Since its foundation as an incubator approximately 20 years ago, the Norwegian investment and consultancy firm Ipark – Innovation Park Stavanger – has successfully established more than 120 companies together with talented entrepreneurs. Wholly focused on contributing to increasing innovation and value within the region, Ipark is dedicated to creating active participation in the development of new, promising companies that have innovative ideas with strong growth potential.
“Ipark is owned by Statoil Technology Invest, SIVA, Rogaland County Council and the foundation Rogaland Kunnskapspark and today has more than 150 companies and around 600 employees,” begins Martin Sigmundstad, Senior Advisor and Project Manager. “We are situated close to the University of Stavanger and also the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) and also the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. The governmental body for safety offshore, Petroleum Safety Authority Norway is also our neighbor, so it’s a very good and compact area to be in.
“We were originally set up to stimulate innovation and to help small companies get established, particularly in the first two years. This includes office space and different start-up activities to take part in. We also invest in them, so that we all can work from an ownership point of view. We have recently split this incubator activity up; today I head the energy area, which is the biggest part of the business; however, we also have within Ipark IKT, health, agriculture, art and culture. We are currently a team of approximately ten people, but we are about to merge with a sister company that spun-off some years back; with this development we will have around 20 employees.”
Bringing together good ideas with an active commercial and R&D milieu, Ipark advisors strive to refine new and innovative business ideas and turn them into profitable enterprises. Assistance is provided from the initial phase through to the start-up and development stages and right through to the follow-up phase. In addition, Ipark offers companies an arena for their concept where R&D experts, entrepreneurs, investors, advisers and those within the industry meet and collaborate. “We have a programme and some services in place to get the company started, this includes getting all the formalities in place, establishing a board and being a member of the board; looking for financing, developing a strategy and starting establishing the way forward for the company,” explains Martin.
He adds: “Normally we start early, the technology then is not verified, so the main topics in the first few years is to find financial and practical help to get the technology evaluated and verified. We have established a good relationship with Statoil and Shell, and we will normally discuss new ideas with them and see if they have any experts that can help us to set a good direction on the development. In a number of cases, these blue chip companies will also invest a small part into the smaller company.”
In addition to these services, Ipark is also managing The Accelerator. This activity aids approximately 20 start-up companies each year and currently has around 70 firms under its umbrella. Organised as an association where members support The Accelerator process with their expertise, the main aim of this network is to increase value creation through the accelerated implementation of innovative solutions within the upstream segments. Moreover, it is to lower the estimated time from idea to commercialisation, which is currently at an average of 15 years.
Established to shorten the process of qualifying and implementing new technology, The Accelerator’s ethos is to recognise that there is no limit to new ideas and innovations should resources, particularly financial, be available. As such, The Accelerator provides financial aid for every new start-up to help remove these potential hurdles. In addition, the network has access to some of the key experts in the industry for subsea and drilling equipment who are available to review a technology developer’s innovation before giving a conclusion via an assessment of the equipment’s industrial potential. From this moment, the expert team will recommend potential partners and customers before offering assistance and follow-ups through the remaining qualification process. “This is part of our service, to offer smaller companies a meeting place with bigger companies to help develop a new technology. The importance of new technology has never been bigger; when the oil price dropped by half, companies have had to find ways to reduce costs and deliver more effective solutions.
By helping start-ups and small companies within a conservative market, The Accelerator has so far played an integral part in the development of new and innovative technologies. These include Scopos AS’s camera, which is designed for non-contact measuring of objects geometry in subsea operations, and Zaptec’s unique high-voltage transformer technology that can be used in the energy, automotive, space and mineral industries.
Moving forward, Martin believes The Accelerator project will help overcome the negativity in the sluggish oil and gas sectors through the delivery of new innovative technologies that will help kick start market recovery. “I think a good bridge between bigger companies and smaller firms is something that has previously been overlooked, however, it can drastically lower the time it takes to bring a product to the market, while also ensuring smaller companies can survive,” concludes Martin.
Ipark AS / The Accelerator
Services: Investment and consultancy
Issue 125 October 2015