The Strength of Swedish Business

Even with a population of just 10.5 million, Sweden is a leader in innovation.
The country’s social stability, people’s access to government support, and high levels of equality—combined with a skilled workforce, clear business procedures, and low corporate taxes—have created a low-stakes business environment that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship. This helps explain why Sweden is the birthplace of several successful companies established in the United States and around the world.
Swedish flag on leather seatSwedish flag on leather seat
Photo: Simon Paulin/
The Swedish economy is supported by a highly educated workforce (college is free for Swedish citizens and about one-third of the population has post-secondary education) and significant investments in research and development (R&D). At 3.4%, the proportion of Sweden’s GDP that goes to R&D is one of the highest in the world. Early efforts to promote digitalization has also turned Sweden into one of the most connected countries in the world; today, more than 95 percent of Swedes have access to the internet.
According to Forbes, Sweden is the second best country in the world to do business in, citing its small, open, and competitive economy and its high standard of living (2018).
​​​​​​​In combination with its commitment to sustainability, Sweden’s innovative drive has given it a leading position in many sectors. Swedish companies, such as Scania, H&M, SSAB, Stora Enso, IKEA, and Volvo, are at the forefront of integrating a sustainable approach to business in their strategies and daily management. The cleantech industry is one of Sweden’s most important future export industries.
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Ericsson’s 100 million USD 5G Smart Factory is located in Lewisville, Texas. The 300 000 square-foot facility produces 5G and advanced-antenna-system radios to boost network capacity and coverage to meet the demand for rapid 5G deployments in North America.
​​​​​​​Photo: Chip Matthias/Ericsson
The Swedish capital, Stockholm, is second only to Silicon Valley in the number of successful start-ups per capita in the world—a so-called unicorn factory. Given the small size of the Swedish market, many Swedish entrepreneurs plan for scaling globally from day one. Today, start-ups are a key part of the broader innovation strategy for Swedish competitiveness and growth, and the government aims to foster an environment in which creative individuals feel financially secure enough to dare to test their ideas. You may recognize the names of some successful start-ups from Sweden: Spotify, Skype, Klarna, King (creator of Candy Crush Saga), and Mojang (creator of Minecraft).
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Saab and Boeing have jointly secured a 9.2b USD contract to deliver the next generation Pilot Training Aircraft and associated Training Systems to the US Air Force. The US Air Force has named the Aircraft “T-7A Red Hawk” and has placed an initial order of 351 aircraft. As a result, Saab will invest 37m USD in a production facility for the program in the Purdue University-affiliated Discovery Park District in West Lafayette, Indiana. Saab will also cooperate with Purdue University and establish joint research programs focused on aerospace and defense technologies.
​​​​​​​Photo: Eric Shindelbower/The Boeing Company
Sweden has a long tradition of supporting employees to bolster business resilience and efficiency, including through vocational training systems and job security councils. Workers’ rights are one of the cornerstones of the modern Swedish labor market, and a majority of the working population is unionized. Collective bargaining has created an environment in which the health and safety of employees is a key priority. Labor unions also work with employers and the government to support laid-off workers rather than preserving outdated job functions. Sweden’s strong support for workers, in combination with exposure to global competition, has allowed Swedish companies and industries to reinvent themselves without leaving their employees behind. In international comparisons, Swedes stand out as holding overwhelmingly positive views about job prospects in areas such as technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence. By encouraging shared participation in childcare and offering generous and gender-neutral parental leave, Sweden makes it possible for both parents to combine work and family life.
Whether you talk to overseas friends on Skype, drive a Volvo car, pour juice from a Tetra Pak container, wear clothes from H&M, or have dinner around an IKEA table, you are benefiting from the strength of Swedish businesses.
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Volvo Trucks North America’s zero-tailpipe-emission VNR Electric model became commercially available in North America in 2020. Volvo Trucks is part of The Volvo Group.
​​​​​​​Photo: Patrick Daly/Volvo Trucks