På Vinnovas årskonferens gäller det talande ordet.

Kristina Persson, Minister för strategi- och framtidsfrågor samt nordiskt samarbete.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to address this year’s annual conference! The theme today – how we will keep and advance Sweden’s innovative strength in an increasingly globalised and competitive world – is a strategic issue for our future. Innovation is a source for Sweden’s competitiveness and attractiveness. Therefore, it is also a prerequisite for our future job-creation and well-being.

A broader view on innovation in the face of great challenges
Faced by some of the greatest political challenges of our time – the global challenges of economic, environmental and social development – we need a broader view on innovation. It is not only a driver for technological improvements but also for social changes. I am thinking of systemic threats like climate change, violation of ecological boundaries, lack of resource-efficiency, but also demographic changes, structural unemployment and income disparity. The interaction between policies and strategies on one hand, and innovation and investment on the other, is fundamental for our long-term, sustainable growth and competiveness.

Sweden’s historical transition and four success factors
Not so long ago or some 150 – 200 years, Sweden was one of the poorest countries in Europe. I am convinced that policy/political decisions played an important role for Sweden’s economic growth and social development that started during the 19th century. Sweden succeeded in delivering one of the most rapid and ground-breaking transition processes in Europe. So, what is the ”secret” behind this remarkable success? In my view, at least four success factors were decisive:

First, the early investment in human capital, .e.g. the introduction of mandatory primary school in 1842 in Sweden;

Second, the huge investments in infrastructure during the second part of 19th century. Without these, many of our present, very big multinational companies would not have been started or been so successful.

Third, our openness in trade, investments and immigration vis-a-vis the rest of the world. In that sense, the necessity to overcome the limitations of a small domestic market has been a blessing.

Finally, the widespread social inclusion, cohesion and trust. In comparison to what is the case in most other countries in the world, trust for each other and for our institutions is much higher in the Nordic countries. This is fundamental for our willingness to accept changes – from behavioural, to organisational and structural.

The openness and trust, have been built up during a long time, but could be destroyed at great speed, if we act in a neglectful way. These essential Nordic values in a welfare state constitute a social capital that we should take very well care of – particularly in times of crisis and change. In my view, this social capital is also the basis for a society to foster entrepreneurial spirit and a creative environment – which are the key intangible drivers for innovation.

Sweden’s global competitiveness ranking – encouraging and worrying signs
As OECD stated in their latest review of the Swedish innovation policy, innovation has for a long time been a pillar of Sweden’s development. In the latest Global Competitiveness Index 2014- 2015 by the World Economic Forum, Sweden was ranked No. 10 among 144 world economies.

Underneath this high ranking, there are both encouraging and worrying signs – if we take a deeper look at the rankings of some key sub-categories:

For instance, Sweden is still ranked No. 7, among the global Innovation Top 10.
But Sweden has lost its position in both Global Higher Education and Training Top-10 and Global Infrastructure Top-10. Sweden was ranked No. 14 for higher education and training, behind all our Nordic neighbours and No. 22 in terms of infrastructure.
Sweden’s competitiveness and attractiveness in a global context
We are all aware of the fact that the BRICS- countries, particularly China and India, are investing heavily in education, research and innovation. I find two aspects particularly interesting:

Sweden’s competitiveness and attractiveness in a global context
We are all aware of the fact that the BRICS- countries, particularly China and India, are investing heavily in education, research and innovation. I find two aspects particularly interesting:

Both China and India have become strategic choices for global players. I have learned that in 2006 there were around 200 foreign R&D labs in China, today there are more than 2000;
Both China and India have chosen Nordic countries, like Sweden and Denmark as locations for their R&D labs in strategic sectors, such as ICT and Clean-tech.
So, what is this telling us? A globalised and open innovation system means both competition and collaboration; we will both face challenges and have new opportunities.

In such a dynamic global innovation landscape, I am both pleased and encouraged to learn about VINNOVAs new strategic approach to develop Sweden’s innovation system. Broadening the scope from being driven by domestic needs to a global challenge driven innovation is a promising strategy; actively developing partnerships with China and Brazil on eco-innovation can become highly rewarding!

The new government’s initiatives to strengthen innovation
The new government is fully committed to further boost the Swedish innovation system and its performance. In this process, we have the ambition to apply an integrated and holistic approach – for greater synergies and impact.

Let me give you a few examples of our concrete initiatives:

First, we are right now in the process of creating a National Innovation Council, led by the Prime Minister. The ambition is to make Sweden a world leader in developing innovative products, services and business models – through strong engagement and joint efforts by all relevant stakeholders – in business, academia, government, and the civil society. Some sectors will be our key priorities, such as life science and climate technologies.

Second, the Government has also announced the intention to work out a re-industrialisation strategy of Sweden – in close dialogue with the business sector. Yes, Sweden is making a renewed effort to enhance know-how and skill development in the industries. We need more industrial jobs and we need R&D jobs – extremely important for Sweden’s innovation capacity!

Third, public procurement will be further developed as a tool to promote innovation. I am very pleased to know that, VINNOVA has laid important groundwork in the field of innovation procurement in the past years. A new organisation for procurement support will be launched next year.

Finally, a few words about small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): VINNOVA has made significant efforts in the past years to develop various programmes for supporting innovative SMEs. It is not an easy task and it requires long-term commitments. The new government is committed to create the best possible conditions for SMEs and, in particular the entrepreneurs who are central for reaching the government’s goal to have the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020.

Access to finance and risk-sharing are fundamental elements of a favourable business climate and for the creation of new enterprises. It involves support of incubators and test-beds and access to capital in the early stages of business development.

In the budget bill the government has announced that it will strengthen the access to public venture capital for SMEs in sectors related to clean-tech and life science.

Finally, I want to stress the need to raise the level of competence and knowledge in the whole society and make our education system at all levels, better equipped for meeting global challenges and competition. We need to deal with the mismatch in the labour market and develop cutting-edge innovative capacity in order to stay at the top of the value chain. Preparing individuals for the jobs of tomorrow, and offer business and the industry the best competence are irreplaceable prerequisites for Sweden’s future success.

I can assure you that the new Swedish government has made it a top priority to return the Swedish school system to the international forefront.

I would like to end by welcoming VINNOVA’s initiative to host this conference. Sharing of best practices and lessons learned with our strategic partners in the global market is a fundamental part of developing our own innovation policies. Putting the development of Sweden’s innovation system in a global and a competitive context – is the first step towards success!

I wish you all, an interesting and fruitful day.

Thank you!

Publicerat: 2014-12-02

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