Creating a Swedish Innovation Miracle

A few months ago, The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), started running a project on how to increase growth through innovation. -My vision is that in the future Harvard Business School will send their MBA students to Sweden to learn and study the “Swedish miracle”. How did they do it and what can we learn from the Swedish model, says Björn O Nilsson, president of IVA. InnovationManagement met with him to talk about the importance of innovation for creating increased growth and competitiveness.

The vision for the Innovation for Growth project is for Sweden to be the world’s best environment for innovation. This requires a shift from words to actions. There is plenty of groundwork to build upon. Numerous analyses of Sweden’s position in a globalised world have been carried out.

My vision is that in the future Harvard Business School will send their MBA students to Sweden to learn and study the “Swedish miracle.”

According to Björn O Nilsson, president of IVA, the time has come to start working on very concrete actions to take Swedish businesses to a higher level.

-We don’t need any more reports or analyses on this. What we need is to convert the knowledge that we already have into concrete actions.

National innovation strategy is needed

Innovation is an important driver of growth. And Swedish companies and organizations, as well as in many other European countries, are striving to increase innovation capabilities in order to increase growth and competitiveness. Despite this, Sweden is one of the few European countries that doesn’t have an outlined national strategy for innovation.

-I think Sweden needs a national strategy for innovation with concrete actions to increase the focus on importance of innovation. I also think that it’s important to get innovation on the agenda in the upcoming election. Politicians like to talk a lot about the importance of people having a job and being able to support themselves. But from where do all these jobs come from? They are certainly not created in the job seeking agencies. It is my firm belief that innovation is a powerful driver in creating new jobs and through that contributing to increased growth and competitiveness for Sweden.

- One big problem is that the politicians often seem to think that it’s a quick fix, but that is not the case and we have to make them understand this. We think that the government’s responsibility is to make sure that the conditions are the right ones for people and organizations that are willing start new ventures and make sure this is an ongoing process.

-I also think the level of ambition is to low. We must get better, we have a lot of very valuable knowledge intensive companies, but they have to be able to increase their growth.

Read more about the project and the steering committee who is headed by Mr Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman of SEB, Sweden:

About IVA and Björn O Nilsson

Björn O. NilssonThe academy’s mission is to promote technical and economic sciences and to promote industry and business growth for the benefit of society.

IVA is an independent arena for knowledge exchange. By initiating and stimulating contacts between various skills areas and over national boundaries, IVA functions as a bridge-builder between the business community, academia and the political sphere.

IVA is the world’s oldest engineering academy, founded in 1919. IVA’s activities are financed through contributions from companies, project grants and government grants.

In August 2008 Professor Björn O. Nilsson took over as President of IVA. He comes to IVA from Biovitrum where he has been Senior Vice President Corporate Development since 2007. Björn O. Nilsson has experience from both large and small biotech companies. He has been a member of IVA since 1996 and he was chairing the industry organization for biotech companies, SwedenBIO, for three years.

  • Robert Jacobson

    Björn Nilsson’s argument makes perfect sense. Sweden needs a national strategy for innovation. I experienced this acutely while organizing with Dr. Anna-Karin Alm the Conference on Innovation and Service Design held at the Form|Design Center in Malmö earlier this year with support from Malmö högskola, Region Skåne, Malmö stad, and GEMBA Innovation A/S.

    The morning featured a discussion of DESINOVA, Denmark’s 18-month study of innovation and design in the service industries. It could be a model for a similar study in Sweden, as could investigations taking place in Finland and Norway (and in non-Nordic nations). That Sweden has not conducted such a study despite the fact that its service industry’s growth has been spectacular — and despite “tjanste” being such a central feature of Swedish culture — is a disappointment. The good new is that Näringsdepartement may be working on it.

    However, there’s another word that’s important here, and that’s innovation. Another lesson learned from our conference organizing was that innovation means something different in English than it does in Swedish. In Swedish, innovation means invention in the physical realm: products, buildings, chemicals, medicines, and so forth. In English (and in Danish, too), innovation is more akin to seeing things in a new light. So it can be applied more flexibly, for example to business processes, social institutions, and even personal expeience (as when one learns).

    The second meaning is more powerful than the first, as it does not preclude physical invention — it enhances the chances of invention happening. But it has to be cultivated in Sweden.

    This is important when it comes to designing programs that support innovation. Funding that’s dedicated to fostering innovation should do so across the board, in all aspects of Swedish national life. That way, the entire society becomes more innovative, at the same time. A fully innovative Swedish society would be formidable. Sweden would assume global leadership as a “go-to” place for solving problems — and there will be plenty of problems to solve in the future!

    Sweden should also explore closer ties with its Nordic neighbors. Transborder liaisons resulting in a larger Nordic capability will be important to the nations collectively being able to compete in the global market for innovative products, processes, and most important, people.

  • Robert Jacobson

    The DESINOVA website is maintained by its sponsor, Dansk Erhverv (the Danish Chamber of Commerce). DESINOVA was co-project managed by GEMBA Innovation and ODGAARD Consult.

  • Narasimhan40


    create climate of Innovation and help in its execution. I spent my career in Innovation and I fully understand the impediments and a well organised support aids innovation.

    Dr P L NarasimhanPhd
    Chennai India
    [email protected]