I was back in Agder with my colleague Tor-Arne Bellika for talks with companies and the university, and for the Norwegian kick-off meeting of our new one-year project on mobile workplace and e-learning that started this month. As part of the kick-off hosted by Anne Torunn Hvideberg, the Digin cluster manager, we organised a small workshop to learn more about the regional e-learning and digital media sector and to explore together new opportunities for B2B collaborations and for taking businesses to international markets. Also, this workshop was the first in a series of events to help the Digin cluster establish an international business network in mobile workplace and e-learning. In the two days before the workshop, we talked to several of the companies that were going to participate to explain the purpose and help us get off a quick start.
Agder is an important scaling partner for the Learning Layers project. We brought up the work in Learning Layers on a number of occasions during the talks and the workshop, and explored with companies and the university different avenues for collaboration. There are a number of opportunities we see for Layers going forward and we have included these into our plans for the third year of the project.
During our visits we were able to identify three tools developed by companies in the region that could provide us with interesting integration opportunities to deliver learning services based on Layers technology directly to customers. At this point we only had brief conversations about these tools, with a more in-depth assessment following over the next months after we had an opportunity to discuss this internally with our Layers partners. In addition, there are a number of cloud service and SaaS providers operating in the Agder region that could host some of the Layers cloud services. Once we got a clearer idea of what is needed here from future cooperation partners, we will discuss proposals directly with the companies.
Another interesting opportunity came up during the workshop. Bachelor and Master students from the University of Agder have to work on projects that companies can post on an on-line platform called the Kompetansetorget. In Layers we have worked on previous occasions with students, through project-based learning arrangements at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, and also through developer camps and the Hightech Entrepreneurship Lab at the RWTH Aachen. We will work with our colleagues from Layers to submit proposals to UiA for students to contribute to some of our project’s development activities.
A couple more things have happened during the visit. Learning Layers actively pursues an open source strategy and we were tasked to explore the product and developer landscape in Agder for open source readiness and adoption. This has resulted in several ‘hooks’ we want to pursue in upcoming workshops together with Layers partners. Then, we are currently putting together a grant application for a project to help universities and industry to develop better quality, scalable, and sustainable practice-based learning arrangements. So we looked for – and found – existing arrangements in the Agder region that could be part of that new project. Finally, in the context of the business network that Digin is promoting, we did some thinking about how interested Layers partners could get involved with that network and explore opportunities for joint projects and business with Agder-based firms in the ICT industry (Digin cluster), the oil and gas industry (NODE cluster), the process industry (EYDE cluster), and the experience industry (USUS cluster).