Emerging Leaders – Arctic Frontiers 

A travel report from PhD-student Wiktoria Szapoczka, UiB

Earlier this January I boarded a plane from Bergen to Bodø, and after several months of waiting, I was finally on my way to meet other Emerging Leaders. Emerging Leaders is a mentoring program for young professionals from the academia, business, and policy sector. It was founded as a part of the Arctic Frontiers conference, which takes place every winter in Tromsø, and has the aim to uplift and connect the youth from around the Arctic. Our group was of 33 young professionals, and we were all very excited for the upcoming week that we had ahead of us.

Foto: Arctic Frontiers
Foto: David Jensen // Arctic Frontiers

As mentioned, the journey started in Bodø and we were welcomed by mentors in the Salmon Centre. We kicked-off the day with a round of Pecha-Kuchas, a modern twist on the traditional Power-Point about ourselves. The twist: you get to prepare 20 slides (no text allowed!) which then automatically switch after 20 seconds. This way, everyone got the same amount of time to talk about their background, without delaying the program! This is an up-and-coming way of giving talks and was even used under the conference for scientific presentations. After the stay in Bodø, we travelled to Lofoten and spent a couple of days there, and finally were headed to our final destination, the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø.

Each year, the program has one main topic, and this year the topic was the Green Shift. What is the green shift, and how can we achieve it in the Arctic? In contradiction to what many people might think, the green shift is not only about building new renewable energy sources and calling it a day. A real sustainable green shift must be sustainable at all levels, from obtaining clean energy to being economically sustainable for businesses and for society.

During this week, we met and listened to many great speakers. We got an opportunity to learn about Arctic security from the Norwegian armed forces, how search-and-rescue actions are coordinated in the North by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, and we had an opportunity to listen to a representative of the Sami Parliament, who talked about green colonialism. Alongside these sessions, we also got a chance to listen to representatives from Cermaq aquaculture, that talked about their journey to sustainability and the latest upgrades they implemented to their farms, including technology that uses artificial intelligence to identify and follow up each individual fish in a farm (can be over 200 000!) and keep health records for each of them. One of the Emerging Leaders was Cermaq’s Sustainability Manager, and she was enthusiastic about the pH sensor we are currently developing at SFI Smart Ocean and was open to testing the sensor at their facilities. Not only people from businesses were pleased to hear about the pH sensor, but I was also approached by several Emerging Leaders from academia, which expressed their excitement and told me to hurry and get the sensor up and running! It was extremely motivating to see that the work we are doing in SFI Smart Ocean is getting noticed and is also appreciated by the people outside of the centre.

During the many discussions we have had in the group, I noticed a red thread in each one of them: the youth’s belief in science and the need for cooperation between all, from scientists to businesses and policymakers. Emerging Leaders were all uniformly agreeing on the fact that science should be open-access, and that data should be standardized and easily accessible for everyone. This warmed my little science-heart and made me proud to be a part of a Centre, that works on exactly that: bringing science and industry together to improve the existing solutions and contribute to the green shift.

Foto: David Jensen // Arctic Frontiers
Foto: David Jensen // Arctic Frontiers

Not only the Emerging Leaders were reaching to science to help solve global problems. I also got a chance to participate in a panel debate titled “Food on the Move”, where I got to talk with the Chief Executive Officer of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, General Secretary for the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), CEO of the UN Global Compact Norway and Special Envoy for Arctic Affairs of Singapore. It was great to hear their opinions on the ever-changing health of the ocean and how we should tackle them, and it was amazing to see the uniform conclusion: science!


This text is only a short summary of everything I have learnt and experienced during the program. It allowed me to network with so many incredible people and gave me a boost of confidence and motivation to continue to work and contribute to the green shift. For my fellow young professionals: I highly recommend you to apply for the program next year and experience it for yourselves!