- I am so happy to be here. It gives me new perspectives so that I can help our country to victory, says Viktoria Dovgal (35) from Kyiv in Ukraine.
On Thursday 27 and Friday 28 October, 2022, she participated in a workshop together with twenty entrepreneurs, budding entrepreneurs and students in the Young Entrepreneurs program at Nord University in Bodø. It took place under the auspices of the Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (NUCC) and aims to bring together Norwegian and Ukrainian entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs to explore business opportunities between the two countries. The program is financed with project funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway.
Impossible to go to Ukraine
The Chamber of Commerce uses its network among businesses and authorities in both countries to establish contact between Norwegian and Ukrainian companies. Focus areas are IT, energy, production and seafood and agriculture - sectors that are already important in Norwegian-Ukrainian cooperation.
Every year, 20 applicants are selected to participate in the program - preferably a combination of students, recent graduates and someone with longer industry or entrepreneurial experience.
The program consists of two intensive weeks, barely two months apart. Usually a week in Norway and a week in Ukraine - but this year, because of the war, it will only be in Norway. The first week was in Oslo and Stavanger and this week it has been in Trondheim and Bodø. The program in Bodø is organized in collaboration with Nord University.
- We arrived in Bodø by night train early Thursday morning and went directly to Nord University, says project manager Anne Birthe Skaret from NUCC.
- Here we were warmly welcomed by Professor Frode Mellemvik, who has also been a board member of the Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce from its very beginning. We also learned about Bodø and Nordland, and the area's important role in the Norwegian economy. The participants seemed to be very excited about Erlend Bullvåg's interesting presentation about Business Index North and potential in the region. After lunch, the participants went on an interesting visit with the Bodø region's development company, where they were also very well received.
- We contribute with the academic program and organisation, as well as participating in final presentations and evaluation, says associate professor Olga Iermolenko at the Nordic Area Center at Nord University Business School. She herself is from Ukraine and has worked with many of the centre's Ukraine projects.
Motivated for the reconstruction
Between the two intensive weeks, the groups worked together on market analyses, which were presented to a jury on Friday. The winners are celebrated with a gala dinner on Friday evening in Bodø.
– The feedback has exceeded all expectations, says Anne Birthe Skaret. She is a project manager from the Norwegian - Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce.
– Already in the first few days, the participants formed very strong bonds with each other and got off to a good start with processes to explore the potential for increased cooperation between Norway and Ukraine. They have used their time well. It also seems that the motivation of the participants this year is a strong desire on both sides to contribute positively to the reconstruction of Ukraine.
At least that is Viktoria Dogval's motivation.
– I was forced to flee Ukraine and to London, along with my daughter and mother. I signed up for this to have the opportunity to share my own knowledge, as well as to learn about Norwegian solutions for the energy sector.
She says it has been very inspiring to participate.
– We have already arranged meetings between Norwegian and Ukrainian companies, and we have looked at Norwegian solutions that could be useful in Ukraine. And I will use what I have learned when I can soon go home to Ukraine. After we have emerged victorious from the war!