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RIO Country Report 2017: Sweden

The R&I Observatory country report 2017 provides a brief analysis of the R&I system covering the economic context, main actors, funding trends & human resources, policies to address R&I challenges, and R&I in national and regional smart specialisation strategies. Data are from Eurostat, unless otherwise referenced and are correct as at January 2018. Data used from other international sources are also correct to that date. The report provides a state-of-play and analysis of the national level R&I system and its challenges, to support the European Semester.



Challenges for R&I policy-making in Sweden

Improving the links between research and innovation. While the general performance of the Swedish R&D system on the supply is very good, there is a long-lasting debate concerning the alleged inefficiency of turning the heavy investments in R&D into innovation-based economic growth. For several years the governmental research bills acknowledge the need for increasing the links between research and innovation. In practical terms, the dominant approach has been to launch a series of supply-side measures, most of all a variety of funding instruments to promote cross-sectoral collaboration.

Reducing the dependence of BERD on multinational companies. Swedish GERD, while very high in international comparison, is dominated by the private sector, where, in turn, most R&D expenditure takes place in a relatively small number of very large companies. Policy efforts have aimed at increasing the level of investment in R&D among SMEs, the introduction of public venture capital, programs to increase collaboration between universities and firms and also university spin-offs, and a series of funding programs targeted at start-ups and innovation in SMEs.

Sustaining the high quality of the public research base. Despite the heavy investment in both education and research, signs have abounded for a long time that the supply of competence, and also the international competitiveness of the Swedish R&D system as measured in outputs, is stagnating or falling slightly. This is a policy challenge of great magnitude but also great complexity, and while it is acknowledged in governmental research policy documents, its remedy is a controversial topic.

Smart specialisation

The practical work on smart specialisation at national level is delegated by the government to the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. A detailed instruction followed this decision, where the agency was assigned by the government the role of (1) supporting regional authorities in their work with S3; (2) assisting regional authorities with knowledge and overviews of national priorities and future competitiveness; (3) supporting regional authorities in their collaboration with the EU.
The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth also manages and distributes funding from the European Regional Development Fund on assignment by the government, which means that it is in charge of supporting smart specialisation on NUTS 2 regional level, which is not coherent with the organisation of Sweden in administrative regions (the 21 counties are the primary units and correspond to NUTS 3 regions, and 10 of them are nowadays called “regions” in an ongoing trial policy of increasing regional autonomy), whereas there are eight NUTS 2 regions in Sweden, one of which corresponds to a county (Stockholm), with the other seven consisting of between two and five counties/regions. This creates some difficulty of coordination and cohesion, and a certain imbalance in the level of implementation of smart specialisation strategies.

Geo coverage
Report year
Official publication date
Friday, 13 April, 2018
National expert name
Olof Hallonsten
Last update: 22/01/2020 | Top | Legal notice | Contact | Search