Why Gothenburg is Sweden’s hotspot for business R&D

Female engineer

Investments in R&D in the Gothenburg region have doubled since 2013, with a more dramatic increase seen in recent years. This has helped Gothenburg secure its position as a powerhouse and engine for Swedish innovation. What’s driving the increase?

Companies' innovation efforts are greater in the Gothenburg region than ever before. In fact, more money is invested here than in the entire Stockholm region, which is twice as large in terms of population and private sector employees. The intensity of R&D in Gothenburg is also twice as great as Sweden as a whole.

“We see a clear shift to the west, where Gothenburg has overtaken Stockholm and become the region where companies invest the most money in R&D. In addition, economic growth (GRP) in the Gothenburg region has increased by an average of 4.3 per cent per year for the last ten years, which is almost on par with China’s growth figures,” says Henrik Einarsson, director of Establishment & Investment at Business Region Göteborg.

What’s the reason for this shift? Henrik Einarsson believes that part of the explanation lies in the major transformation that is underway.

“We believe it’s partly due to the fact that industry in Sweden is now switching to greener production. And much of the industry is located in western Sweden. This transition is driving a lot of investment and R&D efforts from the business community, with businesses wanting to stay ahead and offer world-class products for years to come,” he says.

A new industry is emerging

A clear example of the change that is taking place is seen in the automotive and mobility sector, where companies are now investing large sums of money in R&D, especially in electromobility.

“In addition to driving and reshaping the entire business world, it also means that a completely new base industry is about to emerge here in western Sweden in the form of a complete battery production chain, with everything from R&D to large-scale production,” says Henrik Einarsson.

Strong cooperation distinguishes the region

In Gothenburg’s county, Västra Götaland, apart from the automotive sector, there are also many other large industrial areas with strong clusters. A few examples include the chemical industry, which conducts a lot of research into green fuels and products of the future, as well as the life-science, ICT and space industries. Gothenburg also has prominent universities and research institutions, with both Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg located here, as well as the head office of the Swedish research institute RISE, which moved to Gothenburg a few years ago. The clusters are characterized by a rather unique collaborative climate.

“Our public and private actors have a long history of collaborating in different ways. The cooperation in the Gothenburg region is our strength, which I believe has contributed to the rapid development,” says Maria Strömberg, director of Clusters & Innovation at Business Region Gothenburg, and continues:

“This interaction has created rather unique conditions for innovation and for the emergence of collaborative environments. I think this contributes to companies feeling secure in having their operations here and investing in R&D in the Gothenburg region. The region also has strong universities that provide the companies with skills and talent. This also attracts new companies, including foreign actors, to establish business here,” says Maria Strömberg.

Collaborative environments foster innovation

Examples of collaborative environments that have emerged, and which strengthen innovation, are the city’s science parks, and its many testbeds. The Gothenburg region has more active testbeds than anywhere else in Sweden - and here companies, academia, organizations and research institutes can work together to test innovations in labs, constructed or real environments.

An example is the world-unique Gothenburg Green City Zone, where the transport system of the future is now being tested in real urban environments with the goal that both passenger and goods transport within parts of the city will be emission-free by 2030. Behind the initiative is the City of Gothenburg through Business Region Göteborg, Volvo Cars and the research institute RISE.

“It’s an innovation arena which is open to companies who want to be part of the transition and contribute. We offer industry the opportunity to test different solutions in collaboration with other parties.”

“We are also looking for early innovations, on the way to a market introduction, which we can scale up so that those who live and work in central Gothenburg can travel or transport goods to and from their operations in an emission-free way,” says Maria Strömberg.

Supporting tech companies and startups

Another way to contribute to innovation is by supporting highly innovative smaller companies, including tech startups.

“Large companies outsource a lot of innovation and development to smaller tech companies and startups, who we want to thrive in our region. Therefore, we have done thorough work to understand what their challenges are and what their needs are. It's about everything from them needing more simple and cheap premises to new meeting places. Based on that, we have then laid out a strategy which we are working with to make these companies thrive in our region,” says Andreas Göthberg, director of Business Development at Business Region Gothenburg.

The Yard – a new arena

In addition to supporting and highlighting all the collaboration environments that are already in place, a new project, The Yard, has been started. Old shipyard buildings in the Lindholmen district have been converted into more affordable offices for young tech companies.

“At The Yard, we try to create a natural meeting place for the tech companies to be able to meet like-minded people. It's something we've been missing in Gothenburg. We also want to connect to other collaborations between companies at Lindholmen,” says Andreas Göthberg.

Skills and talent are important

Along with the industry and collaboration environments, another key factor driving R&D investments in the region is access to relevant skills and capabilities.

“Gothenburg is a metropolitan region with an enormous amount of know-how. Our universities are an important competitive factor, and we have world-class engineering expertise. This means that we are an attractive partner for R&D activities and investments,” says Henrik Einarsson.

ABOUT: Business R&D in West Sweden

  • Businesses in Västra Götaland, Gothenburg’s county, account for 34 per cent of the business R&D expenditure in Sweden.
  • In total, companies in the county invested SEK 44.5 billion in R&D during 2021. This is SEK 1 billion more than companies in the Stockholm County.
  • In terms of value-added, the difference is considerable. In Gothenburg’s county, the business R&D expenditure is 5.2 per cent of the gross regional product (GRP) – which is twice as much as for Sweden as a whole (2.5 per cent of GDP) and for the Stockholm County (2.6 per cent of GRP).
  • The same pattern is evident when it comes to business R&D expenditure in relation to the number of employees in the private sector.


Access the report: Business R&D in West Sweden

More about innovation in the Gothenburg region