Store Norske Momentum (SNM) is the name of the new subsidiary intended to generate new businesses in Longyearbyen beyond the company's current ventures in coal mining and real estate.
"This is the piece that will be responsible for developing new business activity at Store Norske," said Alexander Askeland, the company's sales and marketing director.
Seed cash and hatchery
The premise is to continue working with the established Mine 3 museum project, a research center in Svea, the industrial area at Hotellneset and Pole Position Logistics. In addition, SNM will be an incubator for new ideas and securing capital. The third mission is to develop current claim areas to new activity.
"The aim is to create 30 jobs during 2016 and it should not stop there," Askeland said, emphasizing both Store Norske and Longyearbyen as a community are vulnerable to an industry that is struggling. "We must do this anyway. Although coal mining is continuing, this is something we want to prioritize."
"We have to help contribute to the workplace," he said.
There are already at the outset some startup projects that will deliver new jobs. The first is a museum in Mine 3 scheduled to open in late summer. An agreement with Basecamp Spitsbergen has been reached for that and there are also plans to built a local conference center.
Modeled after Kings Bay
In addition, there are two major projects on the list. One is Svea Arctic Research Infrastructure (Sari), which will make Van Mijenfjorden at Svea available for research, development and equipment testing. Svea is accessible via its own airport and Akseløya in the mouth of the fjord ensures the bay freezes over during winter. The project will be a partnership between Store Norske, Sintef, The University Center in Svalbard and Siva, where Store Norske delivers services and infrastructure, similar to Kings Bay in Ny-Ålesund.
Sari is already underway. Additional planning and construction of new facilities is scheduled to start next year.
The second project is the Hotellneset industrial area where Store Norske occupies a 700-acre area. This site will be the central focus of core functions in Longyearbyen, with Store Norske planning to move its industrial activities, warehouses and heavier operations from the central areas of Longyearbyen.
Expanding activities at Svea
"The basic idea with Sari is to develop and further develop the capacity we have at Svea, and use it as a base for more activity," Askeland said. "Eventually it will be a place where private parties can come and develop and test equipment in the Arctic."
"The idea is to get a new leg to stand on in Svea. It is an unconditional must for maintaining Svea as a site."
Store Norske Momentum was presented to Minister of Trade, Industry and Fisheries Monica Mæland when she visited Longyearbyen recently.
SNM is derived from Store Norske Utvikling (Development), which the board of directors requested 50 million kroner for at the beginning of the year as part of a 450-million-kroner emergency loan.
Mæland rejected that part of the application and has since said she still plans to evaluate the idea. The need for capital remains for a company seeking to be an instrument for change and innovation.
"We have money to drive project work for a while to come, but there will be a need for greater capital so we must have a dialogue with the ministry," Askeland said.
Translated by Mark Sabbatini