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Sweden: Europe’s Most Innovative Country

Sweden's design flair and innovative mindset have earned the country a new accolade.

Sweden's recently been named the best country in the EU when it comes to getting new ideas to reach the market, according to a new innovation indicator launched by the European Commission.

Innovation — developing it, using it, and harnessing it to drive economic growth — has come to the forefront lately as companies and countries try to rebuild after a long, dark recession. For example, EBN recently wrote about the Invest Again initiative and has started a discussion about focusing on investing in developing supply chain talent.

Innovation, clearly, is also very much on Europe's mind, too, and is taking a few different shapes.

One of the five key pieces of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth directly corresponds to improving the conditions for research and development; this is combined with the aim of raising combined public and private investment levels for R&D to 3% of GDP. To complement this R&D effort, the European Council gave the European Commission the mandate to develop a single innovation indicator, which is explained in detail here.

In short, the new innovation output indicator benchmarks national innovation policies. It is based on technological innovation as measured by patents, employment in knowledge-intensive activities as a percentage of total employment, competitiveness of knowledge-intensive goods and services, and employment in fast-growing firms operating in innovative sectors.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the Irish commissioner responsible for research, innovation, and science, said in a statement announcing Sweden's ranking:

The European Union must turn more great ideas into successful products and services in order to lead in the global economy. We also have to close a worrying 'innovation divide.' The proposed indicator will help us measure how we are doing and pinpoint areas where countries need to take action.

According to the indicator, Sweden is the EU member state that gets the most out of its innovation investments, followed by Germany, Ireland, and Luxembourg. It also showed significant differences remain between EU countries, and that Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Latvia received the lowest score on the indicator, only around half of the top score.

On the whole, the EU performs comparatively well internationally, at the level of the United States. However, it lags behind some of the most innovative economies worldwide, such as Switzerland and Japan, according to the statement.

As far as Sweden goes, the country's iconic global big-box IKEA furniture concept may forever be linked to the kind of design flair the country generates, but the Scandinavian nation’s innovations carry over into many other sectors, too, including Internet, technology, and consumer electronics/appliance companies. A few of them include Electrolux, Ericsson, Skype, and Spotify.

Who knows? Maybe this is all hype — all these ways of measuring innovation and encouraging countries to put more here. But for me, I'm glad to see the rallying cry getting louder. The same-old-same-old isn't going to get us further along on any front.

What's your take on these kinds of campaigns to drive innovation? Where would you like to see countries and companies focus their R&D efforts?

39 comments on “Sweden: Europe’s Most Innovative Country

  1. t.alex
    December 10, 2013

    What are the major factors contributing to Sweden's innovaton? Maybe the education system plays an important part?

  2. Lavender
    December 10, 2013

    Not only innovative capacity, Sweden also has high happiness index, a good connection of economic growth and living improvement. 

  3. ahdand
    December 11, 2013

    @Lily: Most of the European countries do have a very high rating in the index of happiness. That shows that those people do not believe in superstitious and that is why they live happily.

  4. SP
    December 11, 2013

    Quite agree that Sweden is the most innovative country in Europe. Actually Europe itself come at par with US when it comes to mechanical design and innovation. Some even go to the extent of saying the class is higher and innovative in Europian countries.

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 11, 2013

    @Lily. The happiness part of the equation is an interesting one. I had read that about Sweden and a few other countreis. I saw a movie called “Happy” and it seemed from that, that the fact that the government was engaged in talking to its citizens about the topic of satisfacation was really important. I think it should lead to innovation.

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 11, 2013

    Bloomberg recently did a list of the top 50 most innovative countries. Some of the factors considered included:R&D intensity, Productivity, High-tech density, Researcher concentration, Manufacturing capability, Tertiary efficiency, and Patent activity. US, South Korea, Germany and Finland topped thier list.  Sweden was number 5. 

     

     

  7. Daniel
    December 11, 2013

    “Sweden's design flair and innovative mindset have earned the country a new accolade. Sweden's recently been named the best country in the EU when it comes to getting new ideas to reach the market, according to a new innovation indicator launched by the European Commission”

    Jennifer, that's a crown for the country; by the way in which are the fields/domain country is dominating. Is it electronic industry or some other domains like automobile, aerospace, IT etc.

  8. Daniel
    December 11, 2013

    Hailey, it seems half of the countries in the top 50 list are unexpected countries (Slovenia, Estonia etc).  Moreover, its surprising that the expected countries like Thailand, Taiwan etc are missing

  9. Daniel
    December 11, 2013

    Jennifer, from Bloombery list Sweden is in fifth position, behind Finland and Germany. So how you can say Sweden is EU's most innovative country; its one among others. If you have any other statistical data for more clarification, please share.

  10. Susan Fourtané
    December 12, 2013

    Hailey, 

    Finland tops the list in Research Concentration. There are more researchers per capita in Finland than anywhere in the world. Higher education is free in Finland, which contributes to making Finland a land of researchers, and highly educated population in general. 

    -Susan 

  11. Susan Fourtané
    December 12, 2013

    Jennifer, 

    Sweden is with no mistake a highly innovative country. However, Skype is not a Swedish company. Skype is an Estonian company.

    Skype has offices in Stockholm, but even after Microsoft bought Skype its headquarters have remained in Tallinn, Estonia. 

    -Susan 

  12. Susan Fourtané
    December 12, 2013

    Hailey, 

    According to the Global Innovation Index, Sweden is second, and the US is fifth. 

    Global Innovation Index full report: http://www.globalinnovationindex.org/content.aspx?page=gii-full-report-2013 

    The top 10:

    1. Switzerland
    2. Sweden
    3. United Kingdom
    4. Netherlands
    5. United States (The US rejoined this year putting Finland on 6th position) 
    6. Finland
    7. Hong Kong (China)
    8. Singapore
    9. Denmark
    10. Ireland         

    In conclusion, with seven countries out of 10, Europe leads in innovation.

    -Susan 

  13. Ariella
    December 12, 2013

    @Susan very interesting. I wouldn't have thought that Switzerland takes first place. I guess that means they make a lot more than watches. 

  14. Susan Fourtané
    December 13, 2013

    Jacob, 

    Estonia doesn't come as surprise as innovative country. Estonia is a highly technological country. Estonia has the first eGovernment in the world. Their own president attends, and participates in technology conferences. 

    They count with a masters in eHeath that is also the first in the world, and will supply the eHealth professionals needed in Europe. Students from the US are taken the masters in Estonia because they don't have one in the US. So, what is surprising about Estonia? 

    -Susan

  15. Susan Fourtané
    December 13, 2013

    Jacob, 

    Look: 

    Global Innovation Index full report: http://www.globalinnovationindex.org/content.aspx?page=gii-full-report-2013 

    The top 10:

    1. Switzerland
    2. Sweden
    3. United Kingdom
    4. Netherlands
    5. United States (The US rejoined this year putting Finland on 6th position) 
    6. Finland
    7. Hong Kong (China)
    8. Singapore
    9. Denmark
    10. Ireland  

    -Susan

  16. _hm
    December 13, 2013

    Survey do give surprising results. However, USA is the most venerated place in world for higher education and place for innovation.

    Global citizens always looks to America for best in higher education and innovations. America does fulfill this with genuine equal opportunityi both for education and professional growth. This is unparallel and some time beyond comparision.

    I would consider America to be most venerated place for innovation.

     

  17. Wale Bakare
    December 14, 2013

    I can to a degree agree with your view. I think there are a number of factors sway to US making her a strong candidate for innovative country – language ( in universities) and population as well easy commercialization of innovations globally. At same time, hardly can i argue it, should countries like Sweden and Finland get the nod for top innovative nations. 

  18. Wale Bakare
    December 14, 2013

    @Ariella, the index publication's somehow strange. Ranking Switzerland top most position and United Kingdom in 3rd place. Meanwhile, this is World Bank 2012 knowledge economy index.  Sweden ranking no1 with 9.74 point for Innovation, Finland occupies 2nd position, 9.66 point for Innovation. Read full here

  19. Susan Fourtané
    December 15, 2013

    _hm, 

    I disagree with your view. The best higher education (and education in general), innovation, equality to all citizens in higher education is not in the US. I believe you need to have a closer look at some European countries that are rarely in the news showing off their achievements. 

    -Susan 

  20. Susan Fourtané
    December 15, 2013

    Wale, 

    Thanks for the link, and chart. This chart you posted is more like it, in the way it shows in real, daily life, not in old ideals of grandeur. 

    -Susan 

  21. Susan Fourtané
    December 15, 2013

    Ariella, 

    You would be surprised to know all what is going on in little countries in Europe.

    -Susan  

  22. Wale Bakare
    December 15, 2013

    There are discrepances in articles being published about this. One of such, a Journal of Common Market Studies ask the question whether Europe's becoming the most consistent knowledge base economy in the world. Although, the article was published some years back, first presented online in 2005.

    The article focuses on two aspects: comparative performance with its direct counterparts, in particular the USA; and intra-European distribution of resources and capabilities. A set of technological indicators is presented to show that Europe is still consistently behind when compared to Japan and the US, especially in R&D investment and the generation of innovations. A small convergence occurs in the diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs), the sector most directly linked to the concept of the'new economy'

  23. _hm
    December 15, 2013

    @Susan: You need to beiieve me. America is the mecca for higher education – be it engineering, medicine or science, arts, law.

    When you have passed through the real process and spent so many years, you will eventually realize the truth.

     

     

  24. _hm
    December 15, 2013

    Also, when you consult crème de la crème student around the world, if not US, going to other countries for them is almost waste of time. Yes, it may be attractive for B and C grade students.

     

     

  25. Wale Bakare
    December 15, 2013

    Yes, in few developing nations it's like that. I pointed the reasons out in my previous comment why students/people from those places got such mindset.

  26. _hm
    December 15, 2013

    It is not their mindset. They are defacto leaders and eventually lead big organizations or create new one. We must learn from them.

     

  27. Daniel
    December 15, 2013

    “Estonia doesn't come as surprise as innovative country. Estonia is a highly technological country. Estonia has the first eGovernment in the world. Their own president attends, and participates in technology conferences. “

    Susan, am first time hearing/reading about such technological ventures in Estonia.

  28. Daniel
    December 15, 2013

    Susan, thanks for sharing the list and it seems that this list is different from one, which has shared by Hailey.

  29. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 17, 2013

    @Jacob, it's true whenever you see one of these lists, isn't it? I guess it all matters what measuring stick you choose to use.

  30. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 17, 2013

    @Susan, i won't argue with you… and innovation is really important wherever it comes from. I find these lists interesting in that they say as much about the values and thought process of the list creators as it does about the (in this case) countries that are being ranked. Back in the 90s, i was in charge of creating EBNs Top 25 semiconductor listing, as well as the Top 50 Distributor listing–those were relatively easy in that they were completely based upon revenues. This is a much “softer” task, this measuring of innovation. it's certainly open to interpretation.

  31. ahdand
    December 17, 2013

    @Hailey: Indeed, it's a matter of fact on how and what requirements you do need and how you want to categorize it based on the requirement levels.  

  32. Daniel
    December 17, 2013

    “it's true whenever you see one of these lists, isn't it? I guess it all matters what measuring stick you choose to use.”

    You are right Hailey, the measuring parameters are different and this can make a change in order.

  33. Nemos
    December 26, 2013

    Sweden has also very good working conditions and working envirompent maybe are the key factors that lead to the innovative success. In addition to that in Sweden one can easily start up a business.

  34. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 27, 2013

    I saw another list that was of great interest, one that measured the happiness of the countries: The World's Happiest (And Saddest) Countries , 2013 – Forbes

     

    Sweden ranked number four on this list…Norway got the top spot. I supsect that happy countries may do better at innovation. what do you think?

  35. Nemos
    December 29, 2013

    Yes that is correct as well, probably happiness is another factor that affects the innovation part and the business in general.

  36. Nemos
    December 29, 2013

    But .. 

    However I like much Sweden for all the above reasons and a dozen more and are the reasons why I have chosen Sweden to live. But I strongly believe that the USA is still the Country of the Oppurtunity. 

  37. Himanshugupta
    December 30, 2013

    @Hailey and Nemo, i have lived in Sweden and i found that except the cold weather there is a lot of warmth in the system and people. The most obvious thing to excel in innovation is to be open to ideas and have faith in people and ideas. Also, government funding is easy to get and people are in general honest to their work.

  38. ahdand
    December 31, 2013

    @Himanshugupta: That is good news. The 2 most difficult things on earth is possible in that country. That is wonderful.           

  39. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 31, 2013

    @Himanshugupta, I find myself wanting to at least visit Sweden… It sounds like there are many advantages.

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