Washington state representatives from business, education, and government, including Gov. Jay Inslee, will participate in a trade mission to the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway from Sept. 13 to Sept. 23.
Washington state has deep cultural and business ties to Scandinavia going back to the late 19th Century when immigrants from the region came in large numbers to work in the fishing and shipbuilding industries, timber, mining and agriculture. Today, these bonds include economic development partnerships with some of Washington’s largest employers and industries, as well as agreements that promote research and technological innovations here and in Scandinavia.
The governor’s policy agenda for the mission focuses on business partnerships and innovative approaches to energy, technology, sustainability and resilience to climate change in the region. Other policy areas on the governor’s agenda include education, improvements to correctional facilities, immigration and attracting more investment in Washington state.
“Ever since the familiar terrain of the Pacific Northwest drew countless immigrants from the Nordic countries over a century ago, our regions have enjoyed strong economic and cultural ties that persist to this day,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “We’re innovating together to find the next great advances in technology, science, and fighting climate change. Our delegation is bringing new ideas and new jobs to Washington.”
Representatives of the state Department of Commerce, the Port of Seattle, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, TRIDEC and some of the state’s largest employers – including Microsoft and Alaska Airlines – will also join the trip. Representatives from the University of Washington and Washington State University will also attend. There will be 45 individuals in the delegation total.
“An important focus of the mission is developing mutually beneficial partnerships with leading innovation clusters in Finland and Norway, focusing on maritime, clean technology and 5G,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “This is an opportunity to strengthen the strategic partnerships outlined in memorandums of understanding with our Nordic partners and take collective action together to solve societal challenges like climate change.”
“Over the last five years, Washington Maritime Blue has built and formalized significant relationships with partners across the Nordics to support our mutual global leadership in the Blue Economy. I’m thrilled that our work to build a global growth innovation cluster can be a model for accelerating the clean energy transition through joint innovation and a growing startup ecosystem,” said delegation member Joshua Berger, founder, president and CEO of Washington Maritime Blue, an organization that spun off from a sustainable maritime cluster initiative launched by Inslee in 2019.
Washington state’s economic ties to the region include agreements with Finland and Norway to collaborate on technological innovations for major parts of the economy, such as reducing supply chain bottlenecks. Businesses based in Norway, Sweden and Finland have more than 80 entities operating in Washington employing more than 5,000 people across the state.
TRADE MISSION ITINERARY
The governor will be in Finland from Sept. 13 to 16; Sweden from Sept. 16 to 20; and Norway from Sept. 20 to 23. Other members of the Washington state delegation may have different schedules.
In Finland, the governor’s agenda includes learning about the country’s novel approaches to nuclear waste disposal; the country’s partnership with state innovation clusters on the development of 5G and 6G technologies; and how Microsoft is recycling heat waste from data centers to warm homes, as well as other ways Finland is reducing waste.
In Sweden, the governor will learn from government, university and business leaders about the country’s transition to a green economy across key industries, including how the transition has brought new job opportunities to rural areas. The governor will also learn about how waste reduction technologies are integrated into the country’s affordable housing construction to address housing insecurity and sustainability at the same time.
In Norway, the governor and delegation will meet with major businesses, such as Corvus Energy, to discuss opportunities to expand business partnerships in Washington state. The governor will also meet with Norwegian corrections officials on how they’ve improved practices with incarcerated populations to effectively rehabilitate inmates before they re-enter their communities.
The governor will also learn about electric ferries being deployed in Norway’s transportation system. Joined by representatives from the University of Washington and Washington State University, the governor will tour what will be the world’s largest ocean research vessel, currently under construction, with the goal of strengthening cooperation between Washington-based researchers and international oceanic researchers.
The delegation includes leaders of Washington’s Innovation Cluster Accelerator, launched by the Department of Commerce in 2021 to transform the state’s legacy industries and build new industries for the future. This industry-led economic development initiative is modeled after similar programs in Norway and Finland. Delegation members will meet and collaborate with Nordic innovation cluster leaders, companies, academic partners, and tech innovation centers.
The mission is financed by a combination of outside sponsorship, funds provided by the Legislature for the purpose of executing the memorandum of understanding with Finland, and delegate fees paid to the state Department of Commerce.