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The Swedish way: How Gothenburg is shaping the future of transportation

The future is never far from the mind in Gothenburg. The city is in the midst of massive urban development programme that will nearly double its size, making room for 45,000 new inhabitants and 60,000 jobs in the city centre by 2030.

The Swedish way: How Gothenburg is shaping the future of transportation
Photo: Per Pixel Petersson//imagebank.sweden.se

Beyond the revitalization of the downtown riverfront area, the greater Gothenburg region comprising 18 nearby municipalities is also booming. By 2030, the Gothenburg labour market is expected to expand to 1.75 million inhabitants from the roughly 1.17 million living in the area today. 

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While Gothenburg residents can literally see the €100 billion investment projects take shape right before their eyes, the view to the future goes far beyond the city’s borders. 

Along the northern bank of the Göta Älv river in what was not too long ago a derelict shipyard district, Lindholmen Science Park is a bustling centre of activity that promises to shape the global future of transportation, mobility and connectivity. 

There, six of Sweden’s largest and most-established firms, including household names like Volvo and Ericsson, collaborate with young startups from around the world to influence how all of us will get around in the years to come.  

The collaborations take place under the umbrella of MobilityXlab, an initiative founded in October 2017 to give emerging companies the possibility of strategic partnership with the six partners.

“We have a vision to bring future mobility closer by finding new innovations and solutions,” MobilityXlab director Katarina Brud said. “One way to do that is for large corporations to work closely with emerging companies. It’s often very difficult to change the culture within these old traditional huge companies, so we create an ecosystem that supports collaboration with the younger and more nimble startups.”

With the six large Swedish firms – Ericsson, Volvo Cars, Volvo Group, Veoneer, Zenuity and CEVT – already collaborating to MobilityXlab, some 30,000 people are in the science park every day and 13,000 work in the area. That number is expected to double in the next five years due to a great interest from all over the world to invest in the area and to a general growth linked to the urban development.

Also, Chinese automaker Geely has decided to base its European Innovation Centre in Lindholmen. Geely Innovation Centre, GIC, which will have its Swedish base in Lindholmen, is a great initiative that will help make the area more lively and attractive with places to interact such as hotels and restaurants.

The mix of global powerhouses and innovative startups has made Lindholmen “truly the place to be,” Brud said. 

“Gothenburg has an established culture of being open and collaborative. What we are trying to do is accelerate that a bit and shift toward being even more open,” she said. “The large companies that I work with understand that we have to work not only with each other but with emerging companies from around the world. I think that is very unique.”

The MobilityXlab initiative has brought over 15 startups to Lindholmen, all with their own contributions to what Brud calls “a race to the future” to shape transportation, mobility and connectivity. 

“If I had a crystal ball I could tell you what transportation will look like in the future, but I really don’t know. To me, that is what is so exciting,” Brud said. “We don’t know how you will own and use a vehicle in the future, or if we’ll even be using cars at all, so a company like Volvo needs to really think in new ways and that’s where these partnerships can really help.”

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While many of the startups involved in MobilityXlab are Swedish firms, including several already based in Gothenburg, the initiative has also brought in companies from Canada, Germany, Silicon Valley, Israel and Finland.

For Finnish firm Valossa, which uses AI for video recognition, involvement with MobilityXlab provided a major boost. 

 

“MobilityXlab has greatly accelerated Valossa’s entry into new industries and groundbreaking applications for AI,” company CEO Mika Rautiainen said. “Valossa would not have had similar opportunities to meet high-level automotive industry executives without MobilityXlab involvement.”

Rautiainen said Gothenburg’s “international feel” has made the Finnish staff feel right at home. 

“We like the mixture of traditional industry and forward-looking innovations we have seen in the city so far. Swedish city infrastructure and services are world-leading and provide ample opportunities for foreign professionals to accommodate their career and personal lives in the city,” he said. 

For Brud, who grew up on an island about an hour north of Gothenburg, the city’s transformation has been a sight to behold. 

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“Ten years ago there was not a lot of energy and movement but today it is a really exciting international melting pot. For innovation, we need diversity, trust and collaboration and that is what we have in Gothenburg,” she said. 

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Business Region Göteborg.

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POLITICS

Swedish government offers tax deferral to businesses

High energy prices and high inflation are hitting Sweden's businesses hard. With energy price subsidies for these consumers delayed, the government is now extending existing tax deferral schemes implemented during the pandemic to ease the pressure.

Swedish government offers tax deferral to businesses

Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson and Energy and Business Minister Ebba Busch announced the scheme at a press conference on Thursday.

“Many, many companies are now struggling with their liquidity,” Svantesson said.

The deferral scheme is similar to that proposed by the previous government in order to ease the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on companies, which was due to run out in February. The government has now proposed extending this scheme, allowing companies to delay their tax payments.

“These proposals will make things easier for many businesses,” Svantesson said.

The tax deferral scheme is not, Busch explained, being introduced as a replacement for the energy price subsidy for businesses which was supposed to be paid out “before Christmas” and which has now been withdrawn temporarily while the government figures out how it can be introduced without breaking EU law.

“No, rather this is a measure we’ve been looking at for a while, which should be seen as a complement,” she said.

According to rough estimates, the government believes that around 12,000 companies will apply for tax deferral, which would mean around 16 billion kronor in tax payments being delayed until a later date.

Företagarna, Sweden’s largest organisation of business owners representing around 60,000 companies across different branches, has welcomed the move, despite also voicing criticism that it’s just pushing these problems further into the future.

“It’s a loan and all loans need to be paid back over time,” Företagarna’s CEO Günther Mårder said.

Företagarna did, however, agree that the scheme will be necessary for some businesses to survive.

“Most companies going under are doing so because of liquidity problems, and this new measure will strengthen liquidity in the short-term,” Mårder said, adding that the measure could “save businesses”.

However, with many businesses already owing back taxes delayed during the pandemic, Mårder believes this could just be adding to the mountain of debt already faced by some companies.

“It means it will be record-breakingly difficult to get over this hump,” he said. “What they’re doing now is pushing problems into the future, and of course, that’s also a solution.”

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise is positive towards the government’s proposal, adding that the many Swedish companies are currently in a difficult situation.

“Since the repayment of bottleneck revenues [energy price subsidies] is delayed, it is good and fair that companies have the opportunity to extend their tax deferrals,” Jonas Frycklund, vice chief finance officer of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise wrote in a statement.

“This will lower the risk of having to let employees go unnecessarily.”

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