DIGS Brings Coworking to Trondheim

Innovation and entrepreneurship in Trondheim is dominated by academic influence. NTNU’s School of Entrepreneurship churns out eager graduates year after year, while their Technology Transfer Office looks to commercialise the institution’s extensive research.

Of course, this is no bad thing.

Academic strength has positioned Trondheim as Norway’s knowledge capital. But what is there for people outside the academic bubble?
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The answer – until quite recently – was not very much. The Leiv Eiriksson Nyskaping (LEN) R&D incubator provides valuable assistance to entrepreneurs but in a traditional working environment. Little other infrastructure existed, driving many of those talented NTNU graduates down to Oslo, or even abroad, to grow their business.

The global co-working phenomenon

Co-working provides a professional yet relaxed work environment for people looking for a creative, affordable way to work, collaborate, and innovate. It’s nothing new, variations exist all over the world with a range of aims, from supporting hip tech startups in NYC to driving social change across Africa.

Oslo’s MESH is the flag-bearer for Norwegian co-working, but up until now, Trondheim lacked anywhere similar.

Introducing DIGS, a versatile and highly-visible space on Olav Tryggvasons gate. It’s only been open for a few months and is a long way from completion, but has already attracted high-calibre visitors such as Liv Signe Navarsete, the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development at the time.

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When the renovations are complete, DIGS will offer 1,000m² of offices, open-plan desks, event spaces, and even a street-facing cafe. Co-founder Arnstein Johannes Syltern told me about the concept and what “success” would mean:

“We spent a year travelling as far as San Francisco looking for inspiring co-working concepts. But one thing was important – we couldn’t just lift a concept from Berlin or London and expect it to work in Trondheim. With DIGS we’ve tried to design a concept that will work for a smaller town and our unique environment.”

“It’s important for us to widen access to Trondheim’s innovation scene and give thinkers and creators an independent place to meet and mix. I’d love the city of Trondheim to be known for knowledge and innovation more generally, not just because of NTNU.”

Success through collaboration

While remaining independent, close co-operation with academia will of course be essential to DIGS’ success. The early signs are positive. In fact as I write this, DIGS tenants AssiStep just announced receipt of an NTNU Discovery grant of NOK 900,000. The news was greeted with congratulations and back-slapping from every single member, highlighting the collective spirit that’s quickly developed here.

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Marine technology startup Searis was one of the first tenants at DIGS. Co-founder Bernt-Johan Bergshaven is in no doubt of the benefits to his company, and the city in general:

“DIGS is a very healthy environment for us as we can instantly speak to other members with totally different skillsets. Each week someone new stops by who asks us challenging questions from a private-sector perspective.”

“After I finished my Cybernetics degree, 70% of my class left Trondheim, and many others stayed on to do research. People are already seeing DIGS as a reason to stay and are starting to think about possible ventures they can start.”

As a tenant myself I am somewhat biased, but I’m in no doubt that DIGS will provide a place for Norway’s expert engineers to create value for Trondheim long after their studies are over. Work is ongoing but you are welcome to pop in for a tour. Get in touch via digs.no.


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