New book takes the pulse of Swedish innovation efforts

​In the newly published, thought-provoking anthology titled Position Sweden, 22 authors, approaching the subject from different perspectives, assess how Sweden should benefit more from its innovation efforts. Together with politicians, commentators and business leaders, researchers present their views on why innovation is a fateful question for Sweden’s future welfare. Among them is Chalmers Professor Sofia Börjesson, who advises all who are interested in innovation in Sweden to bring along the book for reading this summer. The book will also be presented during a seminar in Almedalen.

Hi, Sofia! Who is the book addressing?
“It’s interesting reading for the great majority of people who are interested in innovation in Sweden! When I was asked to take part, the book’s editor, Mats Ögren Wanger, said that it is addressing politicians, the media, business leaders and other decision-makers who can pave the way for increased innovation and sustainability and thereby a more competitive Sweden. I myself would like to add us researchers to that list.”

Do you know why these particular 22 authors were chosen?
“The editor wanted to have a mix of researchers, politicians, business leaders and commentators with different backgrounds and different platforms. As contributors with our various points of departure, we become ambassadors for an urgent societal topic – in this case, innovation, sustainability and the labour market. Obviously, I am very happy to take part.”

Why should someone have this particular book with them in the hammock this summer?
“It’s an election year and today everyone is talking about innovation. I’m almost hesitating to talk more about it in order to save the concept of innovation from being worn out! But nevertheless, Position Sweden presents a number of perspectives, often critical ones, on why the issue of innovation is of central importance for Sweden’s future welfare.”

What insights does your chapter offer readers?
“It is about the research I am conducting along with Maria Elmquist, my colleague here at Chalmers, where the focus is on large industrial companies’ capabilities for innovation, or for that matter their incapabilities for innovation. In the chapter I point in particular to the role of top l management: being able to and wanting to strategically lead innovation efforts is a prerequisite for more operational innovation efforts to function. To really make it happen is definitely a top management issue. Management has a central role in enabling, advocating and supporting innovation so that it becomes something more than just talk. And so that it becomes something more than Research and Development (R&D) efforts, which it often is mixed up with. In my view, further, the boards of directors also have a role to play when they appoint managing directors.”

The book discusses how Sweden should be getting more out of its innovation efforts. What should be considered?
“That people in companies at least understand the difference between research, development and innovation and act accordingly! Another thing is knowledge about the complexity of innovation, especially on the part of directors and decision-makers in the public sector. Public organisations have a great opportunity to influence innovation at the societal level and especially when parallel innovations or innovation at the systemic level is required. Public procurement plays a major role in this respect, and I believe there is a significant need for knowledge here.”

Are there any quick shortcuts?
“No, there are no shortcuts. Building innovation capability, working on change and particularly system-dependent change is complex, and above all two things are then required – time and collaboration. I say this, drawing inspiration from Johan Bergenäs’ chapter in Position Sweden who says: ‘If you want to proceed fast, you should go alone; if you want to proceed far, you should go along with others’. Extremely well expressed.


Sofia Börjesson is Professor in Technology Management at the Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers. She is also Director of the Center for Business Innovation (CBI).

Position Sweden is being presented at a seminar in Visby during Almedalen Week on 1 July from 15:00 to 17:00 at the Clarion Hotel Wisby, Strandgatan 6. Taking part in the seminar are some of the authors, including Gustav Fridolin, Stefan Fölster, Annie Lööf, Anna Ryott and Johan Rockström, under the direction of the book’s editor, Mats Ögren Wanger.


Position Sweden (in Swedish)
The authors present the book in Almedalen (in Swedish)
Sofia Börjesson


Text and photo: Caroline Örmgård

Translation: Gothia translations AB


Published: Fri 27 Jun 2014. Modified: Mon 30 Jun 2014