Iceland could learn from Australia

When the 2007 Rural Clusters Conference convened in Akureyri from June 11 to 13, little did the local participants know that they would be taking notes and learning about business strategies from Down Under.

Mike Crowe, the manager of network and communications at the outback research centre Desert Knowledge Australia pointed out similarities between Australia and the Haléndi desert in Iceland.

The Haléndi desert is mostly uninhabitable. In the Akureyri region, there are 25,00 people living in small, remote, regional areas. The population dispersal and the geographical limitations in the region are very similar to those found in Australia’s outback desert.

The Desert Knowledge Australia Cross Border Business Network has developed a strategy to link 300 businesses into four industry clusters across the five desert regions of Australia, clustering businesses together. Crowe reported that many businesses have seen improvements in market competitiveness and have adapted themselves to take advantage and develop new commercial opportunities according to the new model.

“In this era of globalisation, sustainable desert settlements need to be home to businesses that have built their competitiveness to service distant customers, and by so doing are pulling wealth into their communities,” Mr Crowe said in a statement.

According to a regional growth agreement which was developed in 2004, Akureyri is already working to promote the economy in four economic areas.

“The Akureyri region now has four strong clusters for the food industry, tourism, health, and the education and research sector,” Mr Crowe pointed out. As such, the Australian model might have a lot to recommend to Iceland’s economic development.

Speakers Stu Rosenfeld, Lars Eklund and Ifor Williams led sessions at the conference about cluster development concepts. In addition, five workshop sessions discussed topics such as knowledge networking and communications, facilitating clusters, engaging the private sector and educational development.

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