• Sweden edition

The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Skype and packaging milk

I often think that the most impressive thing about Sweden today is its capacity for innovation.  And it’s not just me that thinks so.  Sweden finished second in this year’s Global Competitiveness Report – just behind Switzerland, which topped the rankings for the second year in a row.  The report – produced by the World Economic Forum – measures the quality of a country’s institutions and infrastructure as well as health, education and training, the efficiency of markets, effectiveness of finance, technology, business sophistication and general capacity for innovation.  In effect, this is a snapshot of how easy it is to start and grow a successful business in the major economies of the world today.

Surveys of this kind can have a tendency to over-simplify issues, of course.  And there are plenty of people in Sweden would point to issues such as the scale and shape of business taxation as evidence that the survey is focussed on too narrow a range of factors.  But the truth is that Sweden is a country that has excelled at innovation for decades.  Think only of the brilliance of the invention of the zip fastener or the car seat belt, the transformation that the Tetra-Pak brought to packaging or the modern genius behind Skype or Spotify.  You need only visit a town in central-southern Sweden to see an entire public transport loop powered by biogas, a climate neutral by-product of agricultural manure.  Or here in Stockholm you can visit the low carbon housing development at Hammarby Sjöstad to see brilliant solutions to energy, waste disposal and transport issues created by a single, dynamic approach to planning.  Innovation is, it seems, part of the Swedish gene pool.

Part of this is about great science in great scientific institutions.  Part of it is about smart financing.  But I think there’s also a dimension associated with Sweden’s apparent ability and willingness to think long term in planning decisions.  It was the decision to abandon fossil fuels after the 1970s oil crisis that made the biogas loop cost-effective.  It was the decsion of the local government to take responsibility and plan low carbon housing for the long term wellbeing of Stockholmers that buildt Hammarby.  Just as importantly, all of this is in tune with public sentiment about what matters in society, a product of a consensus led by public discussion.

This is what Sweden does well.  And innovation is something we’ll all need to be good at if we’re to build the effective low carbon economies of the future.

Report abuse »

Blog updates

02 September

America night (Blogweiser) »

" There was an event this weekend for the ‘Americans in Sweden’ Facebook group. I’m a member, and I brought my girls to the evening. The gathering was at a Boston-themed sportsbar in a mall. There were loads of screens, a bowling alley, a game room and a jumbotron. It was as good a place as any to..." READ »


25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: