Clive Vokes is passionate about helping places to find their competitive edge and using this edge to attract investments which help these places to create jobs and to develop. According to him; being true to oneself and being honest about what you have to offer to investors is a must. And Norrbotten County is well on its way in the global competition to attract investment- using its natural resources as a major selling point.
– Many places are using similar arguments for attracting investments. Everyone promises paradise. The key is to find what differentiates you from the rest. Vive la difference! But you have to be authentic in order to gain credibility with investors, and the narrative of the place has to correlate with its core values. If your offer is hard to replicate, as with the natural resources and the climate in Norrbotten, you can make a stronger case – and this is what Norrbotten is doing in a dynamic way.
– Norrbotten is doing an excellent job. But to go ‘from good to great’ I think it’s very important for Norrbotten to keep developing its value proposition and its strategy
Clive has worked all over the world helping places to reach investors and finding ways of developing their offer to investors. He points out that it is vital to connect your offer to the right opportunity and the right people.
– Investment attraction is a people business. Really, when we work we aim to connect interesting people to each other. In many ways geography is dead, and we challenge the traditional notions about business and markets. We have identified the new generation of investors – companies that we call micro multinational companies- these are not necessarily defined by size, even though they tend to be smaller, but more by their international outlook. Micro-multinationals are creating a new international business landscape. Using digital platforms they are able to make the most of opportunities and work in interesting co-creation processes with other companies, and with places like Norrbotten which are seeking to attract investment. There is a natural ‘fit’ between dynamic places and micro multinationals.
You are a strong believer in collaboration across boundaries – what kind of positive effects does this type of network thinking have on businesses?
– In one word – transformation. Companies that work in co-creation processes tend to grow and develop faster, but the growth I would say is more sustainable because growth in itself is not the main goal, but it happens organically. That means that they’re also more resilient in tough times. They are generally also more creative and innovative. The business model itself creates more generous companies that share ideas and grow together. I think that Sweden has a great climate for generating these types of companies, and that you are also good at welcoming these types of businesses into your community. Network thinking is just as important for like-minded places; this was the reason why Invest in Norrbotten recently organised a ‘Learning journey’ to Clusterland in Upper Austria, one of Europe’s best examples of regional cluster development. It is expected that this journey will lead to co-operation and co-creation between the two regions.
Clive puts these theories into work in different projects, most recently working to increase internationalisation in Trinidad & Tobago. A double-sided mentorship helps traditional industries apply design thinking by working together with young fashion designers.
– Going forward, I think that’s exactly what Norrbotten needs as well. To continue working with the strong value proposition that attracted Facebook and the cold climate testing industry, and developing from that platform. But you have to keep innovating. There are numerous ideas to spring from these areas. But you can also fine-tune the offer and use design thinking to improve it through every stage.
So what are the challenges going forward for this region?
– Norrbotten is doing an excellent job. But to go ‘from good to great’ I think it’s very important for Norrbotten to keep developing its value proposition and its strategy. I see Invest in Norrbotten as an important catalyst in this work helping to maintain the dynamics and making sure that the municipalities in Norrbotten have the support they need in order to keep working to attract more investment. But the next step is also to further develop an overarching internationalisation strategy for the County – where everyone is working together (co-creation again!). And a vital part of that should be attracting international talent, technology and ideas as well as investment. We work by Sekov’s Law of Attraction: “Companies on the move and people on the move are always attracted to places on the move”. Therefore it’s vital to keep getting the message across that Norrbotten is indeed on the move. People tend to get more and more borderless, and a dynamic environment where people can grow will attract innovative talent and innovative companies.
Finally what, besides the value proposition, do you think this region has going for it?
– As mentioned before there is a great environment for co-creation. I also think that Invest in Norrbotten, which by Swedish standards are a quite small agency with this type of agenda, has found a very efficient way of working together with the municipalities in order to facilitate new investments, and that adds value to the overall offer. That’s how I see Norrbotten – a joined up region which is on the move. The task now is to run further and faster – and to make sure everyone is running in the same direction.