Do you usually use Spotify, the famous platform that allows you to listen to countless songs? Or have you ever played Candy Crush, either on a tablet or on a smartphone? And speaking of smartphones, are you interested in FinTech, the booming technology that offers financial services via software, such as online purchases with smartphones? And what about the environment? Are you concerned about it and try to look for the best alternatives to make the Earth a more sustainable planet, for instance, by using environmentally friendly batteries?
If this is the case, then you should thank Sweden since all these innovations were developed by Swedish companies– and they are only a few. Surprised? Then you should keep reading, Sweden is much more than the country where ABBA was formed.
Sweden: The European cradle of innovation
Sweden is more present in our lives than we may think- and not only because most of our furniture comes from Ikea. This small-yet-powerful country is one of the main cradles of innovation in Europe to the extent that, in 2021, the World Intellectual Property Organization named it as ‘the second most innovative country in the world’, only outperformed by Switzerland.
Within their most important and well-known startups, we find companies such as Klarna and iZettle– both focused on FinTech-, King and Mojang– the developers of Candy Crush and Minecraft, respectively- or Northvolt– the leading lithium-ion battery manufacturer-, not to mention Spotify, which speaks for itself. It is also important to mention that a Swedish startup, Cellink, became the first EIC-funded unicorn in 2020.
It’s a fact that Sweden has stayed as an innovation leader for many years, so one may wonder, is there a secret formula for Sweden to be so innovative? Kind of.
What makes Sweden so innovative?
There are some factors that contribute to make Sweden a very innovative country, such as the income safety net provided by the government– which helps startups founders when times harden so that they can take on some risks and invest in innovation-, and also the Swedish education, which has a focus on creativity. In addition, the early and heavy investments in technology made by the government in the 1990s has provided important rewards.
Apart from these core elements, there are other factors that promote innovation in Sweden, such as the grants provided by public organizations such as the National Swedish Innovation Agency- Vinnova. These grants help Swedish founders by giving them some money to improve their businesses and become more and more innovative.
Top 4 Swedish grants
Vinnova Innovativa Startup
VINNOVA Innovativa Startup is the most important innovation programme for startups promoted by VINNOVA, the National Swedish Innovation Agency.
It strengthens Sweden’s innovation capacity by funding research and innovation projects, from climate-smart meat alternatives to seeing how robots can help the elderly, but also by coordinating strategic initiatives, collaborating with actors across all sectors and providing inspiring solutions and ideas.
To accomplish that, they offer 300,000 kr in funding, however, candidates have to go through a challenging and demanding process.
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, runs projects for one year with the main objective of offering better conditions for international research collaboration that can eventually lead to achieving the SDGs. It helps Swedish researchers develop networks with researchers from other parts of the world, outside Europe, so as to think of new project ideas.
Candidates can apply for up to SEK 200,000 for network expenses, and the application deadline closes on August 25, 2022.
The Swedish Institute
The Swedish Institute (SI) is a public agency whose mission is to show Sweden’s progress to the world, that is, to raise awareness of Sweden’s potential. Their objective is to achieve a high level of trust in Sweden so that the conditions of trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange improve, and this way foster the attraction of international talent.
The SI has a total budget of SEK 294 million allocated to grants and scholarships, where candidates can find different projects to apply, and about two thirds of this budget is provided by the Swedish aid budget.
Swedish Energy Agency
The Swedish Energy Agency is a government agency that controls the supply and use of energy in Sweden, whose objective is to promote Sweden’s transition to a sustainable energy system.
It focuses on achieving the sustainable development goals by funding Swedish research on new and renewable energy technologies, smart grids, vehicles, and fuels of the future. It also supports Swedish businesses to promote commercialization and export of climate and cleantech innovations.
Benefits of the Swedish innovation
It is obvious that these grants are benefitting the progress of Sweden, which has become one of the most prosperous countries in the world. The grants provided by public agencies contribute to foster innovation and encourage founders to go beyond to surprise the world with breakthrough innovations.