A part of Business Sweden is dedicated to increasing Sweden’s FDI that measures competitiveness internationally. Börje Svanborg helps regions to think bigger and dig where they stand. And he might be able to tell us what the next big opportunity lays.
What is your role in attracting investments to Sweden?
– Business Sweden work with all regions of Sweden, and my specific role is as the connector between all regional organisations working with these issues and Business Sweden. This two-way street means both making sure that regional initiatives get the right speaking partners within our organisations and making sure that my colleges know what opportunities different regions offer, and also letting the regions know what opportunities Business Sweden can provide.
Can you tell us a bit more about the process involved in a new investment opportunity?
– First of all the regional organisation needs to be suitable for this work, and we are active in facilitating that development. Invest in Norrbotten has for an instance reached a stable financing platform which makes them a good, long-term partner. Together with them we make sure that our regional network is constantly evolving, keeping foreign investments on the regional agenda. The next step is to prioritize the areas where the specific region is competitive. Our joint work with for instance Invest in Norrbotten continues in order to package a competitive offer based on the advantages of this region. After that it is my job to market this offer internally within Business Sweden.
“When it comes to attractive investment areas in the near future, I think that we will see a very interesting development within Ageing and Health where Norrbotten could use its large distances between people and public service as a competitive edge.“
Can you give us a specific example?
– In general this work is about long-term relationship building. At the start we have a product development phase. Looking at an example from the region: Arvidsjaur and Jörn; what makes this a good region for train testing in cold climate? To start there has already been an investment in a railway embankment. There are natural conditions such as clear seasons that make testing in different conditions possible. The area is sparsely populated and land prices are low. They’re other factors in place already due to the car-testing industry: process knowledge, technical competence, accommodation and infrastructure. The proximity to Luleå Technical University also offers great opportunities for cooperation.
Our next step is to identify companies that could be interested in this type of project: Train manufacturers, companies that work with maintenance, constructors of signal systems and every other field connected to trains. Then we approach these companies, attend arenas that they might be at and start building awareness and relationships. In this specific case we got a letter of intent from some major train manufacturers that said that if there were such a facility at this location, they would want to use it. That gave us leverage towards politicians and investment funds to back this project. But one needs to be aware that this process will take at least 1-2 years, and it requires patience. In the end, the reward will be not only a single investment, but several connected to the core idea with companies building their own testing sites etc. and many new job opportunities for the community.
What is the competitive edge of Norrbotten in attracting outside investments?
In general, the knowledge about the region and its offer is quite low globally. The large quantity of investments is from our neighbouring countries and Germany, and they naturally have greater knowledge than potentially future large investors from Brazil, India and China. We have to paint them the picture of the business opportunities at hand.
In Norrbotten the cold climate is a great asset. Also the sparsely populated land means affordable land prises and in some cases, the right conditions to test and develop a certain idea. Even though there are less people living here, the general competence is high and people are generally multilingual. In the region there is also a large percentage of academics and engineers in comparison to areas with similar conditions. Costs are low, but quality labour is less expensive, and the close proximity to international airports and the University are also positive advantages. It always comes down to what will be a competitive edge for a specific field. Haparanda for instance is the perfect location for a contact centre with staff speaking Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish.
What obstacles are there working with these types of investments?
– The knowledge of specific regions are low in terms of what the can offer – that’s why we need to present a great package with the advantages of that place spelled out from a business perspective, not a location perspective.
What, in your perspective, are some interesting areas to look at for future investments?
When it comes to interesting areas in the near future I think we’ve only seen the beginning of datacentre as an industry. No one even knew that this would happen ten years ago. I also think that we will see a very interesting development within Ageing and health where Norrbotten could use its large distances between people and public service as a competitive edge. There are some great technologies being developed within this field, and working together with Invest in Norrbotten and Business Sweden – businesses can get access to those types of partnerships in other regions.
About Business Sweden
Business Sweden is the organisation appointed by the Foreign State Department in Sweden to facilitate export from Sweden and attracting new investments. They offer strategic counselling and practical support in both Sweden and from 57 offices worldwide.
Börje Svanborg is Head of Regional Cooperation at Business Sweden and he works solely with investment promoting within the organisation. A country’s competitiveness is measured by the international standard FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) used in a similar way to BNP, but with focus on larger long-term investments. Read more at www.business-sweden.se/en/Invest