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 (R&D).
Sweden’s long-term focus on education and research has a major impact on the country’s capacity for innovation.
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 in 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.
Lund powers up
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.
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.
The Swedish government realised early on that sustainability was the future and have high ambitions when it comes to the green transition. 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.
Quadruple helix plays an important role in fostering innovation in Sweden. This is a model where industry, universities, the government and the society – with prominent actors within arts and culture, media and other sectors – are working closely together to solve problems, national and global.
Public funding of research generally amounts to around 0.7 per cent of the Swedish GDP. A high rate by international comparison.
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.
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.
Here are five examples of state-funded foundations that allocate funding for research in Sweden, thus offering an important complement to direct government funding:
- Chalmers University of Technology Foundation (Stiftelsen Chalmers tekniska högskola)
- The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies
- The Knowledge Foundation (KK-stiftelsen)
- The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT, Stiftelsen för internationalisering av högre utbildning och forskning)
- The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF, Stiftelsen för strategisk forskning)
Another major source of funding is Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, an independent foundation financed by the Swedish central bank, the Riksbank.
Private organisations such as the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation also make significant contributions to research funding.