Research in Sweden
Investment in research pays off. Swedish innovation is ranked in the world top.
Sweden ranks among the world’s most innovative nations and investment in research is among the highest in the world in relation to GDP. The government invests heavily in education, and more than 3 per cent of Sweden’s GDP goes towards research and development.
Sweden’s long-term focus on education and research has a major impact on the country’s capacity for innovation.
Lund in the lead
At Lund University, the European Spallation Source – planned to be fully operational by 2027 – will use the world’s most powerful neutron source to provide insights into everyday materials.
Also connected to Lund University, the MAX IV Laboratory puts Sweden at the forefront of materials and nanotechnology research.
Leading research areas
An active research policy approach has enabled Sweden to acquire a leading position in several areas. One is environmental technology, another life sciences. Sweden also has a high level of expertise nanotechnology, with applications in a wide variety of research fields – from medicine to sustainable energy.
The bulk of the research taking place in Sweden – around 70 per cent – is privately financed. These investments have helped companies such as ABB, Ericsson, Sandvik and the Volvo Group become leaders in their fields. The remaining 30 per cent of the research is publicly financed.
The need for research
The challenges we are facing today are complex and global. They demand action, but the prerequisites for sustainable development, growth and prosperity are changing. It’s clear that research and innovation are important factors for tackling societal issues. We need knowledge to find the right solutions. And we need to ensure we have the correct tools to implement them.
Sustainability is at the top of the Swedish government’s agenda and Sweden aims to be a leader in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. When it comes to research and development (R&D), Sweden aims to be one of the most R&D-intensive countries in the world, with both broad and specialised research.
Major investments in R&D
As a rule, Sweden invests more than 3 per cent of the country’s GDP in R&D. The business sector contributes, with around 70 per cent of Sweden’s research being financed by private companies, as mentioned above.
Research at universities also plays an important role in fostering innovation. Which, in turn, contributes to economic growth. Public funding of research generally amounts to around 0.8 per cent of GDP. This is one of the highest rates in the world.
Government funding for research and third-cycle education is allocated in a number of ways: through direct government funding; through external funding bodies, such as government agencies and research councils; as well as through municipalities, county councils and public research foundations.
Graphene is a super-strong form of carbon that forms atom-thin layers. The research initiative is Europe’s biggest ever. It is coordinated by Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.
For research at universities and university colleges, the government is the largest source of funding, primarily through these four government bodies:
- The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) – allocates funding for research in the natural sciences, technology, medicine and health, humanities and social sciences, among other fields.
- Formas, a government research council for sustainable development – allocates funding for research in environment matters, agricultural sciences and spatial planning.
- Forte, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare – allocates funding for research in labour market issues, work organisation, work and health, public health, welfare, social services and social relations.
- Vinnova, Sweden's innovation agency – allocates funding for, primarily, research in technology, transportation, communication and working life.
There are five state-funded foundations that allocate funding for research in Sweden, thus offering an important complement to direct government funding:
- SSF, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research
- Mistra, the Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research
- The Knowledge Foundation – funds research and competence development at Sweden’s university colleges and new universities
- The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies – supports research related to the Baltic Sea Region and Eastern Europe
- STINT, the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, an independent foundation financed by the Swedish Central Bank, is another major source of funding.
Private organisations such as the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation also make significant contributions to research funding.