Mr. Einar Irgens Gustafson works for Innovation Norway and is the Counselor for Defense Industry Cooperation at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, DC, a board member of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce, Mid-Atlantic Chapter (NACCMA), and a strong supporter of the DC-based Norwegian American Defense and Homeland Security Industry Council (NADIC).
Mr. Gustafson brings valuable experience to NACCMA. After completing his Master’s of Science in Marine Technology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, he went on to the United States to attend Florida Atlantic University where he studied Submarine Robotics, and completed his second Master’s Degree, this time in Ocean Engineering. Upon completing his studies, Mr. Gustafson moved to Cambridge, MA to take an engineering position with Bluefin Robotics, an underwater robotics company serving both defense and civilian markets. After working several years in Cambridge, going from engineering to project management, Mr. Gustafson returned to Norway to work for KONGSBERG Maritime in Horten. Here he moved from project management to sales, with a focus on the North American market. In early 2012 Mr. Gustafson returned to the U.S. as the Counselor for Defense Industry Cooperation at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. This counselor position at the Embassy is provided by Innovation Norway, and has the Norwegian Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Norwegian Defence and Security Industries Association (FSi) as main stakeholders.
The Chamber interviewed Mr. Gustafson for our April 2014 member spotlight. It is a privilege to share a bit more about his future plans for NACC as a Board member and his own career, as well as background for why he took his current position at the Norwegian Embassy. Below is our interview with Mr. Gustafson.
What perspective does your background give you as a Defense Industry Cooperation Counselor?
“My ten years of experience in the US defense industry combined with three years in the Norwegian defense industry, provides me with a unique background for my current field of work. The business cultures of the two countries are quite different, so having experience from both is useful when you’re trying to facilitate cooperation across the border. The change from the private sector to working for the Norwegian Government was a new experience, as the two sectors have a different work-environment.” After having lived in the US for over ten years, Mr. Gustafson views himself as bi-cultural, which makes him a valuable asset to Norwegian firms doing business in the US. Furthermore, having a technological background enables Mr. Gustafson to have a thorough understanding of products and services typically provided by Norwegian defense and security companies interested in expanding, entering and competing in the US market. This gives credibility and is an important asset when it comes to effectively promote and profile Norwegian companies abroad. Mr. Gustafson’s wide career experience in engineering, project management, business development and sales, his extensive network on both sides of the Atlantic, and ability to create new connections through his current role also becomes a great value for members of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce.
Your position allows you to be involved with many different organizations, including the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Innovation Norway, FSi, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and the defense industry in general. What are the benefits of being a liaison between so many key organizations and actors?
“Key to the success of the Defense Industry Cooperation Counselor is the ability to make the defense industry and its partners all see and work towards the same goal,” Mr. Gustafson states. The early career shift from engineering to project management gave Mr. Gustafson appreciation for the importance of getting people to work together, and how to make them see the value of cooperation. Being a one-person office calls for decisive planning and active networking, and Mr. Gustafson comments, “you realize that you cannot do everything yourself. Working as an integral part of the Norwegian Embassy provides me with an invaluable network of counselors and military attachés, many of whom also serve the Norwegian defense industry and industry in general. Working in this dynamic environment greatly enhances the likelihood of making a difference for my clients.”
What do you wish to accomplish as a NACC Board Member?
Mr. Gustafson is focused on developing and revitalizing the organization, he elaborates: “As a board member of NACC, you get a unique insight into how the organization works. As a strong proponent of NADIC, I currently view both NACC and NADIC as complementary organizations with high potential to grow. Increasing NACC’s involvement at the embassy will be beneficial to both NACC and NADIC, and fits well with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affair’s increased focus on helping Norwegian business abroad. NACC can develop and become an organization with a higher activity level than today, and increase its relevance to established and incoming Norwegian companies in the US.”
Could you comment briefly on the importance of organizations such as NACC, its benefit to Norwegian companies and the Norwegian-American community in Washington?
It is all about continuity for Mr. Gustafson, “The continual sharing of knowledge about how to be successful in the US is an important part of what both NACC and NADIC provides to new companies trying to enter the US markets. NACC provides, through its many events, important venues for networking, both with the Norwegian business community, but also with potential American partners, many of whom are active members of the chamber. Again, the long-term continuity of the information-sharing and network-building is key, especially in markets where the sales cycles are long, like in the defense sector.” He continues,“For Norwegian companies trying to get a foothold in the US, NACC provides a great arena in which to network and promote one’s company and business plan. I strongly encourage Norwegian companies in the US which are not members of NACC to get involved with the chamber and make it part of their market entry strategy.”
The Chamber would like to thank Mr. Gustafson for taking his time for this interview. We are looking forward to see his future contributions to NACC as Board Member and vital connection to the Norwegian-American defense market!