They are seriously betting on the gaming industry in Norddjurs Municipality. Not only as an engine for growth for the region, but also as a contributor towards education, settlement, and as a means of supporting the rest of the business community.

This article is sponsored by Norddjurs Municipality – one of the partners who made “Games as a Business 2021” possible.

Not many people thought about education in 3D graphics and computer animation in 2004. But they did in Grenaa, a town located at the very tip of the Jutland peninsula’s nose. Ever since then, the venture has grown to include a 3D College, a Game College, and an educational course as a Computer Game Scientist. All these ventures are supported by the municipality’s investment in gaming.

“It is not something we have invented ourselves within the municipality. It builds on site-bound resources; there are some innovative people at Viden Djurs (one of the local educational hubs) who have developed something exciting – and they have involved the rest of us,” says Jan Petersen, mayor of Norddjurs Municipality.

Jan Petersen, mayor of Norddjurs Municipality.

Today, these educational courses are the links in a chain with the entrepreneurial environment of Game Hub Denmark at the end – collectively called “The Game Mile” in Grenaa. Even though it started with Viden Djurs, the municipality has played an active role in developing and investing in the gaming industry.

“We are in this together. At the municipality, we have to get our hands dirty by setting the framework, and make targeted investments that make it successful,” Petersen says, and adds that the municipality has, among other things, contributed to establishing housing for the college students, converting an old factory building into gaming environment and directly supporting several initiatives financially.

Unlike other business clusters, the gaming cluster in Norddjurs Municipality not only intends to benefit the gaming industry and create new jobs. The cluster organisation will also be a partner when it comes to the youth environment in Grenaa, settlement strategy, and the established business community in the local area.

“The Game Mile”

At the town’s “Game Mile” young people can start their vocational education. Graduate high school. Study at university. And finally end up in the Game Hub at the end of the road as an entrepreneur – all focused on the gaming industry.

“It is not difficult to make a high school course targeting the gaming industry. The difficult part is creating the ecosystem we have here in Grenaa,” says Søren Hoffman Hansen, Head of Innovation at Viden Djurs. He continues:

“What we have actually succeeded in doing, here in Norddjurs Municipality, is creating a complete ecosystem within education and entrepreneurship, which is completely unique. There is no doubt that Game Hub, in particular, would never have become a reality if we had not had a really excellent partner and sponsor in the form of Norddjurs Municipality and the Central Jutland Region.”

Specifically, the path from education to entrepreneurship has created 47 new CVR numbers (the unique registration code associated with specific businesses in Denmark) in Norddjurs – including Ahoot Media, which develops educational games, and Sirenix, which makes software for other game developers.

“We have come into this world to help younger generations succeed in the gaming industry, and I do not think it would have been this easy if we had been somewhere else in the country. Here we have actually succeeded in creating a common vision of gaming as a position of strength. And it’s more than just celebratory speeches: It’s a concept which actually translates into something concrete in the real world: Game Hub,” Hansen says.

While it would be great for the gaming cluster if one of the entrepreneurs created a hit like the team behind Hitman — IO Interactive, with 200 employees — less would be a success too. If it can provide a continuous growth of small and medium-sized companies, it is also a success, especially in light of what the venture can otherwise contribute towards the municipality.

 

Education and business have to work together

With a sustained rate of growth potential, the gaming cluster is growing larger every year. But how large it ends up being – and how long it will take – is difficult to predict.

“It’s a long, tough stretch. I think it means a lot that we have a strong tradition for education within the municipality and can see the whole picture, because it creates a new talent pool in the municipality,” says Else Søjmark, who is chairman of the business and labor market committee in the municipality.

Both gaming and education are part of the municipality’s political business strategy, and for Søjmark, the two go hand-in-hand.

“It is about both entrepreneurship and talent development. And we are both good at recruiting students for our educational courses – primarily from outside the municipality – and at retaining and anchoring them in some of these exciting environments,” says Søjmark.

Else Søjmark and Søren Hoffmann Hansen in the Game Hub.

The potential is huge for the existing business community

The many new educational offers in the municipality provide access to new skills that have not been on offer to the same extent before. This means even more value for Norddjurs Municipality if the skills can be linked to the established companies in the area.

“There is some entrepreneurial potential, but there are also talents and skills, especially in IT, that this established industry can benefit from pushing into other industries. It is already something that is used constructively – for example for marketing or developing apps in collaboration with these young people,” says Mette Lindhardt, who is chairman of Erhverv Grenaa.

Mette Lindhardt, chairman of Erhverv Grenaa.

Just as in the rest of the country, large parts of the established business community in Norddjurs Municipality are facing digitization. How comprehensive this digitization is, depends on which company you are talking about. But the need is there, and with the gaming cluster’s presence in the area, the availability of digital skills has increased.

“I see an even greater potential than what is being redeemed at the moment. More attention must be paid to the benefits that can be gained from collaborating with these newly developed skills – the fact that the municipality has this gaming cluster brings advantages which other companies can benefit from,” Lindhardt says.

A “Cold Hawaii” for gamers

Today, between 250 and 300 young people move to Norddjurs Municipality every year to attend one of the many educational courses within gaming. This fact pleases the mayor because it provides an opportunity to showcase all that the municipality has to offer.

“I compare it to Cold Hawaii on the West Coast of Jutland: Instead of imitating everyone else, we need to find out where we are particularly skilled and what can make us attractive to outsiders,” Petersen says.

With their strategy for the gaming industry in place, Norddjurs Municipality is well on its way to proving what a long and tough road of growth can result in.

“There is an economic and political risk, which, of course, must be commensurate with the value we end up with. But it is not an employment project. It is an innovation project for the whole municipality, in a very interesting niche,” Petersen says.

This article is part of the theme “Games as a Business 2021”. You find the next part of the series right here:

Games Is Not Just For Games: New Subgenres Are Emerging