10 Swedish innovations
From adjustable wrenches to digital doctors, here are 10 Swedish innovations.
1. Adjustable wrench
A staple in many toolboxes, the adjustable wrench or spanner, also popularly called ‘Monkey wrench‘ or ‘English key’, often comes in very handy during do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. While the first iteration of this spanner was originally invented in 1842 by British engineer Richard Clyburn, today’s adjustable wrench, the ‘Swedish Key’, is attributed to Johan Petter Johansson, a Swedish inventor who improved upon Clyburn’s original concept and patented it in 1891.
2. Digital doctors
Swedish startups are leading the way in the global development of digital healthcare, or health tech, by providing access to different forms of healthcare through mobile, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies. KRY is a doctor–patient app that lets doctors and psychologists meet patients over video. It has garnered a lot of attention – and some controversy. The company works with the publicly funded national health systems of the countries where it operates, which so far include Sweden, Norway and Spain.
Diesel-fueled freight trucks remain one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Swedish company Einride has developed a freight truck that’s not only electric but also autonomous. The Einride Pod comes without a driver’s seat or steering wheel as it drives itself through a cloud-based remote-monitoring system that allows human operators to intervene when necessary.
The vehicles, which can carry up to ten tonnes at a time, were first tested on public roads in Sweden back in 2018. Einride has partnered with companies such as Coca-Cola, SKF, Oatly, Lidl and Electrolux.
Time Magazine listed Einride as one of the 100 best inventions of 2021.
4. The Karma app
We all know karma matters, right? Well, Karma can also transform food waste from a problem to an opportunity. Some Swedish entrepreneurs have launched an app called Karma. Via the app, supermarkets, restaurants and cafés can offer products that are about to expire at half price, instead of throwing them away. In just two years, Karma claims to have attracted 1.4 million users around Sweden as well as in the UK and France.
Reducing food waste is also on the government’s agenda. ‘More to do more’ is an action plan developed by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the National Food Agency and the Swedish Board of Agriculture. The aim is reduced food waste on a national level by 2030.
5. Life-saving drones
In December 2021, an autonomous drone helped save a life in Sweden. This is the amazing story of how an off-duty doctor got help from state-of-the-art technology to stop a man from dying.
Dr. Mustafa Ali was driving to work when he saw a man who had collapsed outside his house and a woman sitting next to him. Ali rushed to help.
The man was suffering a cardiac arrest after shovelling snow, and Ali started performing CPR while asking the woman to call 112, the Swedish emergency number. After only a few minutes, he saw something come flying. No, it wasn’t an angel, but close. It was a drone carrying a defibrillator.
Much thanks to Mustafa Ali and the quickly delivered defibrillator, the 71-year-old man’s life was saved.
The drone was part of a research project aiming to see how drones can be used in healthcare. The project included the Västra Götaland region (where this particular drone was dispatched), the Swedish Emergency Services and Karolinska Institutet. The company behind the drone, Everdrone, specialise in public safety and emergency response.
Using drones makes it possible to deliver emergency medical help using the shortest route and to access otherwise inaccessible places.
6. Oat milk
The Nordic region offers great conditions for growing oats (read: it rains a lot), and Sweden is exploring different ways of using this healthy cereal. Swedish brand Oatly is perhaps best known for its non-dairy milk alternative. Oat milk was developed by the Lund University food scientist Rickard Öste, who founded Oatly in 1994. Since then, oat milk has become a staple at a range of supermarkets and coffee shops around the world (and the topic of some sustainability debates with the dairy industry).
Swedish agricultural cooperative Lantmännen has also invested in research into oats. And it’s not all about food products – a new research project is looking into creating furniture from oats!
In 1958, Rune Elmqvist developed a battery-run artificial pacemaker, which was used for the very first pacemaker operation done by surgeon Åke Senning at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. The pacemaker is placed under the heart patient’s skin and the electrical pulses it generates ensure that muscles expand and contract normally, regulating the heart.
8. Three-point seatbelt
Now a standard requirement in every passenger vehicle saving around one life every six minutes, the three-point seatbelt was developed by Swedish inventor and safety engineer Nils Bohlin in 1959 for Volvo. It’s designed with a Y shape to spread out energy across a moving body during an accident.
9. The walking frame
Swedish social scientist Aina Wifalk contracted polio – a virus that can cause temporary or permanent paralysis – at the age of 21. After tearing her shoulders from using walking sticks for two decades, she came up with the walking frame, or walker, an invention that has made life easier for elderly and disabled people since the late 1970s. Because Wifalk wanted the walker to be accessible to as many people as possible, she never patented it. To this day, the walker helps your grandparents stay mobile and active.
The modern-day zip as we know it was improved upon and developed by Swedish–American inventor Gideon Sundbäck from an earlier less effective model in 1913. Sundbäck’s newly redesigned version called the ‘separable fastener’ was patented in 1917 and features interlocking teeth pulled together and apart by a slider.