North stars— Nordic


Denmark, Sweden and Finland boast institutions devoted to seeking design-led solutions to societal problems. Are they guiding stars for the world to follow?

Denmarkm Finland, Sweden, solutions, urban planning

In both government and industry, the Nordic states have long served as models of best practice. Despite their relatively small size, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway have forged a reputation as leaders in innovation and design: adaptable, resourceful and creative. As western countries struggle with huge challenges – from climate change to shifting global competitiveness – Nordic institutions dedicated to fostering innovation are each working to ensure their nations maintain a strong position in the 21st century. This month, Monocle looks at…

Sitra: five projects

  1. In constructing its new HQ, Sitra is redefining sustainable urban development. The Low2No project blazes a trail for carbon-neutral building.
  2. Sitra’s response to looking after Finland’s ageing population is a pilot project with an elderly care home in Tampere, which brings together public, private and third-sector providers.
  3. Sitra runs executive-development courses, assembles Finland’s top 200 decision makers to discuss national challenges, and holds “studios” to generate solutions.
  4. Working alongside Finland’s 342 municipalities, Sitra has developed a single ICT platform, ending highly expensive duplication.
  5. In 2009, Sitra began piloting “health kiosks” to offer low-threshold primary healthcare services in accessible places such as shopping malls.

Vinnova: five projects

  1. Traffic safety research. Swedish research and development has led to many successful products and services, saving lives.
  2. The Maxfas material. This new material conducts electricity and can replace gold in the manufacturing of electronic components.
  3. ClimateWell. An internationally successful solar-powered heating-pump system.
  4. The Peepoo bag. A single-use personal toilet that is self-sanitising and biodegradable. First launch project is currently underway in Kibera, Kenya.
  5. Eye-controlled computer monitor systems developed by a firm called Tobii. Developed for disabled people, it can also be used to analyse the way people look at adverts or websites.

Mindlab: five projects

  1. Mindlab helped show Denmark’s National Board of Industrial Injuries that its processes made people feel worse, not better. Services were thus redesigned around the feedback provided by industrial-injury victims.
  2. Why don’t young, tech-savvy Danes do their taxes online? Mindlab discovered the Ministry of Taxation’s website confused young users, so it designed a simplified version.
  3. Denmark’s regional business incubators spur growth by providing guidance. Mindlab helped one underperforming incubator to redesign its engagement with clients. Satisfaction soared, and the new model has since been adopted nationally.
  4. Denmark needs skilled foreign professionals, but retaining expats isn’t easy. Mindlab helped develop the first social network for them, helping them settle.
  5. Mindlab’s “Regulation Hunters” try to identify irritating burdens faced by companies. The aim is to reduce red tape, giving firms more time to run their businesses.

0:00:00 0:01:00

Drag me