Public paper mill helped by artificial intelligence

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A learning accounting robot is now testing itself on thousands of governmental invoices. This is the result of an innovative cooperation between the Directorate for Financial Management, Sopra Steria, and the Norwegian start-up company SEMINE.

Earlier this year, the Norwegian Digitalisation Minister, Astrup, decided that the public sector must buy more from start-up companies. Nevertheless, emerging Norwegian technology companies are struggling to gain a foothold with large public companies. An important reason is complex procurement regulations and extensive tender processes.

Through the new initiative Sopra Steria Scale up, SEMINE has just completed a successful test project with the Directorate for Financial Management (DFØ).

- Digital first is our main strategy. We want to give our customers access to new and better technology, while at the same time innovating in order to stay competitive. Therefore, this is an exciting concept to try, says Gøril Aune, Director of the accounting division at DFØ.

1.2 million invoices

The Directorate for Financial Management (DFØ) is the state's expert on public governance. DFØ manages the reporting instructions and the financial regulations, and provides payroll and accounting services to 87 percent of the public sector. Each year, DFØ handles an incredible 1.2 million invoices for 120 public institutions. This imposes considerable resources on the Directorate.

- It is the taxpayers' money we manage, and we want to do this as accurately and efficiently as possible. Now we will see if the accounting robot SEMINE can help us spend less time on each incoming invoice. What we have seen now is that this technology potentially can change today's work processes in DFØ, save us and our customers great costs as well as time that can be used for insight and analysis for our customers, says Aune.

A learning accounting robot is now testing itself on thousands of government invoices. This is the result of an innovative cooperation agreement between the Directorate for Financial Management, Sopra Steria and the Norwegian start-up company SEMINE.

Bridge for innovation

The purpose of the Sopra Steria Scale up program is to be a bridge between Norwegian and European innovation companies and some of the largest technology buyers in Norway and Europe.

- We are the innovation partner that brings together large buyers and small and medium-sized technology driven companies. Through our program, we introduce cutting-edge technology from startup companies to our customers, and help them get started with the collaboration, says Tobias Studer Andersson, who leads the Scale up program at Sopra Steria.

He says that the start-up companies, have access to large and stable European technology buyers, and that Sopra Steria helps with the integration work and helps the solutions to be scaled up and adapted to the client's often complex technology portfolio.

- In addition, we contribute our industry expertise and many years of experience in implementing innovation projects. The sum of all this becomes an ecosystem that everyone benefits from, says Studer Andersson.

Automates accounting

SEMINE is one of the start-up companies participating in the Scale up program. The company has developed a learning accounting robot that uses artificial intelligence to recognize patterns and relationships in an invoice. In this way, it can save an accountant from a lot of routine tasks.

- Economics still consists of many manual tasks, despite the fact that automation and artificial intelligence have been on the agenda for the last 10 years. As much as half of the work time of an accounting officer, is spent on repetitive work, so here is the basis for improvement, says Jan Høgetveit, who heads business development and is one of the founders behind SEMINE.

Opens doors

The company SEMINE was founded under the name Bilagos in 2015. SEMINE is also the name of the company's artificial intelligent accounting and analysis platform.

In just one year, the Kristiansand-based company has acquired 50 customers, hired 74 employees and secured contracts for tens of millions of NOK. The investment company Kistefos is the largest shareholder, and Lene Diesen, who has held several management positions at Microsoft, has been hired as the new CEO to help the technology company take the next steps in its development.

- We are really looking forward to testing our technology at DFØ, which is a forward-leaning and technology-positive state player. Through the Sopra Steria Scale up program we get help to approach large public customers, who in turn will benefit from working with some of the industry's leading innovators, says Høgetveit.

Caption:  DFØ's Gøril Aune has tested the accounting robot Semine through the Sopra Steria Scale up program. From the right Tobias Studer Andersson in Sopra Steria Scale up and Jan Høgetveit from Semine. Photo: Sopra Steria