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#0241: Collaborate to innovate

Gjest: Ragnhild Ulvik

Vice President Corporate Innovation


Med Vert Silvija Seres

In this episode of #LØRN, Silvija seeks to find out how to solve the world's energy needs in the future and how new risky ideas from employees are developed and hatched in such an established company as Equinor. She talks to the Vice President of Corporate Innovation in Equinor, Ragnhild Ulvik, about Corporate Innovation and how we must use both hands in the future. Ragnhild is head of the corporate innovation unit working with innovation communities within and outside Equinor to drive radical transformation and enable Equinor to deliver on its corporate strategy. Focus on innovation both when it comes to technology, business models, and beyond energy. Prior to this, she was project head of estimation at Statoil within 4 years.

Who are you and how did you become interested in energy technology?
I grew up in Bergen, now living in Oslo with my French husband and one-year old twin daughters. My passions are traveling and sports. And of course, energy technology! I think what made me choose the energy industry in the first place was my appetite for the international aspect: meeting new people, getting to know new cultures and speak different languages, to name a few. But as a technology geek – I always need to have the latest gadgets - I was quickly fascinated by all the opportunities technology offers to solve the massive challenges we face as a society. I feel I am on a mission to help solve the world’s energy needs for the future. 

What are you doing at work?
I am head of innovation at Equinor. Together with employees across the company and people in our external ecosystem I work to explore how to solve the world’s energy needs for the future. We pilot and incubate new ideas from our own employees and we work with start-ups and partners to learn and implement technology and develop new business models that help our business evolve.


What are the most important concepts in energy technology?
Currently everything within digitalisation is opening a range of new opportunities. We have for example looked a lot into blockchain and what that could mean for the energy business in partnership with other companies. What is exciting, is that we have now come to a level where we are actually developing concrete projects.

I also think that the ocean space offers promising opportunities for a company like Equinor and for Norway as a country. Just imagine what we could do with the collective competence that the different players in the “Norwegian ecosystem” have built for decades. Right now we are engaging with a group of students to develop ideas about how we might find new, alternative uses for oil platforms when the fields they serve end oil production.

Why is it exciting?
I get to contribute to solve big challenges not only for my company but for society. And we do it working with truly inspiring people who are passionate about what they do. That energises me.

What do you think are the most interesting controversies?
Personally, I think it is both interesting and scary to think about how far technology can take us and where we should draw the limit. As digital technologies develop we face ethical dilemmas that we have not foreseen. And technology seems to develop faster than our ability to understand how it influences our society. I have debated a lot with my husband, who is an IT consultant, to what extent we should allow our bodies to be enhanced by technology. What if we could connect ourselves to memory chips to boost our cognitive processes? That would give vastly increased intelligence. But what would that do to the concept of humanity? And would it be only the ones with money that could enhance themselves?

Your own favourite projects in energy technology?
We just finished an in-house incubation program where more than 60 different business model ideas were matured. The cool thing about the program was that we got to collect ideas from Brazil to the US to the UK and to Norway. The teams pitched their idea and competed against each other to win the challenge. There were so many ambitious teams and great ideas and I loved seeing how they not only competed, but collaborated across disciplines and nationalities. I can assure you - that was truly exciting! Six ideas were chosen to get funding to be incubated. Hopefully we can show concrete results from some of them in not too long.

Your other favourite examples of energy technology internationally and nationally?
From Equinor I find the floating wind turbine Hywind a quite fascinating example. A few years ago, floating offshore wind was a distant dream symbolised by a small-scale Hywind turbine offshore Norway. Today, it is the most viable and mature solution with Hywind Scotland being the world’s first floating wind farm. And what I find really cool is the way this is done by combining existing offshore competence with new and available technologies and innovative minds. 

Another interesting example is from a power company where I am a board member, Gudbrandsdal Energi. They have employed their first drone pilot and experiment using drones to inspect power cables. Operating kilometres of power cables, you can imagine what that does with the efficiency of the inspections!

How do you usually explain energy technology?
To me energy technology is about providing energy to people in an efficient and sustainable way. I do however feel that the scope included in energy technology is becoming wider. While traditionally relating to very hard-core oil and gas technologies, i.e. how can we produce the maximum amount most efficiently, the shift towards electrification and renewable energy is opening up a much wider space to explore.

What do we do particularly well in Norway?
Norway has a fantastic ecosystem and competence base when it comes to providing energy in sustainable ways. One of the unique things I think makes Norway particularly well positioned also for the future is our collaborative culture. Collaborating in new ways will be of essence to solve the challenges the world is facing such as climate change and population growth.

Recommended reading / viewing on energy technology?
I had great pleasure listening to your podcasts Silvija when I was on maternity leave recently and walking for hours with my daughters in their buggy! Apart from that, personally I am more fan of engaging with people than reading. We currently collaborate a lot with students and it is very fascinating to hear their perspectives. That shows me that even if I feel young it is a long time since I graduated, and I think we really need to listen to the young generation.

A favorite energy technology quote?
It is not a quote just for energy technology – but there is an African proverb that I think applies to how we need to approach the challenges of tomorrow: “If you want to go fast – go alone. But if you want to go far – go together.” To me the power of collaboration cannot be underestimated when exploring for the future.

Most important takeaway from our conversation?

Diverse and multi-disciplinary teams with great competence and passion can create great things. But, that being said – it is everyone's responsibility to take part in the energy transition to drive our society forward. I would like to challenge our listeners today to think about how they can contribute - and then act on it!


This is what you will learn:

Energy tech

Personally, I think it is both exciting and scary to think about how far technology can take us today and with what we should put the line. Society's ability to understand the effect that technology will have on society, and the ethical complications this highlights, is unable to keep up with technological development.

- Ragnhild Ulvik

This is Equinor

Equinor is a broad energy company with a proud history. The company consists of 21,000 committed colleagues developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy in more than 30 countries worldwide. Equinor is the largest operator in Norway, one of the world’s largest offshore operators, and a growing force in renewables. Driven by their dedication to safety, equality and sustainability and their Nordic urge to explore beyond the horizon, Equinor is shaping the future of energy.