Sweden needs a technology and innovation strategy

21 feb 2024·0 min read
Sweden needs a technology and innovation strategy

Sweden’s technology policy is characterised by fragmentation, short-term thinking and underfunding. Spreading resources across a large number of actors and initiatives results in a whole lot of not much, and few things with impact and sustainability. Simply relying on glory days and legacy is not a recipe for success. What is needed instead is prioritisation and focus.

Patrik Sandgren, area manager for research, innovation and industrial development at Teknikföretagen, recognises the need to be bold enough to make choices. In this blog post, he shares his thoughts on why Sweden needs a technology and innovation strategy.

Sweden has generated world-class products

Swedish industry has clear areas of strength. Expertise in vehicles, telecommunications and similar complex systems has been transformed into solutions that have generated export revenues and created welfare. It has resulted in world-class products that have had a global market impact. ABB, Ericsson, Volvo Cars, Saab and Scania all use Sweden as a base and continue to invest significant resources in long-term and forward-looking research and development (R&D). These investments are often made in close collaboration with public actors at the regional and local level. It is a collaboration that has and continues to benefit all actors, often manifested through strategic innovation programmes.

Each krona invested gives SEK 7 in return

Since 2013, strategic innovation programmes have been one of the main tools for the Government to stimulate R&D. The aim has been to create arenas for collaboration between companies, institutes and academia that generate new ideas and strengthen industry and the rest of society. In the 10 years that the programmes have been active, they have generated innovations equivalent to an average of SEK 7 per krona invested. Their ability to create an ecosystem for new products, processes and knowledge has been a recipe for success.

Cuts in research and development

Unfortunately, the ability to sustain this innovation system has been reduced. Instead of investing for the future and embracing digitalisation like our competitor countries, the Government has decided to rest on its laurels. Public R&D has therefore been cut, resulting in collaborative efforts being postponed or dismissed as counterproductive.
The lack of vision and the glaring absence of a technology and innovation strategy has resulted in a haphazard approach, often with no foresight or coordination to the efforts. The consequence has been a significant deterioration in efficiency where Sweden is perceived to lack focus. This development has also been observed by the cooperation organisation OECD, which is rightly concerned. There is a cold wind blowing in Sweden.

This negative trend can be reversed

A research and innovation bill will be presented this autumn. It will be preceded by an industrial strategy. These are two important tools through which the Government can set out visions and reverse the current trend. What is needed is increased funding for R&D, visions for Sweden as a technology country and renewed investment in strategic innovation programmes. Collaboration, a long-term approach and prioritisation are in the interests of industry, and this should also be embraced by politicians and manifested in policy.

By: Patrik Sandgren


Patrik Sandgren is a member of the board of IoT Sweden. As his “day job”, he works as area manager for research, innovation and industrial development at Teknikföretagen.