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Why Sweden leads the innovation game

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Did you know that Sweden ranks as the EU’s innovation leader? A powerful mix of R&D clusters, test bed opportunities and a thriving startup scene makes Sweden a springboard for taking new ideas, technologies and products to a global marketplace.

8 reasons why Sweden is the European Union's most innovative country:

  • Sweden ranks among the world’s top three most innovative countries every year – with a No.1 EU ranking in 2018 for the fourth consecutive year.
  • Has the second highest R&D expenditure in Europe as a percentage of GDP, 40% higher than the OECD average  
  • More than 100 testing and demonstration facilities with accompanying ecosystems of experts and financiers
  • World class R&D talent: Sweden has among the highest proportion of researchers in working population (1,25%)*
  • Government funding for R&D has increased by 25% in the past decade
  • Strong collaborative culture for innovation and entrepreneurship across industry, academia and public sector and tradition of flat organisational structure
  • Research intensive business sector and thriving startup scene
  • Key player in international research networks and funding partnerships such as EU Horizon 2020 programme, enabling strong influence of ideas in Sweden. 

In the past, manufacturing was simply about making products for people who wanted to buy them. Today, it’s about changing industry and the society we live in with disruptive technologies and solutions that add customer value and meet challenging sustainability targets. 

When it comes to inspiring and commercialising new ideas, there is no better breeding ground for progress than Sweden – which in 2018 achieved a No.1 EU ranking for the fourth consecutive year in the European Innovation Scoreboard, published by the European Commission. 

Sweden provides manufacturers with a collaborative and open ecosystem for innovation with extensive R&D opportunities in a region where digital readiness is high. As much as 3,3 per cent of GDP is invested annually in research and development, of which 70 per cent is carried out by the private business sector.

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Shaping the knowledge economy

It is widely agreed that innovation will be the key driver of economic growth and prosperity as a knowledge-based economy takes shape. Professional “know-how” in everything from engineering to data analytics and AI is becoming just as important, if not more so, than economic power. 

Sweden’s position as a global innovation leader, with a second-place ranking on the Global Innovation Index just behind Switzerland, boils down to a potent combination of three factors:  

  • Attractive research systems
  • High-level competences and skills
  • A flourishing, cross-disciplinary learning and testing environment 

More than ever before, manufacturers need to assume the role of problem solvers in order to stay relevant – to boost innovation capacity and reinvent the way products are made and distributed. That’s why locating in Sweden can make all the difference.

For example, government bodies such as RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden, and Swerea offer a spectrum of services that bring together cutting-edge competences from academia, industry and the public sector. This Triple Helix model is based on well-functioning collaborations that underpin the high practical relevance of Swedish R&D initiatives.

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Platform for creativity

Sweden’s industry has a long-standing reputation for pushing the boundaries of achievement with internationally recognised innovations, from dynamite and ball bearings to the Gamma Knife. But the country has its sights firmly set on the future.  

Statistics show that more than half of Swedish SMEs are running innovation programmes, many of which receive funding from government agencies such as ALMI, Tillväxtverket and Vinnova. Larger research programmes are also in place with private financing including WASP, Sweden’s largest privately-run research programme for autonomous systems.

However, Sweden offers more than a solid commitment to R&D funding and RISE is a good example of how entrepreneurs can take ideas to the next level.

The agency provides access to a network of more than 100 test bed facilities across the country that welcome innovation projects, with talented research staff and engineers on call. This enables manufacturers to test and validate new materials, products and processes with low threshold investments. RISE is also an invaluable asset for companies in terms of finding external niche competences in materials science and engineering.

No less important is the growth of knowledge clusters around the country which make it easy to join preparations for the shift to Industry 4.0.

Companies, higher education institutes and government agencies are increasingly engaging in programmes such as Produktion 2030, Automation Region and Smart Industry. These are aimed at advancing a common understanding of the technologies, skills and education that will make businesses agile, future-proof and fit for purpose. 


*SCB, Statistics Sweden

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Klas Ericson

Investment Advisor Sweden Investment Advisor, Sweden
+46 70 222 78 02
E-mail klas.ericson@business-sweden.se
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Andreas Scheibenpflug

Investment Advisor Sweden Investment Advisor , Sweden
+46 70 277 83 94
E-mail Andreas.Scheibenpflug@business-sweden.se