In 2016 we founded our nanomaterials engineering company with a belief that close collaborative and trusting partnerships would be fundamental to our success. We wanted like-minded, innovative and agile teams to join us, people who shared our ethos, our dream of transforming revolutionary technologies into effective solutions for real-life issues.
Having based our UK laboratories in County Durham’s NETPark, a premier science, engineering and technology site supporting commercial innovation, where else could we nurture development of life-changing products for the good of humankind? It didn’t take us long to choose Norway as a prime location for our subsidiary; nul points for correctly surmising the decision was unconnected with the Eurovision Song Contest, although our countries’ last place rankings have been similar historically…
So, why is Norway perfect? What excites us about the country, convinces us that GC will flourish there, particularly in the central region of Trøndelag? Three inseparable words summarise it:
Culture + Connection + Creativity
UK – Norway Culture
We’re not looking to share a synth-pop ‘a-ha’ moment or weigh up the relative contributions of Shakespeare and Ibsen to the world of theatre here. Rather, it’s important to understand how the fundamental principles by which Norwegians live and do business mirror GC’s passionate beliefs. Norwegian society at work and at home or play values tolerance, respect, trust and equality and this includes a healthy balance between home and work life. In a business context these attitudes are expressed in:
- Flat, non-hierarchical, democratic structures. GC doesn’t do power structures or struggles either. Both internally and with external collaborators, we believe in fairness and empowerment. Leave your ego at the door
- If something needs saying, speed, directness and informality work best. We like simple, clear communication; frigidity does not equal efficiency
- Honest, trusting, reliable connections. These mutually transparent relationships underpin GC’s business model. To discover breakthrough technology that works, you first need to eliminate through experimentation what doesn’t and communicate your findings. It’s this clarity that stimulates confident, supportive partnerships throughout industry, the arts, academia and research facilities globally
UK – Norway Connections
UK – Norway allegiance has thrived for over 1,000 years, politically, geographically, culturally and commercially. Our rich, vibrant relationship is as strong today as it’s ever been, straddling borders, seas and time. Perhaps the most enduring representations of the connection are the world-famous Lewis Chessmen, thought to have been fashioned from walrus tusk and sperm whale teeth in Trondheim, western Norway, around 1150 – 1200.
Animated discussions have this year surrounded another powerful symbol of our union: the Christmas tree Oslo has gifted annually for proud display in Trafalgar Square since 1947. A mark of appreciation for the UK’s support during WWII, the tree has its own Twitter account (@trafalgartree) and the comments it attracts demonstrate its significance for both countries.
Crucially, the relationship is anything but backward-looking. The UK is Norway’s most important trading partner outside the EU, 70% of British oil and 50% of gas imports coming from Norway. Recent concern over the UK’s energy security underlines the benefit of this robust association. It is further emphasised by October 2021’s opening of the world’s longest subsea interconnector, North Sea Link (NSL). Six years in development, the interconnector’s 720km high-voltage cables link the countries’ electricity systems, again assuring security.
More than this though, NSL enables the UK and Norway to fulfil their 2012 joint declaration on sustainable energy cooperation. Together they’ll pursue renewable energy opportunities, offshore and onshore wind and large- and small-scale hydropower projects, towards carbon neutrality and clean growth. Norway’s two largest energy companies, Statskraft, and Equinor are integral to the UK’s continuing offshore wind energy plans.
Though energy dominates UK – Norway industrial collaboration, the countries also trade in more traditional commodities and tourism is important for both. July 2021’s post-Brexit free trade agreement to lock in tariff-free commerce and boost sectors including digital, financial and professional services was described by the then International Trade Secretary as “a landmark moment” that would “support jobs, cut red tape and open up more opportunities for the UK.” Did someone mention the ‘B’ word? Norway has a close relationship with the EU through the European Economic Area Agreement (EEA) and several other bilateral agreements. Following the UK’s 2020 departure from the EU, this access to the single market is valuable for GC’s connectivity and expansion plans in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.
UK – Norway Creativity
We share Norway’s willingness to investigate, test new ideas, be independent thinkers. Norwegian workers are among the most productive in the world, responsible yet unafraid to take risks and uncover new possibilities. With one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, an enviably resilient economy and an enthusiastic desire for innovation, Norway has the passion and the resources to inspire GC’s ambitions and support their actuality.
The North East’s Sedgefield, with its celebrated NETPark ecosystem fostering and driving invention, attracted GC as the logical site for its first UK laboratories. Though in a small market town, NETPark is a flourishing, energetic hub for scientific and technological originality with access to multidisciplinary expertise from the Centre for Process Innovation and Durham University. Similarly, our Rhode Island offices are sited in the CIC building, known for its creativity and collaboration.
GC Norway’s location, Trøndelag, is the country’s technology and research capital. More specifically, Innocamp in Steinkjer is a newly built regional setting which encourages originality and growth by bringing people with different skills together to share thoughts and ideas. Trøndelag’s standing as a centre for pioneering excellence was reinforced in October 2021 with the launch of Tech Port, an organisation whose goal is to establish a world class inspiration region focused on our sustainable future. By 2030, Tech Port envisages Trøndelag’s capital Trondheim will be at the nucleus of Europe’s technological progress for the good of the planet and humanity’s future.
And there we come full circle. The constant, enduring relationship between the UK and Norway extends from Trondheim’s timeless Lewis Chessmen and back again to today’s centre for collaboration, ingenuity, inspiration and collective responsibility. GC is positioning itself and its ground-breaking technology at the heart high-tech communities with whom we can address the questions that matter.