Greenhouses powered by waste heat, ground stations that communicate with satellites and the future of the electricity grid. Meet the business developers behind several major projects and establishments in Boden.
They lead a fairly anonymous existence in Boden, the duo at the municipal development company Boden Business Agency (BBA). Internally, there have been jokes about the secret section hiding in the shadows, made worse by the fact that their office was in a completely different building from their colleagues’ premises.
It’s an environment that business developers Håkan Nordin and Nils Lindh have enjoyed quite a bit, working a bit in the background. In the past, there was also a need for this as the projects they were working on needed to be kept within a closed circle to be completed. Competition from other municipalities and countries was high and early announcements could derail a possible establishment.
Nowadays, their work is more visible and has become integrated with other business development in the municipality. In practice, they are now part of the Boden Business Park ecosystem, even though BBA is formally a municipal company in its own right. But the mission is not to work locally, but globally. Finding companies or projects that connect with the municipality’s vision of a circular society, what we call the smart green, and finding new business models linked to it.
– Much of what we do in Boden is completely new. If we were only to look locally, I think it would be difficult to work with development on the scale that we want to do. The local business community often has neither the time nor the resources to start and run projects. However, the local business community is a prerequisite for implementing the projects, and in the long term it is very important for Boden’s development that local companies themselves make the necessary adjustments to be able to take part in the journey that we have started” says Håkan Nordin.
Business in sustainability
The municipality of Boden has become an important part of the global social transition. The change taking place here over the next five years represents 20 years of societal development. A big part of that is looking at how we use and can reuse resources by creating circular flows.
One example is the 300 square metre greenhouse on the Plug & Play site. It is heated by excess heat from a small data centre, creating the conditions for growing fruit and vegetables all year round.
The feasibility of this is currently being tested, as year-round cultivation could be one of the industries of the future in Boden. At the same time, other projects are looking at how our food waste could be used to feed our crops.
– When we describe our vision to others and explain the opportunities that exist here thanks to previous investments and H2 Green Steel’s establishment, it’s like a light goes on about the business opportunities it can bring,” says Nils Lindh.
There is a clear focus on Boden as a municipality becoming more sustainable and that the projects prioritised will help the municipality in the transition.
When a company that meets the criteria expresses an interest in establishing itself in Boden, Nils Lindh and Håkan Nordin act as a link between business developers at Boden Business Park, administrators at Boden Municipality and the duo’s extensive network of contacts in the business and research worlds.
– We believe very strongly in developing companies’ businesses through cross-sector collaboration. It has been a success factor for us anyway. We often have fairly quick access, both to staff in different administrations and to the right people in companies where there may be a win-win situation. It streamlines processing times and helps companies to get the best possible conditions for establishment,” says Håkan Nordin.
The duo has been working together since 2013. Early on, a strategic decision was made to prioritise industries in need of large amounts of electricity and a natural counterpart was companies in the IT industry that needed physical premises to create virtual cloud storage services.
Made Boden famous
In Boden there was green cost-effective electricity in abundance, much of which was transported away from here. There was also a large amount of planned land and a cold climate in a geo-politically stable area.
– Boden had a good offer for the market, but the region was relatively unknown to the industry, so the municipality decided to make a joint effort with our neighbouring municipalities and meet the market out in the world, says Nils Lindh.
When the requests started to come in, the permit processes went smoothly thanks to close cooperation between the development company, the municipality of Boden and Boden Energy. This collaboration has been positive for the development of Boden and crucial in H2 Green Steel’s decision to establish itself in Boden.
It was precisely the opportunities for establishing electricity-intensive businesses that led the municipality to buy the land and create the area that is now known as Boden Industrial Park. The green steel plant and the world’s largest green hydrogen plant will be built there.
When the buildings are completed, there will still be nearly 150 hectares of industrial land and nearby there is also Boden Cleantech Center with large areas under development. There are huge volumes of residual materials and energy that will bring new establishments and residual projects.
This is why new strategies are being developed to seize the opportunities that development brings. Among other things, Boden is identified as an important strategic location for a completely new infrastructure, green hydrogen, which is seen by many as the sustainable energy solution of the future.
– What we are doing in Boden right now is unique. Being able to help shape a partly new and attractive Boden is a great motivator for me. It’s also nice that many people see what we do as something very positive and want to participate in different ways,” says Nils Lindh.