1. Sweden is an innovation center
Sweden is second only to Silicon Valley for the number of ‘unicorns’ (billion-dollar venture capital-backed start-ups) per capita. Spotify, Skype, Oatly, and Minecraft, are examples of Swedish unicorns that have become household names around the world in recent years.
The explanation for this phenomenon? Sweden’s status as an innovation hub makes it uniquely startup-friendly. Education has long been a national priority, and the country pumps more than 3% of its GDP back into research and development. The Swedish welfare state acts as a safety net for entrepreneurs willing to take a risk – like, say, challenging the dairy industry head-to-head, or putting a video-phone in every home.
The population of Sweden is only around 10 million, which means entrepreneurs tend to think globally. But while the Scandinavian country’s success stories may be epic in scale, big business doesn’t need to come at a cost to daily life. The Swedish work-life balance is exemplary, and informal rituals such as fika coffee breaks and walks in nature may well contribute to the flow of winning ideas.
2. Sweden is a sustainability leader
Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity for today’s businesses. Sweden is the ideal location to witness sustainable thinking in action. In fact, so good is the country at recycling that it recently ‘ran out of rubbish’, and had to import it to keep its recycling plants going. The country is number one in the EU for organic food consumption and renewable energy usage and the environmental tech sector employs around 40,000 people and boasts revenues of about SEK 120 billion ($12bn).
Sweden was one of the first countries to establish a carbon tax and is working to become the world's first fossil-fuel-free nation. It is an exciting opportunity for engineers and entrepreneurs alike. And many Swedish businesses are happy to share the responsibility – and challenge – of sustainability alongside the government.
For example, Plantagon is an innovator in vertical greenhouses. Perhaps the definitive Swedish brand (or after Ikea at least), Volvo launched its plug-in hybrid bus in a city trial in Gothenburg in 2013, promising to reduce CO2 emissions by 75% and total energy consumption by 60%, compared to diesel vehicles.
3. Sweden boasts a strong, knowledge-based economy
There are two ideal types of place to study business and economics: somewhere where they’re getting the economy very wrong, or somewhere where they’re getting it very right. Sweden is decidedly the latter.
Sweden suffered a severe economic crisis in the early 1990s: with low growth and employment, and high inflation and national debt. Today the Swedish economy boasts one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world and an ‘AAA’ rating from the top three credit agencies. The lessons learned are still fresh.
The secret to the success story? The courage and innovation of successive governments’ economic reforms, and a thriving export economy that capitalizes on new tech and exciting start-ups, in addition to established industries and corporations.
4. The Swedish innovatory spirit is alive and well at its universities
Sweden’s universities play a big part in this culture of innovation. Swedish investment in education pays off not just through the cultivation of a highly-educated, progressive society, but through demonstrable developments in business, science, and technology.
Sweden’s higher education landscape is highly diverse. Around one-fifth of students come from outside the EU, according to University World News, contributing to an overall proportion of 40% international students in the country’s higher education system. This makes university fertile ground for new ideas and perspectives. Plus, researchers at Swedish schools automatically own the rights to anything they invent, a highly motivating factor for innovation.
The University of Gothenburg
While Stockholm may be the first city that comes to mind when your thoughts turn to international study in Sweden, Gothenburg, or ‘Göteborg’ to locals, is rich with opportunities for students of business and economics. Gothenburg is the country’s second-largest city and the heart of one of the world’s most innovative regions.
Indeed, innovation is embedded in the very fabric of the city of Gothenburg. Platform for Innovation, a collaboration between Gothenburg City Hall, Johanneberg Science Park, and the Mistra Urban Futures research center, is an applied research project aiming to create an internationally recognized hub for the development of the ‘smart city.’ The initiative is trialing innovations in “sustainable lifestyles, creating a city for everybody, and smart energy systems.”
The School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg has been at the heart of the city’s entrepreneurial dynamism for over 90 years. The school maintains close ties to the business world, utilizing local connections to research and innovate on an international scale.
One student to have benefited greatly from the university’s academic excellence and strong business links is Chandraprabha Jha. With a background in the maritime industry, which he describes as “arguably the least innovative industry among all”, he wanted to specialize in innovation in the sector, in order to push the industry forward. So he enrolled as a master’s student at the The School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg (GU), where he is now in his second year, on a study exchange in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam.
“I like Sweden and its innovative ecosystem and wanted to stay here after my bachelor’s degree. I knew sustainability is part of culture in Gothenburg. Therefore, I also wanted to diversify my skills to be more attractive to the Swedish job market.”
“At the University of Gothenburg we get enough opportunities to participate in industry events,” he adds. “For example, consultancy companies invite students for case evenings, where students get to interact with the company representatives and solve business cases together. We also have a lot of lunch lectures from various companies and recruiters come for panel discussions, and career fairs. So basically they will let you know what they want to see in CV, cover letters and what you can expect in their respective organisations. During my first year there were two instances where we worked with companies on real projects. These are the opportunities that students get to expose themselves to the industry. The University of Gothenburg also helps in personal and professional development. We had a whole course called 'personal and professional development of an innovator'.”
Chandraprabha explains this has helped him immensely in terms of networking. “After getting these experiences and exposures, I believe I am much better in especially one thing: networking,” he explains. “If you talk to any professional about how to get a job, the first thing they say is to network. So it is a very valuable asset. As a result, recently, I connected with a managing director of a maritime/shipping company in the Hague [the Netherlands], and he invited me to collaborate with him in writing a business plan. We are also going to collaborate further later this year.”
He also has great things to say about the quality of life in the city. “The education is free of cost for EU students and I highly recommend Gothenburg to them. The quality of life and relaxed atmosphere is amazing for students,” he says.
Sweden is a phenomenal place to visit, study, or live. It’s also an excellent destination for business studies, thanks to future-oriented local businesses and institutions such as the University of Gothenburg’s School of Business, Economics and Law. Applications for Sweden’s only Triple Crown-accredited business school are open between mid-October until mid-January.
Article written in association with the University of Gothenburg.