Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 329

329 Arctic Yearbook 2014 successive decades (1970s, 1980s and 1990s) a number of large-scale hydro power plants were built in Iceland. These power plants were to an ever increasing and eventually full extent designed by Icelandic engineering companies, and built by Icelandic contractors. Finally, in the 2000s the enormous Fljótsdal/Kárahnjúkar power plant was designed again by Icelandic-international engineering companies, while the workers were now Portuguese and Chinese. So Iceland had come full circle from Icelandic workers building for American engineers to Chinese workers building for Icelandic engineers (Jónsson 2005; Karlsdóttir 2010; Pálsdóttir 2005; Sigurðsson 2002). This development could only be realized based on the strong Icelandic human capital basis, which seems to be built on a thousand-year-long tradition of a strong domestic primary, secondary and vocational (and recent tertiary) educational tradition coupled with successful “brain circulation”. Knowledge-based energy work has also become an important part of Iceland’s international and transnational relations with the outside world. Exploring and surveying these resources has linked Icelandic and foreign universities and scientists since far back in the 1900s. Later, the Icelandic (engineering) companies, which have developed around hydro- and geothermal energy, have turned to market their knowledge and know-how internationally. This international work is often linked to Iceland’s use of its hydro- and especially geothermal energy knowledge in its development work with developing countries that hold geothermal potential. Here the United Nations University Geothermal Training Programme must be emphasized. The UNU GTP is hosted by the National Energy Authority of Iceland. Since 1979 it has run a geothermal training program, which had trained 525 professionals from 53 countries in geothermal energy by 2012 (Friðleifsson, Svanbjörnsson & Thorsteinsson 1984; personal communication). Challenges in Present-Day Iceland Today, Iceland is in a way threatened by its own human capital success. Especially graduate study opportunities have expanded exponentially at the University of Iceland during the past 15 years. Earlier, young Icelanders could receive an excellent undergraduate degree in a wide range of topics from the University of Iceland, but where usually forced to go abroad for graduate studies. Faced with this choice, young Icelanders often chose international top-universities for their graduate study. This fed the highly fortuitous “brain circulation”: supplying Icelandic academia, government and business with human capital with an excellent international background. However, going abroad for years of graduate studies comes with a steep economic and personal price. Today, young Icelanders often have the opportunity to stay at home for their graduate studies. If this leads to a slowdown of the “brain circulation” and internal recruiting practices related to especially academia, it will have very negative effects on Icelandic [X[