As a proportion of gross national product (GNP), Sweden’s research and development expenditure fell from 4% to 3.7%. In 2001 the figure was 4.3%, according to Statistics Sweden.
The entire shortfall was in the private sector, and the biggest reduction was in the electronics industry.
“The extensive cutbacks and transfers of operations to other countries by giants like Ericsson and ABB can explain the negative growth,” said Eric Östlund, chairman of the Electronics Industry Association, which represents small and medium-sized firms in the electronics sector.
“Naturally this also has a direct effect on many suppliers who then have to reduce their investment in research and development.”
Östlund added that it has been tough in the electronics industry since 2000.
“There seems to have been a trend among the big companies to do their development work abroad. But now there’s been an upward turn and from this year there’s increased confidence in the future at many firms in the industry. That can also be seen in the form of new investment,” he said.
Nevertheless, private sector investment in research and development has fallen by 11% in real terms since 2001. But Sweden still holds its own in research investment compared to other countries.
Despite the fall, Sweden is the world’s second-highest investor in research and development as a proportion of GNP. Only Israel invests more.
And according to figures from the OECD, Sweden has the highest investment in research per person. Finland is the next highest, followed by Israel and the US.