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From cold pitches to hot ideas: the ICE Innovation Festival's coolest moment

Author: Maria Erika Grinfeldt


In the heart of Kirkenes, where the Arctic's raw beauty meets human ingenuity, the ICE Innovation Festival 2024 emerged as a melting pot of ideas and creativity. Picture this: the crisp, cool air and below-the-horizon pinks of the Arctic sun setting the stage for an event unlike any other. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and business leaders from all corners of Scandinavia and beyond came together, not just to talk about innovation, but to live it. It was all about making the most out of the Arctic’s unique challenges and seeing them as opportunities to innovate and grow.



The company "M.A.I.". | Photo: Emilie Hauan Solvang


The festival was a tapestry of themes, weaving together strands of health, AI, education, and all kinds of innovation into a vibrant picture of the future. Each lecture and session felt like a journey into uncharted territories of thought and possibility. Imagine speakers unraveling the complexities of modern challenges, offering new perspectives that left the audience not just informed, but transformed. Imagine a place where the barriers between industries and backgrounds blur, where a quick coffee break or a casual chat could lead to the next big idea or a groundbreaking collaboration. This festival was that place. It was networking, but not as you know it. It was about connecting, really connecting, with people who shared a passion for making a difference. Stories abound of chance encounters at the festival turning into fruitful collaborations and friendships.


Beyond the group sessions and panel discussions, the festival offered a more intimate experience through its one-on-one sessions. Using a dedicated app DealRoom, attendees could book private meetings with a range of experts – from seasoned investors to industry pioneers. These weren't just quick meet-and-greets; they were deep dives into mentorship, tailored advice, and even discussions about potential investments.


In a visionary exercise titled "Postcards from the Future," participants were invited to unleash their imaginations and envision what Kirkenes and Sør-Varanger area might look like in 2035 - with the current mayor Magnus Mæland being present and acting as an addressee of these thoughts. This wasn't just a fun activity, it was an exercise in forward-thinking. The ideas generated were as diverse as the participants themselves, ranging from high-tech visions to sustainable living concepts, climate change-affected activities, the creation of new job opportunities for youth to influence the return of the population to Kirkenes and Sør-Varanger as well as the development of existing facilities and enterprises, all reflecting a deep engagement with the challenges and potentials of the Finnmark region.


For those looking at the practical side of innovation, the festival's job opportunities workshop was a goldmine. Here, the unique job market of the Arctic region was laid bare, with insights and advice not just on finding a job, but on carving out a career in this unique part of the world. It was a testament to the festival's commitment to not just discussing innovation, but also fostering the growth of those who will carry it forward. A highlight for many budding entrepreneurs was the pitch creation lecture from Martin Nordlund of Malou Media (Grønland). Not just a how-to guide on crafting a business, but an introduction to the art of storytelling, the science of persuasion, and the practicalities of capturing an investor's interest. The session was packed with insights on how to succinctly and effectively convey a business idea, making it an invaluable resource for anyone looking to make their mark in the world of startups.


What does Martin himself say about the festival?


“I really enjoyed the festival, especially because of the people that attended. The people make the event, not the other way around, and you made this event great because of the people attending. <...> I made valuable connections and will see a lot of the network I made after this event. Thanks for a great ICE festival!”


Martin Nordlund of Malou Media | Photo: Emilie Hauan Solvang

A standout feature of the ICE Innovation Festival 2024 was the Youth panel, or the “Youth participation in community development” that brought the voices of younger generations to the forefront. The discussions at the Youth panel were both vibrant and insightful, focusing on how young people see their role in societal development. The young voices spoke about current trends in technology and innovation and broader issues like sustainability, social justice, and education reform. They brought fresh perspectives on how societies could evolve, emphasizing the need for inclusivity, ethical technology, and a deep understanding of environmental challenges.


What made the Youth Panel, so compelling was the clear message that the festival was not just about the here and now, but also about nurturing the next wave of innovators and leaders. The young participants discussed their visions for the future with a mix of realism and optimism.


Through this panel, the festival highlighted the critical role of youth in shaping not just the future of the Arctic region but of the global society. It was a reminder that the seeds of tomorrow's innovations are often found in the fresh thinking of the younger generation, who are not just passive inheritors of the future but active shapers of it.


The final and key event of the ICE Festival was the Polar Bear Pitching: a cool highlight, where startups pitched their ideas while braving icy waters, (un)fortunately not in the Barents Sea but a tub filled with ice and snow. This unique challenge symbolized the resilience and innovative spirit required in the startup world. Nine startups were presented during the event - including the ones dedicated to the usage of AI in our daily lives, sustainable technologies (congratulations to Bjork Brynjarsdottir, CEO at Melta for the win!), fighting climate change in every way possible (hey to the sponsors of the ICE 2024 - Goodbag x OneWhale), and local Sør-Varanger entrepreneur - Primal Synergies - wilderness adventures company with the goal of re-wilding the workforce, who cares about our mental health and staying true to one’s human self in the era of digitalization.


Jessica Cobb during her Polar Bear Pitching | Photo: Emilie Hauan Solvang

The ICE Innovation Festival 2024 in Kirkenes wasn’t just an event; it was a beacon for innovators and thinkers, a place where the harsh challenges of the Arctic became the backdrop for groundbreaking ideas and collaborations. It's these events that remind us that no matter how remote or challenging the environment, human creativity and collaboration know no bounds.

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