Business innovation on the up in Iceland

hafnarfjordurToday, with the banks rather smaller than before, knowledge-based companies are again able to tap the talent which Iceland’s highly educated people have to offer. Iceland’s economy may be struggling, but regular Icelanders are finding new ways to innovate. Innovation centres have been formed in many towns and the low value of the Icelandic krona helps exporting companies.

A few years ago, large banks were sucking talent away by snapping away newly graduated engineers and other highly educated Icelanders, with stellar salaries dwarfing those in regular companies.

“Now, all this has changed and regular firms are more competitive. Entrepreneurial companies are even seeing investors again,” says CEO of the Icelandic biotech firm of SagaMedica, Thrainn Thorvaldsson. “We now have an online store for the international market and teams of people working all around Iceland, harvesting herbs to keep up with increasing demand.”

Thorvaldsson’s company researches Icelandic medicinal herbs and produces dietary supplements from them. These are used, for example, in cases of frequent urination, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We are seeing tremendous interest in innovation in Iceland. We have had that before, but now external circumstances drive people towards creating their own opportunities. They simply can’t rely on the same things as before,” says Andri Kristinsson, head of Innovit, a privately run entrepreneurial incubator in Reykjavik. “One of the best ways of preventing a brain-drain from Iceland is to give qualified people a platform to use their education to the fullest,” he adds.

With unemployment on the rise, innovation centres have sprouted in many Icelandic towns. In these towns, entrepreneurial and degree-wielding people come together and work toward forming new companies in Iceland.

With these new exciting companies being able to compete in salary, one could easily expect that Icelanders will flock into more diverse sectors of the job market.

Who even said banking was fun anyway, right?

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