Challenges and how to manage them

More focused work is needed to promote sustainable, enduring and viable development in small and medium-sized enterprises in North-Middle Sweden. Based on the industry sector’s challenges and need for trans- formation, we see six prioritised action areas.

1. Increase innovation capacity in small and medium-sized enterprises

It is easy to forget the important role that small and medium-sized businesses play in the region’s ecosystem. In North-Middle Sweden, 95 % of companies employ fewer than 250 people. As many as 85 per cent of companies have fewer than 50 employees. These companies constitute an essential supply system for the larger companies, but the innovation capacity of the smaller companies is lower than what can be considered desirable.

Steps to move us forward

  • Create platforms for knowledge sharing and stronger interaction between business, researchers and civil society.
  • Use industry’s own need for transformation as a driving force for innovation.
  • Support the emergence of new business models and new technologies for the circular economy.
  • Work to ensure that several small and medium- sized enterprises take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitalisation.
  • Support small and medium-sized enterprises’ ability to change with resources for strategic development.

2. Improve matching of companies’ skills requirements with labour supply

Thanks to globalisation, companies have different skills requirements than before. More highly qualified labour is needed. Inadequate links between industrial companies and training coordinators lead to an imbalance between requirements and the supply of labour. This is made more difficult by the fact that the population is getting older and young people often opt out of industrial jobs and move to urban areas.

Steps to move us forward

  • Develop and test new initiatives to attract and retain more women, young people and people born outside Sweden. 
  • Develop systems that match the right skills to the right tasks.
  • Provide strategic skills training for specialisation in e.g. sustainable production.
  • Create opportunities for skills development during working hours to make workplaces attractive.
  • Establish more vocational and commissioned training courses in prioritised areas.

3. Increase level of investment in research and innovation

Publicly funded research in North-Middle Sweden is below the EU average. Business investment in research is also low, even though it is diversified. There is a need for resources for development areas with potential that can also attract private investment. Development of innovation management and increased recognition of the opportunities for innovation constitute potential for industrial transformation.

Steps to move us forward

  • Increase research funding for educational institutions and link them to smart specialisation.
  • Develop and strengthen regional capacity for research and innovation.
  • Develop long-term research and innovation initiatives.
  • Connect test beds, companies and researchers and make it possible to scale up promising technology.
  • Develop innovation procurement in all sectors to strengthen local opportunities.

4. Develop industry towards a low-carbon and circular economy

A low-carbon economy can be seen as a major challenge for industry, but also as a major opportunity where the challenges can drive growth and innovation. The solutions can be transformed into new products, business models, services and companies. An important part of the transformation is the use of bio-based, renewable resources and energy efficiency. By reusing products and materials and treating waste as a resource, companies’ finances and competitiveness can be improved while reducing our environmental impact.

Steps to move us forward 

  • Develop more focused actions related to smart specialisation, emission-free fuels, renewable electricity and smart grids.
  • Initiate more public-private partnerships and build capacity around innovation-driven procurement.
  • Establish networks of test beds for the circular bioeconomy and enable learning processes around new products or services.
  • Develop production of sustainable buildings.
  • Develop industrial production to become lowcarbon and circular.

5. Increase the degree of internationalisation in small and medium-sized enterprises

Because the industry in North-Middle Sweden is export-oriented, access to the global market is a necessity. More small and medium-sized companies that are subsuppliers to large companies need to broaden their markets to reduce their vulnerability. This requires expertise and international networks.

Steps to move us forward

  • Scaling up the existing strategic innovation work in North-Middle Sweden internationally.
  • Market competence and test beds at an international level.
  • Develop smart specialisation and take advantage of areas of strength across county borders.
  • Support clusters and encourage small and medium-sized companies to participate in international networks.
  • Use multinational companies with a presence in North-Middle Sweden to develop stronger collaboration links.

6. Improve strategic coordination and governance

Despite the fact that the support system for innovations in North-Middle Sweden is relatively well developed in terms of clusters, science parks and test beds, there is no clear overall strategy to guide the collaboration. Structured work is needed to collect and coordinate various ongoing initiatives in order to be able to move up a gear.

Steps to move us forward

  • Mapping, gathering and coordinating various ongoing initiatives.
  • Obtain supplementary data and analytics and recommendations from external sources that provide legitimacy.
  • Establish common structures for engagement in entrepreneurial discovery processes.
  • Leverage pilot initiatives and investments in North-Middle Sweden.
  • Establish open innovation platforms.

Strategy for Industrial Transformation

Download the lay summary of the industrial transformation strategy developed by Region Dalarna, Region Gävleborg and Region Värmland through the EU Regions in Industrial Transition Pilot and Smart Industri i Norra Mellansverige 2.0 projects.