Britain hosts ‘innovation summit’ with EU Nordic states

Cameron Oct 2010 Picnik.jpg

Prime ministers from nine northern European countries are meeting in London today (20 January) as part of a British initiative to find ways to boost growth and innovation in green technologies such as offshore wind. 

The summit, involving Britain, Nordic and Baltic countries, is the idea of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who believes Britain can learn from Nordic high-tech innovation and environmentally-friendly policies.

Cameron's eight-month-old coalition government also is seeking to bolster Britain's economic recovery through trade and to expand its diplomatic relationships beyond the traditional pillars of the United States and the European Union.

Cameron opposes greater integration of the EU but British officials say he is not seeking to establish a rival to the 27-nation bloc.

The summit will discuss "how best to boost economic growth, enterprise and job creation while improving people's well-being," Cameron said.

Northern Europe embraced innovation and understood the potential of green technologies for economic growth, he said.

"So at a time when much of Europe is in desperate need of fundamental economic reform, it makes sense for us to come together for the benefit of all our economies: an 'avant garde' for jobs and growth," he said in a statement.

Technology and innovation

Many of the nations taking part in the summit – Britain, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were hard hit by the banking crisis and subsequent recession.

Some, including Britain, have been forced to slash public spending to rein in soaring budget deficits.

The summit will discuss technology and innovation, jobs, family and gender equality as well as the "green economy" and sustainable business.

Unlike a traditional diplomatic gathering, the summit brings together entrepreneurs, social activists and academics as well as politicians to exchange ideas and it will not end with a formal communiqué.

The 100 delegates include Martin Lorentzon, Swedish co-founder of the Spotify digital music service, and environmental technology experts.

Cameron's centre-right Conservatives have borrowed some ideas from Scandinavia, such as allowing parents, teachers or charities to run Swedish-style "free schools".

Cameron is a friend and ideological soulmate of Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, an advocate of privatisation and tax cuts who has nearly balanced Sweden's budget.

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said on Wednesday he saw the summit as a good opportunity to look at what other countries were doing on economic and social development, green energy and job creation.

The region already has strong economic links. Total two-way trade between Britain and the eight other countries attending is around 54 billion pounds ($86.30 billion).

Norway's Statoil and Statkraft are expected to be major players in British plans for a huge expansion of offshore wind farms.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

After his victory at the general elections in May, UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to make the coalition the "greenest government ever".

The coalition government has taken a range of green initiatives, for example committing 43 million pounds (€51.6 million) to subsidising the uptake of electric cars and launching a  'green homes' loan scheme.

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