Innovation in Sweden
The cardiac pacemaker has been implanted in more than 3.5 million people. The three-point auto seatbelt saves a life every six minutes, and has been doing so for more than 50 years. Both are Swedish inventions, part of a long list of innovations born in this country that have made the lives of their users longer, better or just more convenient: the zipper, safety matches, dynamite, nicotine gum, drinks cartons, ball bearings, the adjustable wrench, the artificial kidney and Bluetooth are just a few of the others.
This national knack for creative thinking has helped make Sweden one of Europe’s and the world’s most innovative nations, according to numerous surveys. Many Swedish (or half-Swedish) companies have grown wealthy off this innovativeness, including Volvo, Ericsson, ABB, Tetra Pak and AstraZeneca, while Skype (free phone calls over the internet) and Spotify (music streaming) belong to the next generation of Swedish technological successes. Less high-tech, but with immense potential to improve billions of lives in developing countries, is the Peepoo, a Swedish-designed personal single-use toilet that stops human waste from contaminating the immediate area and the wider environment.
Sweden invests about 3 percent of its GDP in research, one of the highest rates in the world. The Swedish Government itself invests heavily in research and development, and there are several government agencies that fund and coordinate research. Their efforts are currently focused on medicine and bioscience, technology and the climate.
Sweden is also associated around the world with innovation in another way. The famous Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel — who invented dynamite – used his fortune to encourage and reward innovators from around the world. The Nobel Prizes, presented each year in Stockholm by the Swedish monarch, recognize important breakthroughs in medicine, physics and chemistry, and are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the world of science.
Innovation the Swedish Way is published by the Swedish Institute. A hard copy can be ordered from Swedenbookshop.com.
Some of the world’s most successful innovators are from Sweden. Women and men who change people’s lives, by overcoming challenges and breaking new ground. Before we meet some of them and have a look at their innovations, let’s discuss the question: Why Sweden − a country of less than 10 million inhabitants?
From Anders Celsius’s thermometer in the 1700s to Skype in 2003, Sweden has long been a country that breeds innovation. The Global Innovation Index 2012 ranked Sweden as the most innovative country within the European Union.
A century ago, Sweden was among the poorest nations in Europe. It’s a small country, home to just 0.14 percent of the global population. Yet today, it is a world leader in innovation.