Events: Visit Innovation Hubs with the EIC: The Swedish start-up scene just one click away
What makes Sweden, and Stockholm in particular, such an attractive place for start-ups and entrepreneurs? On 13-14 October, the European Innovation Council brought together Sweden’s largest innovation players and EIC-backed companies to answer this question, during a two-day Innovation Hub Visit.
The virtual visit to innovation hubs is a novel concept, brought to you by the EIC Business Acceleration Services. It combines the unique elements of our flagship-events (Corporate Days, Investors Days and Community Trainings), while adding a dash of digital sightseeing of some of the most exciting start-up hubs in Europe!
The two-day event consisted out of numerous trainings and presentations, including a detailed overview of the innovation landscape in Stockholm & Sweden and a guide on how to set up your business there. In addition, corporates, investors and accelerators, including IKEA, Volvo, Hitachi, Ericssonn, Nasdaq North, Northzone, the Swedish Intellectual Property Office (PRV) and WeWorks Labs had the opportunity to pitch to the EIC-innovators. The digital visit concluded with several one-to-one meetings between EIC-funded companies and the abovementioned innovation players.
We sat down with Per Krokstade and Jakob Holmstrom, respectively Innovation and Strategic Partnership Manager and Media Relations Leader at Inter IKEA Systems, Maxine Rior, investor at Northzone and Christin Wendel, strategic coordinator at PRV, to talk about the Swedish innovation ecosystem and their reasons for joining forces with the EIC.
It all starts with education
“Sweden has a great climate for entrepreneurs, and a long history, not just in Stockholm”, Per and Jakob (Inter IKEA Systems) started off. “Cities in the south of Sweden, as well as Gothenburg, are becoming increasingly more important in the innovation landscape. There are a couple of ingredients, starting off with the education system. Universities are free of charge in Sweden, meaning that you just need to be smart. Everyone can afford to study here”, according to Per and Jakob. Christin (PRV) also sees the universities as a cradle of innovation in Stockholm: “We have three big universities in Stockholm. Many researchers create start-ups and spin-offs during their research. They are really the motor of innovation here in Stockholm”.
Front-runners leading the way
Another key ingredient in Stockholm’s development as a start-up hub is the presence of many frontrunners; companies that, at one point in time, started off as small companies, but developed into global leaders. Sweden has an old tradition of companies growing into global players, like Volvo, Ericsson, H&M and IKEA. And the last decade alone Sweden has produced companies like Klarna, Boozt and Spotify. This shows young entrepreneurs that it’s possible to grow and reach outside of Sweden’s borders”, according to Per and Jakob. These companies are more than just role models, according to Maxine (Northzone):
“When you go and work for a company like Spotify, you receive an in-house training and develop a similar mindset. People don’t stay there for 10 years; they venture out and start their own company. These set of ‘base-companies’ drive the education and tech of innovators in Sweden”. Christin (PRV) believes that especially Ericsson plays an important role in the Swedish ecosystem: “Many people in tech have a connection to Ericsson, one way or another. They also have facilities where they welcome start-ups, offer help and guidance. Ericsson’s success is important for Sweden, their technology is at the core of many Swedish tech-innovations”.
An appreciation of entrepreneurial initiative
In addition to an excellent education system and the presence of many front-runners, Sweden also boosts a unique business culture, according to our interviewees. “The business climate here is easier, we are not as hierarchal. You can reach out to high-level positions, which makes business easier”, according to Per and Jakob. Christin concurs and adds “It’s possible for someone to talk to their boss and be frank about what’s going well and what can be done better. If you have an entrepreneurial sense, you’re seen as a resource in Sweden, not a problem. Companies that do see this as a problem are not successful here”.
EIC as a magnet for European start-ups
As to why they joined the EIC for this event, the business partners were all aligned. “When I came into contact with the EIC I released this is a fantastic resource of knowledge. Out of 6000 start-ups I managed to meet only a few these days; all smart, humble and qualified people. I see EIC as a magnet for start-ups in Europe, with the added benefit that the EIC doesn’t belong to a specific country or financial stream. You have as a goal to make the European innovation landscape flourish. And that is unique. For us, as a representative of both IKEA and Sweden, that is good to see”, as Per and Jakob put it. For Christin it was also an opportunity to raise awareness on intellectual property (IP): “IP is at the core of innovation, you need to know how to handle it, else you might miss out. The event was a great opportunity to talk about IP. I’ve already had some meetings with innovators to discuss intellectual assets, all in all in very good way to get in touch with the European innovation landscape.
More EIC Innovation Hub Visits are on the way. In November we will venture across Europe, moving from the high north to the deep south, with a visit to Barcelona’s start-up ecosystem. From 2 till 5 November 2020 EIC-innovators are welcome to discover the array of programmes, corporates, investors and accelerators there. Applications are still open, so don’t miss out!