Online archive - find the most current content at

Stockholm – challenges for a top innovation region

According to the "European Regional Innovation Scoreboard" in 2006, Stockholm was the top region of Europe in innovation performance. While Stockholm is performing well in a comparative perspective there is still reason to believe that the region does not perform according to its potential.

The superior figures for tertiary education (23% of the population) and numbers of researchers (27% of the national total)of Stockholm can be explained by the existence of several major universities and the presence of research-intensive companies, particularly in the sectors of ICT (Ericsson, IBM Svenska and Telia-Sonera) and life sciences (AstraZenec and Pfizer). There is also a high percentage of knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) in local employment (roughly 25%). Still, there are, in particular, three challenges that have to be faced to remain a top innovation region.

Regional coordination

A key challenge is the need for continued development of the regional governance system. Since there are many strong, independent actors, and no public agency or authority with a mandate to coordinate innovation activities, cooperation has traditionally been limited and there is no regional innovation strategy or policy in Stockholm. However, funding from the European Structural Funds has offered the opportunity for implementing publicly coordinated regional development initiatives. Even if the amount of funding was limited, particularly the ERDF programme has had an important impact on policy development since the regional partnership decided to prioritise a limited number of strategic projects. Besides, the recently initiated project Innovation Power Stockholm may provide a platform for increased coordination of innovation activities between different forums and stakeholders, and a basis for developing a regional innovation strategy.

Broader innovation base

Stockholm has a strong innovation structure, based on academic and scientific research, particularly in the ICT and life science sectors. However, the high levels of business R&D and patents in the region are to a large extent traced back to just a limited number of large, global companies, which makes the region vulnerable to decisions taken elsewhere. Thus, an important challenge for the Stockholm region is to broaden the base of innovation activities, for example in services and the public sector. Even if Stockholm does not have a specific cluster programme, six of the 16 larger projects prioritised by the partnership for the ERDF in Stockholm may be characterised as cluster development projects. Most of these are found in research intensive, technology based sectors, such as the life sciences, ICT and environmental technologies, but activities have also been directed towards less research dependent sectors, such as the creative sector. There have also been several interesting attempts to restructure the business and innovation support system of Stockholm. For example, Entrepreneur and Start-up Stockholm are examples of new regional initiatives providing advisory services or early stage funding to entrepreneurs, innovators and small companies.

Human knowledge dynamics

The knowledge created in the Stockholm region does not wholly correspond to the need for business development and innovation. To improve this, a dialogue between the private sector and regional knowledge providers is required. This may become easier in the future, due to the increased focus on development of cluster initiatives in prioritised sectors. There is also the question of how to attract skills and how to keep skilled individuals in the region. Even if various initiatives to market Stockholm to foreign investors and skilled people have been initiated, it is still a challenge to address the problem of supplying housing and infrastructure, which may otherwise reduce the attractiveness of the region.

Maria Lindqvist

Senior Research Fellow