An academic lead in developing sustainable Arctic communities: Co-creation, Quintuple Helix and Open Social Innovation

Martin Mohr Olsen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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In the pursuit of renewable economies and communities within the Arctic, it is essential that we keep in mind the regenerative properties and inherent potential for renewal contained within the region’s institutions of higher learning. While colleges and universities in the periphery naturally tend to be smaller and less resourceful compared to their metropolitan counterparts – they are, more often than not, centres of specialised local and regional knowledge. Not only do institutions of higher learning located in remote regions often play a vital part in maintaining and developing local languages, practices and cultures – they are also ideal incubators for the education and training of local agents of change capable of making a genuine impact on both local and regional issues. Realising that smaller institutions can often be protective and somewhat conservative, it is nevertheless of growing importance that they make an increased, systematic and collaborative effort towards engagement in issues of sustainability on multiple operational levels in order to combat the many issues facing the Arctic region; climate change and ecological challenges that affect the sustainability of communities, political, geopolitical and securitisation issues, effects from resource extraction, impacts of increasing tourism etc. (see: Arctic Council. 2016).

While it may be easy to tout the benefits and values of small, local and specialised universities – it should also be acknowledged that universities in the periphery are fighting at least two distinct, yet interwoven, problems. On one hand, Arctic universities often rely heavily or entirely on government subsidies that are often subject to prevailing political moods and often see allocations differ from year to year, making it hard to plan ahead and plan for long-term commitments or strategies. Located in smaller countries and communities, they are also often unable to attract major sources of external funding from benefactors or industry and establishment of large-scale research projects are similarly rare. As issues of sustainability facing the Arctic mentioned align with of all three aspects of sustainability; economic, environmental and social – the involvement of universities as key stakeholders is paramount for the development of much needed solutions. At the same time, unfortunately, such demands for solutions to often very complex issues can place an even greater burden upon the universities.

In this chapter I will argue that smaller institutions of higher learning within the Arctic must play a greater role in tackling the issues facing the region in a more practical sense. They should work with geographically embedded knowledge in a real-work setting and focus on solutions relevant to the area and its stakeholders. However, I will also argue that for this to become a reality, changes to how many small Arctic universities currently operate must be made. What follows is an attempt to outline an operational framework that addresses the two problematics mentioned above; issues of resources and sustainability. The framework presented is an early attempt at a conceptual visualisation of all the different practical aspects that universities in the Arctic will need to consider systematically in order to minimise reliance on input resources in order to maximise their sustainability output. The framework is being developed for use by the new Innovation Unit at the University of the Faroe Islands and is under continual revision. In order to explain the basic framework, a point-by-point analysis of each step in the process will be given, outlining a theoretical basis and practical considerations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRenewable Economies in the Arctic
EditorsDavid Natcher, Timo Koivurova
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781003172406
ISBN (Print)9781032000305
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Arctic
  • Academia
  • Mission Statements
  • SDG
  • SDGs
  • Faroe islands
  • Sustainabililty
  • Sustainable


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