One of the key components of India-Sweden relations is the Joint Innovation Partnership.
For Indians, Sweden is the Nordic country famed for its high quality of life, happiness and satisfaction on a number of global indices. Images of rolling hills and snowy peaks immediately come to mind. When Sweden is mentioned, the Nobel Prize is spoken of, in the same breath. In terms of global recognition, the Nobel has no peer. Founded in memory of the late Alfred Nobel, it continues to stand tallest among the many awards given around the world in recognition of excellence. The prize represents creativity and innovation. It stands for human ingenuity to solve problems to make life better for all. And therein lies the other spirit of Sweden—innovation. In the sciences, defence, manufacturing, technology and more. Sweden stands for innovation and problem solving, which ultimately makes life better for all humanity.
This spirit and this partnership are also reflected in the India-Sweden ties. This week the 15th Sweden-India Nobel Memorial Week (SINMW) was held in India under the leadership of the new Swedish ambassador to India Mr Jan Thesleff. There has been a flurry of health, trade, innovation delegations from Sweden as well as the visit of the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Mr. Johan Forssell, the Conference on India-Sweden Economic Partnership and many other events like SHE STEM.
The Conference on India Sweden Economic Partnership brought together top business leaders of many Indian and Swedish companies like Saab, Wipro, Ericsson, Husqvarna, Tech Mahindra, Kalap Taru, Volvo etc. Noted speakers included Carl Bildt the former Swedish Prime Minister, Swedish business leader Marcus Wallenberg, Baba Kalyani and Sanjiv Bajaj among others.
SHE STEM It is an annual event to honour women in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, mathematics organised by the Embassy of Sweden in India in partnership with the Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog and the German Centre of Innovation and Research . The event showcases women’s success stories and serves as an inspiring role model for other women. Ambassador of Sweden to India H.E. Jan Thesleff said “We are very happy to continue the tradition of SHE STEM – it is a flagship event of the Sweden-India Nobel memorial Week. Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s SHE STEM Video challenge.” Dr Chintan Vaishnav, Mission Director of Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog said, “Today, the face of women’s involvement in STEM is changing and the rate of participation has increased. It was in ATL Marathon 2021, that there was a spike where the women participation was 49%. A strong STEM education will go a long way in cultivating such critical thinkers.”
The event included Cecilia Oskarsson, Trade, and Invest Commissioner of Sweden to India, who shared her thoughts on the role of diversity in triggering and enabling positive changes for girls and women. Dr Per-Arne Wikström, Head of Office of Science & Innovation, Embassy of Sweden in New Delhi said, “When women and girls provide their talent, their knowledge and their capabilities to science and technology on equals terms with men and boys, then we know that societies prosper, and that innovation capacity actually increases. So, for us gender equality is an integrated part and an important aspect in everything that we do. We would like to thank our Indian partners for their support for this very important initiative.” The foundation to this robust and rising India Sweden relations was laid by PM Modi at the first India-Nordic Summit held in Stockholm in 2018.
One of the key components of India-Sweden relations is the Joint Innovation Partnership. Make in India initiative has been successful in attracting a number of Swedish companies to either come to choose India as their manufacturing base. The next step to making the India Sweden story a real success, is not only in job creation but also in true value addition at the global level to collaborate and create an innovation ecosystem that fosters the ‘Indian Innovative Spirit’. In that context, the value that India brings to the table and its growth as an international innovation hub is slowly becoming apparent.“I have got very good experience of innovation here in India through my history with SKF”, said Tom Johnstone, Chairman Husqvarna who previously was the CEO of SKF. Husqvarna, itself is a 300 year old Swedish company excelling in innovation.
Another area that has opened up exciting new opportunities for Indian innovators and start-ups after the introduction of the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) by the Indian government is the defence sector. This for the first time, allows India innovative start-ups to team up with large international companies giving them access not only to India but the international market. Most importantly they don’t just design & develop products but also create Intellectual Property (IPs) which will form the backbone of the Indian innovation economy. “I don’t have the view that maybe it’s the best way forward to acquire start-ups and try to sort of integrate them in a larger company but rather work with an ecosystem to establish fantastic capabilities. And I think the way we approach this would be beneficial for India and the start-ups, us investing locally but also approaching the whole ecosystem and creating something that makes sense and that of course is a way pulling start-ups into our developing defence capabilities.” Micael Johansson, President and CEO of Saab AB
Even though no Indian won a Nobel Prize this year, there is much to look forward in the growing India Sweden relations and many potential possibilities to bring Indian innovations to the global centre stage.
Rajesh Mehta is an international affairs expert focussing on areas like market entry, innovation, geopolitics and public policy.
Manu Uniyal is a media consultant and a writer based in Sweden, working in the areas of India-Nordic geopolitical and economic interactions, innovation and start-ups.