Sweden - Country Profile

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Tags: Sweden

Country Outline

  • GDP: 477,383 mil. euros (Eurostat 2017)
  • GDP per Capita: 47,400 euros (Eurostat 2017)
  • Areas of Marked S&T Specialisations: Life Science, Mining, Minerals and Steel, Forest Products and Biomass, Sustainable Urban Management, Aerospace, Energy and ICT

Contact Information

  • Organisation: Embassy of Sweden
  • Name / Position: Michael Jacob, PhD / Science and Innovation Counselor
  • Phone no. / e-mail: (+82) 2 3703 3721 / michael.jacob@gov.se

Sweden is an innovation leader. The country ranked the top in the European Innovation Scoreboard 2017 and number 2 in the Global Innovation Index. The indicators show that Sweden especially stands out in international scientific co-publications, PCT patent applications and license and patent revenues from abroad. Sweden invests heavily on R&D, promotes cross-sectoral collaboration and opens to international influences.

1. Policies and Strategies in Science, Technology and Innovation

Innovative Country 

Sweden, a country of Nobel Prize, ranked the top in the European Innovation Scoreboard 2017 and number 2 in the Global Innovation Index. Not only the country ranked at the top end of the scale in various innovation dimensions (OECD) but also took the 10th position in Doing Business climate ranking (The World Bank Group, 2018). Its innovative climate, strong global connections and talents helped its capital city Stockholm to be the second in number of unicorns per capita after Silicon Valley. Also, Sweden’s R&D expenditure as % of GDP is 3.25%, recorded the top among the EU Member States in 2016 (Eurostat 2018).

Innovation Policy

The country has put consistent effort to expand its innovative capacity and create a better climate for innovation to meet societal challenges and promote its economic growth, sustainable development and job creation. Sweden’s Research and Innovation bill is adopted every four years and managed mainly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. The Bill for 2017-2020 was published in November 2016 and included the orientation of research and innovation policy, funding frame as well as its perspective towards 2026.

The government has established the National Innovation Council to promote Sweden as a country of innovation and strengthen its competitiveness. The Council takes the advisory role and covers various issues in innovation policy sphere. It also presents proposals that can enhance the innovation climate of Sweden. The Council identified three areas (digitalization, life science and environment & climate technology) that are crucial to tackle the societal challenges by cross-sectoral collaboration. Five innovation partnership programmes (IPPs) were also selected; next generation’s travel and transport, smart cities, circular and bio-based economy, life science and connected industries and new materials. The Council emphasized the importance of partnerships among public, business and academia. The Prime Minister chairs the Council and the Council consists of five ministers and ten advisory members from the business and research sectors.

The government believes that Sweden’s open research environment culture has fostered team work and cross-disciplinary collaboration that often drives innovation. To make the Swedish research and innovation areas more open and attractive, Sweden has allocated the significant amount of investment in research infrastructure. For example, MAX IV Laboratory and the European Spallation Source (ESS) have been launched and the government speculates that they would form a key hub in Europe’s joint research.

To expand Sweden’s innovative capacity, Sweden has tried to provide more comprehensive innovation policy by supporting different actors. For example, the government supports SMEs in getting access to capital and demonstration opportunities. For the development of biological drug program, 60 million USD was funded to the Research Institutes of Sweden Holding AB (RISE AB) in late 2016.

Also, the government has developed the initiative, “Strategic Innovation Areas (SIO),” to make Sweden more attractive and unique to investors. The SIO is expected to create a shared platform for strategic cooperation among different sets of actors. Various grants are available and 16 different innovation areas (e.g., Manufacturing 2030, graphene and smart grid) have been selected. Sweden also focuses on stable and sustainable development of the society. The Challenge Driven Innovation (CDI) program has been launched to tackle social challenges, such as aging population and climate change. The government is changing perspective of these issues from problems to opportunities. The program consists of four different areas; health care of the future, sustainable industrial development, sustainable and attractive cities and the information society.

Research Policy & Funding

The Swedish government pursues Sweden to be a prominent research nation in which R&D is conducted with top quality, contributes to the development of society and helps the private sector’s competitiveness. The country’s R&D expenditure as % of GDP was 3.25% (Eurostat 2018) and about 70% of this R&D spending comes from the industry. The Swedish Parliament grants R&D funds and the Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for overall coordination of research policy in the government offices.

There are four main research funding agencies in Sweden. The Swedish Research Council (VR) is the largest civil recipient of the R&D fund in Sweden and provides around SEK 6.4 billion (760 million USD) in funding for basic research in all areas of research each year. The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas) supports basic and needs-driven research in the fields of environment, land-based industries and spatial planning. Formas distributes about 1.3 billion SEK (154 million USD) annually. The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte) supports and initiates basic and needs-driven research in the fields of the labour market, work organization, work and health, public health, welfare, and social relations. The organization distributes 550million SEK (65 million USD) each year. The Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA) also distributes 3 billion SEK (356

million USD) annually.

The RISE AB (Research Institutes of Sweden Holding AB), a single holding entity which is a group of public research institutes, also receives the government funding. The overall objective of the RISE AB is to support sustainable development of Sweden and help the country to gain more international competitiveness. The RISE is expected to serve as a knowledge partner for businesses, an intermediary between academia and industry, and a nexus for participation in EU R&D projects.

There are also several research funding foundations, established in the mid-1990s based on capital from the former wage earner investment funds. These foundations include the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF), the Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA), the Knowledge Foundation (KK) and the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT). Annually, about 180 million USD is contributed for basic research by these four foundations. The support from public research foundations is also one of the important contributions to research. For example, the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (RJ), foundation created public funding and supports research in Humanities and Social Sciences.

Not only public but also many private financiers provide a significant contribution to research in Sweden. For example, the Wallenberg Foundations distributes 190 million USD worth of grants every year. Sweden’s second biggest research oriented foundation (based on assets) is Torsten Soderbergs Stiftelse. The foundation provides grants of up to 14 million USD each year. The third largest private research foundation is Jan Wallanders and Tom Hedelius Stiftelse. The foundation provided 179 grants, totalled 215 million SEK (25 million USD) in 2017.

2. National Programmes and Initiatives

Programme Title


Korea-Sweden STI Joint Research Programme


  •    The Swedish Research Council (SRC) has an ongoing bilateral collaboration with the National Research Foundation of Korea, NRF. A typical project lasts two years with up to 50,000 USD per year provided by each side.
  •    The 2016 call, focusing on 'Drug discovery research through cell differentiation control (stem cell, cancer cell, immune cell, neuron cell, etc.), opened in April/May and closed in September/October. The peer review was conducted using the Lead Agency Procedure, with NRF as Lead Agency. Five joint projects could be funded for two years.
  •    The next call, with a new focus, will open in 2018.
  •    Contact person: magnus.friberg@vr.se

Korea-Sweden Research Cooperation (STINT)


  •    STINT, the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, supports research projects between Korean and Swedish universities in cooperation with National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) for up to 3 years.
  •    STINT invests up to SEK 750 000 per project (about USD 89 000) and NRF invests a corresponding amount to the Korean side. Since 2008 STINT has supported 61 projects together with NRF (and KOSEF before NRF was founded). The call is open to all fields of science.
  •    The cooperation type is mobility and calls are open to all fields of science. Calls usually open approximately in June/July and close in September/October for the next year program. Applications submitted for the 2019 program are in the process of evaluation. Calls for the 2020 program will open in June/July 2019.
  •    Contact person : mattias.lowhagen@stint.se

Grants for Korean-Swedish Research Collaboration (SSF)

  •    The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) and the National Research Foundation of the Republic of Korea (NRF) launched a joint programme with a purpose of stimulating collaborative, focused research projects involving highly qualified groups in Korea and Sweden.
  •    NRF and SSF have set aside the equivalent 3.65 million USD each to cover these Korean-Swedish collaborative projects of the highest international scientific standard.
  •   SSF and NRF have selected 9 projects that have been supported by research grants for joint seminars, conferences, workshops and exchanges of individuals between the applying groups over a period of six years. The research fields include material science, biomedical engineering, and ICST. Initially 9 projects had been funded for three years (2014-2017). Through the midterm evaluation in 2017, 6 out of 9 projects were selected for additional three years’ funding at the same level from September 2017.
  •    Contact person : Joakim.Amorim@stratresearch.se

3. Joint Activities with Korea

For information on upcoming events and activities please visit the website of the Embassy of Sweden:


4. Others

Key Research Organisations and Companies

Organisation Name

Detailed information

Chalmers University of Technology


Chalmers University of Technology is a full-scale technological university with scientific depth and interdisciplinary breadth situated in Gothenburg, Sweden. At Chalmers, both curiosity-driven fundamental research and applied research to solve concrete societal challenges are natural. Founded in 1829, Chalmers is consistently ranked World top 100 for Engineering. Recently, nine researchers from Sweden (two Chalmers) and nine from South Korea received a total of 7.3 million USD for research collaboration of the highest international standards.

Royal Institute of Technology


KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm is the largest and the oldest technical university in Sweden. No less than one-third of Sweden’s technical research and engineering education capacity at university level is provided by KTH. KTH and KAIST have had collaborative agreements such as reciprocal two-year postdoc positions and six-month guest research positions in the field of medical engineering.

Linkoping University


Linkoping University is a research-based university with excellence in education. The university is a multi-faculty university in which research and education are equally important. Linkoping University has been an innovator since the establishment in the late 1960s creating new study programmes and new ways to tackle research problems. Linkoping University’s current research collaboration with Korea includes material science and biotechnology.

Lund University


Lund University (LU) was established in 1666, and is consistently ranked as one of the top 100 universities in the world. LU provides education and research in engineering, science, law, social sciences, economics and management, medicine, humanities, theology, fine art, music and drama. LU has research collaboration with many Korean counterparts in fields such as Biomedical Engineering, Automatic Control and Nanoscience.

Karolinska Institutet


Karolinska Institutet (KI) is one of the world’s leading medical universities. KI accounts for over 40 % of the medical academic research conducted in Sweden and offers the country’s broadest range of education in medicine and health sciences. KI has a wide range of research collaboration with Korean counterparts, including cancer therapy.

Uppsala University


Established in 1477, Uppsala University is Sweden’s oldest university. Uppsala University has been placed as one of the 100 best universities in the world during the last number of years with only a few exceptions. Concrete research collaboration with Korea includes cardiovascular diseases, stroke and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Edited and published by the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea: https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/south-korea/50611/node/50611_el