Historically, the southern part of Norway, the Agder region, has been characterized by its coastal location with shipping companies, international trade and several important international shipping ports. Today, the maritime sector and international trade still plays a major role in the region. Agder is one of the most significant export regions in Norway.
In spite of its small size in terms of population, the region of Agder has leading companies in world niche markets. There are three major sectors, all exhibiting a significant degree of local clustering: oil and gas, metal elaboration and transformation, and information and communication technologies. The companies in these sectors are active worldwide, and their international activities are also an important opportunity for the region as they could serve as ‘ambassadors’ of Agder in international markets.
The green economy is, in the regions development plan, seen as an opportunity for the region and traditional businesses to explore. To develop new competitive businesses suited for the green economy is seen as vital for regional development. This view is to a large extent based on the innovative business environment and the competitive advantage the region has in renewable energy production. One of Norway’s largest renewable energy-companies, Agder Energy, is located in the region. Due to the closeness to the European continent and the substantial renewable energy production the region sees a huge potential for transmission of renewable energy to the European markets. The substantial renewable production in the region is also the base for the energy intensive processing industry i.e. aluminum, nickel, carbon products, silicon and manganese.
Three major business clusters are located in the region. These clusters are vital contributors to the gross regional product and to the economic growth in the region. The competitiveness of these clusters is the main reason for the regions substantial export. These are clusters are:
Norwegian Offshore & Drilling Engineering (NODE): A cluster dealing with off-shore equipment for drilling and mooring. The businesses are world leading, up to 70 percent, of certain niche markets. In 2008 the NODE-cluster consisted of 47 enterprises and had an annual output of €4.1 billion. The business cluster is exploring opportunities in the green economy.
Eyde-cluster: The cluster consists of 12 processing enterprises located along the Agder coast. A decade ago the regions process industry was seen as a sector with no future. However, with emphasis put on energy efficiency, the development of more effective production processes and a shift to «green» economy has turned the sector into one of nations most competitive clusters and thus the backbone of the regions export oriented businesses.
The maritime sector: The clusters consist of the whole value chain of a cluster – with large shipping companies, maritime insurance companies and ports, but also research institutes such as a branch of the national institute of marine research, Flødevigen Research Station.
Norways largest ICT-cluster, Digin, is also situated in South Norway. The cluster consists of more than 60 SMEs from southern Norway, many of them working in niche markets. Through Digin they cooperate on solving large ICT challenges, each contributing with their specialized knowledge, creating innovative and competitive ICT expertise.
South Norway is the preferred vacation destination for Norwegians. This is partly because of the Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park, which is one of Norway’s main attractions. Our coast is famous for its beautiful small islands, but we offer unspoiled countryside and charming villages with white-painted wooden houses too.