Why Swedes are master innovators

Why Swedes are master innovators
The Swedes' high tolerance for failure has bred a culture where people are not afraid to take risks and think out of the box.

Mention Sweden and many people may think of the furniture giant Ikea, fashion chain H&M, footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Volvo cars. And possibly, Vikings.

But this northern European country is also a hotbed of innovative products and services.

Music streaming service Spotify hails from Sweden and one of the co-founders of Internet communications service Skype is a Swede too. The good old monkey wrench, as well as the three-point seatbelt used in many vehicles today, also originated in Sweden.

In the World Bank's 2012 Knowledge Economy Index, Sweden topped more than 140 economies. Singapore was a modest 23rd.

The index ranks a country's preparedness to compete in an economy which involves creating products and providing services based on knowledge-intensive activities.

Sweden was rated the third most innovative in the world, according to last year's Global Innovation Index published by Insead, an international graduate business school. Singapore ranked seventh out of more than 140 economies.

Being innovative does not mean having a large population. Sweden, like Singapore, has a small population relative to some of its neighbours.

Sweden has about 9.6 million people. France has 66 million, and Germany, 80.6 million, according to World Bank figures for 2013.

"With 0.13 per cent of the world population, we cannot compete on cost.

The only solution for the Swedish economy is to be more innovative and compete with smarter products, services and processes to add value," said Mr Jan Sandred of Vinnova, a Swedish government agency, whose mission involves funding research and innovation projects.

He is programme manager of its innovation management department.

Such investments by the agency and other organisations have given the country a boost when it comes to its innovation ranking.

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