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The UK released its International Technology Strategy in the first half of 2023. How are Swedish businesses supporting the UK's tech ambitions on the world stage?

How Swedish business supports the UK's tech strategy

Both ranking in the top 5 of the Global Innovation Index, Sweden (3rd) and the UK (4th) are regarded as two of the world's most innovative countries. With centuries of trade and friendship between our countries, cross-border collaboration is in our DNA and a natural part of developing and applying tech and innovative solutions in an international environment. Earlier in 2023, the UK released its International Technology Strategy to further define its priorities to make the UK a "science and technology superpower". How are Swedish businesses supporting the UK in its ambitions to deliver the UK’s technology ambition on the world stage? And what opportunities does the strategy open up for businesses to further boost the country's economic growth through investments, job creation, and increased productivity?

International collaboration is in the DNA of Swedish business: shared challenges are best solved together.


Sweden has a strong human capital with a high digital competency; 72% of the Swedish population has at least basic digital skills.


Long Swedish tradition of innovation and digitalisation

Thanks to its long history of innovation and digitalisation, Sweden is among the leading countries in the diffusion and use of digital services and technology. It has a strong human capital with a high digital competency; 72% of the Swedish population has at least basic digital skills, and 46% above basic digital skills. This spans across different lines and levels of age, education, and income.

There are several factors explaining the country’s rapid and widespread technological progression. A high degree of equality and education are just two of them; Sweden has been an early adopter of making both education and the use of digital services not only available, but often even mandatory.

For example, Sweden introduced compulsory schooling as early as 1842, a move that has played a key role in the transformation of the country, from agricultural to prosperous and innovative. In the 1990s, the country introduced a widely developed broadband network, giving the population access to fast internet coupled with subsidised computer-lending programmes, aiming to cultivate a digital society.


Both Sweden and the UK invest a considerable portion of their GDP in R&D. As a rule, Sweden invests more than 3%, and the UK will be reaching 2.4% of GDP by 2027. 


Investing in R&D

Today, about a third of the Swedish population has post-secondary education, and the country continues to strive forward by investing, as a rule, more than 3% of its GDP in R&D. Swedish companies and researchers are particularly strong in areas such as green technology and life sciences, and continue provide significant opportunities and job openings. Yet, the country sometimes struggles to attract skilled workers – high taxes, lack of housing and the dark and cold climate are all challenging factors.

Many successful Swedish businesses and skilled workers turn to the UK, a country with a friendly climate for businesses and entrepreneurs. The UK has the most mature venture capital market in Europe, with at least £8.8 billion raised in 2020 to start and grow innovative businesses – more than France and Germany combined. And like Sweden, the UK is prioritising investment in R&D, with a target for total UK investment in R&D (public and private) to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

This goal, and others, are defined in the so-called Build Back Better strategy, where the UK Government points at different focus areas and initiatives to boost innovation.


The UK is home to more tech unicorns than any other European country. In 2022, 47 businesses had passed the mark to be considered a unicorn. Source: Statista


The new Discovery Centre, also known as The DISC at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) is AstraZeneca’s largest research and development centre in the UK.


The UK's strategic priorities

Home to more tech unicorns than any other country in Europe, as well as 4 out the global top 10 universities, the UK is one of the leading technology nations of the world. With its fintech hub, the country is representing roughly 11% of the global market share and attracted $11.6bn of investment in 2021. Yet, the overall digital adoption of UK firms has gone slow compared to many of its European counterparts, and they have encountered significant challenges.

Consequently, the Government has set out ambitious new goals for the UK and its science and technology sectors; to be the leading S&T country in Europe, and one of the top 3 in the world, by 2030. To achieve this, the newly established Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, is working to improve digitisation, strengthen commercial success and national security – all to make the UK a “science and technology superpower” of the future.

The department has identified six strategic priorities:

  1. Priority technologies and data

  2. International partnerships for global leadership

  3. Value-based governance and regulation

  4. Technology investment and expertise for the developing world

  5. Technology to drive the UK economy

  6. Protecting our security interests

The first priority, namely “priority technologies and data”, include artificial intelligence (AI), quantum technologies, engineering biology, semiconductors, telecoms and data.

These are areas where Sweden, and Swedish business, are well renowned. For example, businesses such as Anglo-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca is driving science and technology forward by investing heavily in cutting-edge R&D, while businesses such as Saab invests large amounts into the development of the defence industry, in both Sweden and the UK.


Skanska, one of the UK's leading contractors, has committed to an extensive programme to reach net zero emissions by 2045, including its supply chain. Recently the company announced that it will extend its low carbon concrete road trial to permanent roads, reducing the carbon footprint by more than 50%.

Minesto is a renewable energy company extracting energy from ocean currents generated from the tide. Headquartered in Sweden and with R&D in Wales, the company has been active in the UK for more than 10 years.


Tech priorities in line with Net Zero targets

The six strategic priorities go hand in hand with the UK’s sustainability targets; research and innovation should not only bring the country in a green direction, but the tools and methods used should also be in line with the Net Zero targets.

In terms of green innovation, Swedish businesses have been leading the way for decades. Thanks to massive investments into green energy, renewables now account for 60% of Sweden’s energy sources, with businesses such as Minesto and Vattenfall breaking new ground when it comes to climate friendly energy solutions, Skanska setting new standards for the construction industry, and SSAB and LKAB rewriting the rules of steel and mining.

Swedish freight tech company Einride launched its digital and electric end-to-end freight solutions in the UK in the spring of 2023 - solutions that have the potential to revolutionise the freight industry by decarbonising customers' operations while cutting costs significantly.

Regardless of which of the six priorities you look into, it is clear that Swedish businesses can contribute to the UK’s strive forward. Through their investments and presence in the UK, they are all contributing to the development and growth of the country, as well as helping the UK Government reach its goals. Reversely, the UK is helping Swedish businesses establish and thrive, through different initiatives, programmes, and financial support schemes. Together, they are bringing the UK one step closer its 2030 goal of becoming a S&T superpower.

Billion-pound investment by AstraZeneca in Cambridge

  • The R&D centre in Cambridge employs some 3,000 scientists

  • The centre has carried out over 200 partnerships with academia and industry

  • International collaboration is key to driving drug development successfully

  • New £1bn R&D facility - the Discovery Centre - to open in Cambridge in 2023

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