Most of us hoped that the coronavirus had loosened its grip on the Danish population and Danish business as infection rates plummeted in early summer. Today the coronavirus situation has almost returned to the same levels experienced in spring, a little more than six months after our society shut down. We are still struggling with the pandemic, which affects our lives in multiple ways, privately, professionally and socially. The economic consequences for the North Jutland business community have been severe, many people have become unemployed and companies are fighting for very existence.
Undoubtedly, North Jutland has been hit hard and we will probably be feeling the impact for some time to come, even though we have essentially handled the corona crisis better than feared. The question is: How can we get through it safely?
Such crises can make us insecure, from provincial North Jutland to the whole wide world – but one thing is certain: We must not be cautious, reserved and passive. We must dare to take up the baton and lead. We have long spoken about innovation and readiness to change, but if it was not important before, it certainly is now.
Skilled employees and companies are a big part of the answer. One recipe for skilled workers is education, which adds value to the companies. We need them more than ever before. This requires an even stronger interaction between educational institutions and the business community. Our new collaboration between UCN university college and Port of Aalborg is a good example of this. Together we shall address the needs for new business models. A specific example of this might be new knowledge about e.g. manufacturer’s adaptability. In spring we experienced shortages of personal protective equipment and reliance on foreign manufacturers, but global supply chains have proven to be highly vulnerable to disruption. We do not know what we will lack the next time something happens in the world, but we know the importance of being able to produce it for ourselves. In other words, we need to place a greater emphasis in the future on building supply resilience in the value chains of the companies. Apart from being able to supply high demand products ourselves, it will also help to secure income for our local businesses.
The potential is there. We have the necessary knowledge, not least through the region’s major educational institutions, we have dynamic and innovative companies, as well as numerous ambitious and creative employees. We have a unique solidarity across public and private entities. Experience also shows that we Danes adapt relatively fast to new cooperation models and certain companies are very quick to adapt their productions.
We need to exploit this partly by creating enhanced frameworks for our companies. Together we must examine how we can establish a production facility that is not aimed at one specific production but rather affords maximum agility and adaptability to accommodate changing production demands resulting from e.g. disruption in supply chains. So one day you can be producing masks as required locally, and the next day disinfectant or something else that we need urgently.
This should be based in Port of Aalborg’s growing commercial area in Aalborg East, which is both a business park and a joint development platform for companies. Physical facilities need to be established here to ensure an agile production, a test laboratory for production development and the involvement of production expertise from UCN and AAU.
It is a big gamble but at a time of crisis like this we must dare together to venture into unfamiliar territory – and support each other on the way with optimism and courage. We want to lead the way.