Monday 19. December 2022

Innovation via UW

When it was announced recently who would receive the annual grants from the Westfjord Development Fund, there were  quite a few UW affiliated names on the list. It shows that our current and former students, as well as staff, are incredibly innovative and enthusiastic about contributing to the communities in the Westfjords, as a result of coming here to study and work at UW.

This year two ideas from students received funding, The Arctic Fish Midnight Special bike race received 700,000 ISK and Frá Landinu, an artisanal home accessories business received 600,000 ISK. Furthermore, two current staff members received funding for their projects, Catherine Chambers for her SeaGirls photo exhibition and Ingibjörg Rósa Björnsdóttir for Laupurinn, a raven themed visitors' centre.

Tyler Wacker is the man behind the grant for The Arctic Fish Midnight Special so we contacted him to hear more. Tyler is originally from the United States by way of Texas and California. He arrived in the Westfjords in August of 2020 after just biking across the United States and then from Keflavík to Ísafjörður.

What did you study and when did you graduate?

I graduated from the Coastal Communities and Regional Development Program in October of 2022. My thesis was Unconditional Basic Income as a means to foster innovation in Iceland.

And you’re still here in Ísafjörður?

Yes, I’m part of the bicycle tourism company Cycling Westfjords that organizes the Arna Westfjords Way Challenge and Arctic Fish Midnight Special bike races, along with current UW student Lynnee Jacks and Halldóra Björk Norðdal. We also provide information to self-supported cyclists. I’m also part owner of the Fjord Hub with Lynnee Jacks. The Hub started as a bicycle repair shop and is slowly evolving into an all-sports retail shop and repair service.  

What is this new project about and how did the idea come about?

The Arctic Fish Midnight Special is a race within a race. 100 riders will join the fourth and final stage of the Arna Westfjords Way Challenge that covers 211 kilometers from Patreksfjörður to Ísafjörður. The idea came about after our first successful Arna WFWC this past year and as a way for more riders to access biking in the Westfjords.

What does it mean for the project to receive this grant?

It means that we can do more outreach and engagement for the project. We will be able to take a race preview tour in the spring to discuss the race with businesses along the route. Because of our Cultural Connection format, these businesses are points of interest where the riders' race time doesn't count - so they can spend as much time at these places as they want. We will also be able to develop more marketing materials to promote the race to new audiences.