Sitting just south of the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic Ocean; you most likely know Iceland as an island of glacial landscapes, black sand beaches, waterfalls, views of the Northern Lights and volcanic activity. But along with geysers and geothermal hotspots, Iceland is also a hotspot for technology and innovation.
To showcase this, and to celebrate the country’s vibrant startup ecosystem of fast-growing enterprises, pivots and unicorns, every year at the end of May Reykjavik hosts Iceland Innovation Week (IIW), inviting delegates to “meet the future.”
This past week (May 22-26) was…
Iceland Innovation Week 2023
IIW 23’s events were held at locations all around Iceland’s capital city. However, two venues in particular held some of the week’s main sessions: Gróska, a community business centre and “greenhouse of new ideas where established companies blossom alongside the latest startups,” and Harpa, a concert hall and architectural marvel with a facade which many say represents glimmering fish scales.
— Henning Larsen (@HLArchitects) April 12, 2019
Categorised under five main umbrella themes: “Fun & Games,” “Greener than Grass,” “Everybody loves Everybody,” “Techno – Tech yes!” and “Food Mood,” IIW 23’s talks featured topics like technology, science, food and drink, sustainability, investment and finance, diversity and inclusion, gaming – and much more.
Such talks were hosted by a wide range of pioneering thought-leaders, founders, business executives, government officials, experts and entrepreneurs, and the dynamic and forward-thinking nature of IIW’s sessions underscored the vibrancy of…
Iceland’s ecosystem of innovation
To give you an idea of just some of the events that took place at IIW 23…
Christopher McClure, the CEO and founder of Loki Foods – a sustainable, plant-based Arctic food startup which says that “Iceland is the (plant-based) seafood capital of the world” – led a talk alongside Caroline Reid, Sustainability Director at Oatly, on: “Growing a Plant-Based Future.”
Nima Tisdall, founder of Blue Lobster; an app-based marketplace for sustainable fisherman and low-impact seafood, spoke at a talk called: “Finding Nemo: Changing how we eat and produce food” alongside Renata Bade Barajas, founder of Greenbytes; an all-female tech company fighting food wastage in the restaurant industry.
Anthony Bellafiore, Investment Manager at Katapult; Stefan Maard, General Partner at Climentum Capital; Andreas Filipsson CCO & Senior Sustainability Advisor at Ethos; and Gunnar Magnússon, Partner and Head of Sustainability & Climate at Deloitte, all partook in a panel discussion on: “Sustainability as a key to get funding.”
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Blámi, Eimur, and Orkídea – three of the four joint venture initiatives of Iceland’s National Power Company, Landsvirkjun, which exclusively uses renewable energy sources – hosted a “Green gas BBQ” and spoke to delegates about green energy.
Lady Brewery, a Reykjavik-based women-owned and led microbrewery, even hosted an evening of drinks and games alongside Icelandic video game developer, CCP Games, and female gaming group, Tík, where guests spoke about gender equality in the gaming industry whilst pub-quizzing.
Þórey Proppé, CEO and co-founder of Empower, hosted karaoke and cocktails to “sing away toxic work culture,” stemming from the company’s own mission: “Killing toxic work culture with inclusion.”
There was even a session led by the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, and the CEO and founder of Víkonnekt, Safa Jemai, which focused on the collaboration between the Icelandic Government and OpenAI. Iceland and the tech giant are working together to utilise the power of GPT-4 to preserve Iceland’s native tongue, which, in the face of rapid digitalisation, is being threatened with “de facto extinction.”
And though the week focused on breakthroughs in broad terms, IIW 23 dedicated one full day to solely zero in on climate change: Wednesday 24; the…
“Ok, bye” climate summit
Like every year, “Ok, bye” 2023 chose one theme, in particular, to focus on: “The Ocean.”
This was, however, not your average climate summit.
Why? Well, because talks at “Ok, bye” 2023 were “intertwined with artistic happenings, music, and visual approaches,” featuring performances from musicians, choirs, comedians and creatives. As the event’s webpage describes it: “Ok, bye is not your normal startup conference but rather a unique climate performance.”
True to form, one of the summit’s first few agenda items was a performance from the Bartónar men’s choir.
— Dr Bryony Mathew (@BryonyMathew) May 24, 2023
Other artists at “Ok, bye” 2023 included the singer of indie electro band Vök, Margrét Rán; the musician and DJ, Hermigervill; performance artist and comedian, Guðmundur Felixson; the Reykjavik Queer Choir; and the Celebs band.
The Ok, Bye climate summit has to be the purest form of Edutainment. Congratulations to Iceland Innovation Week for the inspiration, information, and connections 🇮🇸🥰 #okbye2023 pic.twitter.com/mAws0vsKse
— Björn (くま) Lapakko ✌️🐻 (@Lapakko) May 24, 2023
In terms of the summit’s talks, topics including “blue tech,” biodiversity, ocean carbon dioxide removal (CDR), the energy transition and food were covered by a diverse panel of experts.
For example, amongst many others, speakers included the likes of NASA Datanaut, Laura Anne Edwards; EU Ambassador to Iceland, Lucie Samcová-Hall Allen; CEO of ocean health company Running Tide, Marty Odlin; CEO of the non-profit Ocean Visions, Brad Ack; and the Icelandic entrepreneur, climate investor and founder of Foobar and Transition Labs, David Helgason, who is also a partner that helped to create the event.
Sustainability was a common thread woven through many of IIW 23’s events, but the “Ok, bye” summit took a deep dive into discussions on climate, the environment and the world’s oceans.
You may, however, still be wondering…
Why is the summit called “Ok, bye”?
Well, as the summit’s webpage explains:
“The name ‘Ok, bye’ refers to the first Icelandic glacier lost to climate change, Ok-jökull. The former glacier once covered 16sq km but has melted to a fraction, and is no longer considered a glacier, but just another boring mountain. Thanks, global warming.”
And in broad terms, what is the aim of the summit? As is also written on the summit’s webpage: “The aim is to establish Iceland as the center of discussion on climate change and innovation.”
Providing a focal point to discuss both of these topics under one umbrella in this way is crucial and should be called for in all global discussions on climate change. And together, “Ok, bye” and all events at IIW 23 underscore the vital importance of exploring the intersection between innovation and planetary problems.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Glass facade of the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik, Iceland. Featured Photo Credit: Lex Melony