An opportunity to increase the pressure

Chronicle · Jenny Elfsberg, Head of Innovation Management, Vinnova · 2020-08-31

Swedish industry is globally competitive and known for its high competence, innovation capacity and a collaborative climate. For a small, export-dependent country, it is crucial to take a seat and lead technological development. But when we are hit by a crisis, the natural reaction is to slow down - to focus on core business and pause development and cooperation.

The corona pandemic has in many ways shown how dependent we are on global value chains and that the systems we have built are unfortunately not very robust. During the spring, I worked for Volvo in the USA. In my workplace, and in the automotive industry in general, the consequences were clear - when the influx of materials stopped, so did production. In this way, the pandemic has benefited, it has exposed weaknesses that allow us to better prepare for the future.

At the same time, I am worried about what will happen if we try to pause from the crisis. We risk slipping behind in important areas such as digital capabilities and AI, but also in terms of strategic collaborations. In the slightly longer term, it may reduce the attractiveness of Swedish companies on the global market.

In my new role as head of department for innovation management at Vinnova, I am responsible for initiatives in, among other areas, management and organization of innovation activities, innovation ability and the connection between innovation, business and sustainability.

I see several interesting development areas where Vinnova together with Swedish companies and innovation environments can increase the pressure. For example, there is a great need for technical solutions that can help limit the spread of infection without encroaching on personal integrity. We also have a unique opportunity to study the pandemic's paralyzing effect on the transport system and the new solutions that are emerging for trade, logistics and human encounters. These are insights that can help us achieve the climate goals faster.

I hope that the pandemic will be a kick up the backside that makes us start new collaborations and together think about long-term solutions to major challenges. Across different industries, ages and educational backgrounds, we can create a picture of what the new normal should look like and function.

When things are going well for companies, they often feel that there is no time for development. Automation or implementation of new technical solutions that facilitate the work is given lower priority. During a crisis, the argument is instead that the uncertainty is too great or that there is no money for development.

Regardless of crisis or high pressure in production, I think we should look away from the short-term perspective and start thinking more systematically. We can constantly implement small improvements and innovations. I also usually advocate that we can do more without having thought everything through completely. Develop a desire to experiment - it does not matter if we are not one hundred percent sure, as long as we keep moving.

On October 6, I will participate as a speaker at the Automation Summit and PiiA Inspiration. I look forward to developing the ideas around innovation management and contributing to the discussion about the smart and sustainable industry of the future. See you there!

Jenny Elfsberg
Head of Innovation Management, Vinnova