Digital disruptive technologies are messing with old business models. If your business model still hasn’t been messed with, you are next!

By Anne-Grete Ellingsen, CEO at GCE NODE

Something along these lines was the key message from Zanny Minton Beddoes at the 2014 Global Outlook conference in Arendal. The Economic Editor for The Economist provided examples of how new companies outperformed and – in some cases – eliminated old industry powerhouses. New digital technology has forever transformed industries like music and media. Minton Beddoes gave fair warning: It does not matter what kind of business you are in. Digitalization will find you!

What if you are a producer of offshore cranes and have extensive knowledge of the mechanics, the materials, the engineering and the production process necessary to make the world’s best offshore crane. But you lack the knowledge of how to put sensors on the crane to monitor its condition, of how to remotely control it from an onshore location and how to enable the crane to autonomously interact with other pieces of equipment on a ship or a rig.

What do you do? Sit still and do things the way they have always been done? Invest in ICT-competence? Engage in research with world-leading academic institutions? Purchase the new disruptive frontrunner company before it becomes a serious competitor? These days, we see ‘all of the above’.

The most obvious realization is that you have to do something. You have to adapt, learn, develop and innovate to stay ahead of the pack. This is, of course, nothing new. As a world-leading producer, or a supplier to a world-leading producer, you know how to stay on top of your game. However, Minton Beddoes warns that this change is more profound than any other we have encountered before.

In a digital age, already being digital is a far better starting point than not being digital. It might prove easier for an ICT-firm specializing in sensors, data analysis and self-learning systems to produce intelligent cranes, winches or drilling equipment, than it is for traditional producers of cranes, winches or drilling equipment to do the same.

GCE NODE has taken several initiatives to focus on digitalization, automation and robotics. These are key areas for smarter, more efficient and more competitive future solutions. We urge the cluster’s participants to join these initiatives to improve awareness and knowledge of what is to come. These subjects are also central in the larger projects that GCE NODE is involved in, such as Center for Research-based Innovation (SFI) Offshore Mechatronics and Mechatronics Innovation Lab, in addition to projects like Future Robotics, Data Highway and a competence program on data security.