Here are some interesting stats:
- Last year Bloomberg Innovation Index ranked Sweden as the 5th most innovative economy in the world, just behind South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland and Germany
- Also in 2021, according to the European Regional Innovation Scoreboard, Sweden ranks second only to Switzerland
- Lastly WIPO – the World Intellectual Property Organisation – ranked Sweden third 2018 in their World Innovation Index, and then second place in the two following years
I recently attended a meeting with a number of internationals who were interested in understanding the secret to the Swedish innovation sauce. Listening to the story they were told, I was struck by what an absolutely unique environment we’ve managed to create in this little corner of the world. Here are some of the ingredients that are so pervasive we’ve stopped seeing them, yet that goes a long way in explaining our phenomenal progress:
- Education is free and accessible to all
- Thanks to government subsidies in the 80’s Swedes were early in getting access to home computers, which has led to a high level of tech literacy
- Ultra fast Internet coverage is ubiquitous
- There’s a high level of social security; child- and healthcare is practically free, it’s easy to get a leave of absence to pursue an idea, and there’s not too much risk involved if it doesn’t work out
- As a rule, researchers and PhD-students own their intellectual property
- And last but not least: Sweden has a high proportion of multinationals, leading to a steady influx of talent and ideas
It struck me how many of these factors are the result of a hugely ambitious political project that has spanned the better part of the last hundred years.
At its core, that project has always been an optimistic one. Regardless of what coalition that ruled the country, our leaders seem to have shared a deeply held belief that we can handle whatever challenges we’re facing, and that in the long run we’re making good progress.
I feel like this great tradition was disrupted yesterday, when a party came to power which seem to have fear of the unknown as its core belief.
I don’t think that’s very conducive to innovation, but from now on and for the next 1457 days I’ll refrain from further comments on this topic. Because when writing here I want to be uncompromisingly constructive, so after a few brief excursions into political terrain of late, I’ll now go back to my roots and stick to writing about happy stuff, like design and technology. Because after all Ludwig Wittgenstein had it right when he ended his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus with the words: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.“