An old factory becomes an incubator for innovative businesses

At Karlshamn, an old factory is being transformed into a business incubator and equipped for new areas of expertise: media, video games and information technology.

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A public/private/university partnership proving fruitful for industrial innovation and the preservation and creation of jobs. A public/private/university partnership proving fruitful for industrial innovation and the preservation and creation of jobs.

Context

On the shores of the Baltic, in Southern Sweden, Karlshamn (20,000 inhabitants) is a port with a strong tradition of industry. Over the last thirty years, however, economic difficulties have accumulated. Over 3000 industrial jobs have been cut and the municipality has seen its population decrease. Furthermore, the town has a deficit of postgraduate students. But Karlshamn also has assets: a still-existing fabric manufacturer, the nearby Blekinge Technological Institute and the longstanding Swedish practice of collaboration between universities and business which goes back to the industrial revolution of the 19th century.

The "NetPort Karlshamn" project was launched in 2001 to take advantage of these opportunities. The idea: transform an old factory into a business incubator in order to develop a skill centre in media, video games and computer logistics.

Fishing in a pool of university talent

Supported by sections of industry turned over to information technology, by the municipality and by the Blekinge Technological Institute, the largely publicly-funded incubator helps postgraduate students to channel innovative ideas into the creation of viable businesses.

The project, based in the Institute, describes itself as a motor providing the energy necessary to pursue a common goal – flourishing life in Karlshamn – through the development of new skills and learning through experience. In autumn 2004 NetPort Karlshamn became an autonomous entity, a network equally representing the public sector, private sector and university sector in a triangular partnership. Although financial input differs – the town being responsible for the largest part – decisions are made on an equal basis by the three sectors in the partnership.

Building on what exists

It was not all easy: although the town has a long tradition of industry, only a small fraction of its population have a high-level academic education and many traditional jobs had disappeared to the benefit of service industries. The founders of NetPort made it a priority to strengthen and develop existing businesses. The project is accompanied by a programme of information for the population through seminars and through regular updates on the development of activities in the press and on the internet.

Results

To date, 10 jobs have been maintained, 37 created and the incubator has helped launch 12 new companies. Since 2004 NetPort Karlshamn has acquired a regional dimension with antennae at Ronneby and Karlskrona. Ad hoc cooperation has also been established with other EU-financed projects such as the “Karlshamn Industry Meeting Point”, the “Recruit together” project and the "Styllerid" project. Firmly rooted in the local and regional economy, the NetPort network has become a reference point on national level in some of its areas of expertise.


Draft date

01/03/2006