As the summit season in Europe starts to spark into life after a frozen Christmas, the recent UK Nordic Baltic Summit in London brought in some warm ideas from a cold climate.

Having a good chat with your neighbours can sometimes work wonders, and the northern Europeans had a very open discussion about a lot of things that could contribute to future growth. The prime ministers of the UK and the five Nordic and three Baltic countries were in attendance for what was a very informal learning experience over two days in January. Good ideas and pragmatic experience came from all directions, and the newer and smaller countries were just as vocal as the older and larger ones. It appeared that the politicians and the bureaucrats were actually trying to listen…

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In these turbulent times, change is needed and new solutions are called for. The discussions focused on three broad, cross-cutting areas: technology and innovation; jobs, family and gender equality; and the green economy and sustainable business. A key theme that came out was the economic benefits attained through opening up information on a free basis. In the 'apps age' it is amazing what can come from playing around with open data from governments and businesses. The free, open model can have counterintuitive, positive impacts in the most unlikely places. While the word 'risk' is increasingly dominating our business vocabulary, we should shake off the risk-management police and free things up. Go risk-taking rather than risk-avoiding.

For European government agencies tasked with attracting FDI, under the current regime of severe budget cuts, now is a good time to get creative and try out some new approaches and arrangements. Why not try opening up and sharing information; working in better partnerships with the private sector and neighbouring areas; and innovative use of information and communication technologies? Get with the new programme from northern Europe and go free, open and inclusive! 

Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, an FDI consultancy for smart companies and winning locations. E-mail: douglas@locationconnections.com