Foundation Autonomous was founded in 2016 following an intense strategy development campaign at Vesthimmerland Municipality during 2015.

The municipality hired Prof. Henrik Scharfe to help answer the question: How do we develop our stewardship while strategizing in a highly disruptive context?

Consensus among politicians and administration quickly developed into active curiosity with respect to a number of technologies holding special promises to land districts and rural areas.

Special attention was given to implementing autonomous cars in municipal services. Because distances in Vesthimmerland are relatively high and public transportation coverage is relatively low, local government rely highly on transportation in small cars. In stark contrast to urban counterparts, a municipality like Vesthimmerland spent the equivalent to 1 full-time position per 500 citizens. In total, transportation of employees and citizens amounts to several percent of the total operating budget of 470 M EUR.

Alongside the project on selv-driving cars other ideas and projects emerged, making it a natural choice to establish Autonomous as an economical and political independent organisation.

From disruptive to catalytic innovation

During the initial investigation, stakeholders grew increasingly unhappy with the negative framing of the concept of disruption. The main reason for this was the growing understanding that forces underlying technological innovation could be harnessed as strategic measures, and that this positive way of considering technological advances was much more in line with thinking of continued stewardship across the municipality administration.

In consequence, we adopted the term Catalytic Innovation. Clayton Christensen who also coined the phrase Disruptive Innovation back in 1996 conceived the concept of Catalytic Innovation 10 years later. Catalytic Innovation is considered as a subset of disruption, but with strong emphasis on deliberate strategic agendas to bring about change on a societal scale. “Disruption Classic” often does result in major societal changes, but typically as a side effect.

Turning towards catalytic aspects of innovation helped us to reframe the challenges in a much more positive and constructive way.

Partnership Models

It quickly became apparent that working with autonomous technologies would benefit not only the municipality understood as an organization, but also understood as a community. The natural consequence of this insight was readily converted into partnerships with local business and other stakeholders, local schools – especially vocational training programs, as well as different branches of local government.

Especially cooperation with the local business council – Vækstforum Himmerland – proved helpful in activating the local production and service industries.


It also became apparent that tasks involved in maturing and implementing autonomous technologies would fast exceed the boundaries of local government.

In consequence, the municipality decided to spin out an independent institution with the specific purpose of identifying mature technologies, building strong cases around them, and running a number of technology projects. Foundation Autonomous is the result of that process.

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