominate the rest of this century. Infrastructure is inadequate, recruiting talent difficult, and planning for a maritime future almost nonexistent.

This presentation describes an effort underway to restore the Oresund’s maritime culture and esprit so that the Region is open to and can benefit by these new conditions. For lack of a maritime-development vernacular, we must employ the language of terrestrial development – innovation platforms, smart specialization, and business ecosystems – to characterize our work. But nothing about this is really the same. In the future, we expect to try this elsewhere, eventually creating a global maritime network of regions competent to address maritime issues on a real-time basis.

Robert Jacobson, Atelier Tomorrow AB : “I grew up on the archetypal Southern California beach, with the sea a constant companion. I became an avid bodysurfer and planned to become an oceanographer before my interest in communications, media, and human experience intervened. In the 1980s, as the California Legislature’s principal consultant (senior analyst) with responsibility for commerce policy, I commissioned and supervised the first report in the state’s history describing and dealing with California’s 13 ports. The next step was to rationalize and coordinate the ports’ individual and collective activities.
My company, Atelier Tomorrow AB, is now leading the charge to establish the “World Maritime Center,” a maritime-oriented regional innovation platform – an innovation-producing network of diverse parties with common interests – in the binational Oresund Region. To guide development of the World Maritime Center, we are preparing a report based on meetings with all maritime stakeholders in the Region, planning sessions, and our own research and expertise. Support is provided by Tillväxtverket, the Swedish Development Agency, employing EU Structural Development Funds; and by Malmö stad, the City of Malmö”.

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