IndTech – an opportunity for the Swedish industry

Article · 2020-11-30

A large part of Automation Region's activities, projects and initiatives are based on the newly established concept of IndTech. The term describes the development that is taking place in the industry right now, where existing automation and IT systems are being strengthened with new digital solutions. Swedish companies are judged to have a good starting point in this rapid structural transformation, but there are also challenges.

– The single most important development area for Swedish industry is access to relevant skills. Large investments are required, both in terms of the functionality of the labor market and the quality of the education system, says Daniel Boqvist, Deputy Process Manager at Automation Region.

At the beginning of October, the Automation Summit conference was held with PiiA Inspiration, where the starting point was IndTech and the opportunities that are now opening up. The insights from the conference have been summarized in an IndTech statement which, among other things, describes the current situation linked to the smart industry, digital maturity and critical development areas for Swedish companies.

– IndTech is an area where Sweden has the opportunity to be a world leader, largely based on our history of industrial entrepreneurship and our high IT skills, says Daniel Boqvist. IndTech is about these two aspects meeting and then it is important that the conditions exist for companies to grow and be innovative.

Three experts on IndTech

We spoke with three of the experts who participated as speakers at the Automation Summit with PiiA Inspiration. Here they give their views on the development within IndTech and what is required to secure long-term competitiveness of the Swedish industry. Our experts:

  • Elena Fersman, research director in AI at Ericsson, adjunct professor at KTH
  • Jenny Elfsberg, head of the Innovation Management department at Vinnova
  • Jan-Eric Sundgren, senior advisor at Teknikföretagen
Our experts – Elena Fersman, Ericsson, Jenny Elfsberg, Vinnova, and Jan-Eric Sundgren, Teknikföretagen.

What are the most critical development areas for the industry right now?

Elena Fersman: Many Swedish companies have historically been successful with their product and service portfolios in, for example, the telecom, automotive and pharmaceutical industries. Now we can use AI to further improve our knowledge at a high pace and find new values. If, on the other hand, we fail with the adoption of AI, our important industries will lag behind the competition.

Jenny Elfsberg: Going from physical products to integrated product-service systems with strong digital representation, which enables traceability, data collection and updates. Courage to explore and experiment together with academia, research institutes and other actors. As a pioneering country in sustainability, we should also strive for climate-neutral production and integrate sustainability goals into development work and business models.

Jan-Eric Sundgren: The most important area is the climate issue, which creates opportunities for new businesses, innovation and commitment. Sweden can become a global leader in industrial climate change and here I see the development within AI, an upgraded digital infrastructure and a necessary exchange of skills as critical conditions.

How does Swedish industry stand in the global competition?

Elena Fersman: Swedish industry is characterized by strong technological leadership. Research departments within companies and strong collaboration with academia and research institutes mean that new technology ends up in industrial applications relatively fast. An example – now that 5G is being rolled out worldwide, Ericsson Research is working to define 6G together with its academic partners. However, global competition is tough and we must be careful when choosing which areas to invest in.

Jenny Elfsberg: We are doing well thanks to a high degree of automation, efficiency and ability to innovate. We must continue to take research into profitable businesses and therefore collaboration between academia, research institutes, start-up companies and old proud industrial heirs is important.

Jan-Eric Sundgren: In general, I would like to argue that we are doing well. Take Volvo as an example – today one of the most profitable and innovative vehicle companies with a clear ambition in terms of climate change. The big challenge is to get more innovative companies to grow and to ensure necessary competence within the country. Therefore, an industrial agreement is needed, something that we emphasize in the report “Roadmap” that Teknikföretagen and RISE, with the support of Vinnova, have published.

What is Sweden's biggest competitive advantage?

Elena Fersman: The power of innovation, the strong culture of collaboration, reliability and credibility. These values ​​permeate development, testing, verification, certification and production. Now that AI and smart automation play increasingly important roles in industrial products and services, we must ensure that our AI is also reliable and credible.

Jenny Elfsberg: Our democratic society - where everyone has access to healthcare, education and career opportunities - means that we feel safe and dare to explore and experiment. We are a progressive, knowledge-intensive, small country with proximity, international collaborations, short decision paths and we have the ability to drive change in an open, humble innovation system.

Jan-Eric Sundgren: Firstly, the business community's clear will to contribute to climate change is a great advantage. The ability to collaborate between different parts of society - between companies, academia, the social partners and politics – is good, even if there is potential for improvement. Sweden also has globally successful companies, a strong basic industry and strong entrepreneurship in digital services.