Sweden, the home of the Nobel Prize
  • | | June 06, 2017 12:56 PM
Sweden has a long tradition of inventing things, and has always held science and technology high. It is therefore no coincidence that Sweden is the home of the Nobel Prize, annually awarded for the most significant scientific achievements in the world.

Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Pereric Högberg writes an article about his country, the home of the Nobel Prize, and the relationship between Vietnam and Sweden on the Swedish National Day today, June 6.

The Swedish National Day is celebrated on 6 June in honour of two historical events today. On 6 June 1523, Gustav Vasa was elected king, which laid the foundation of Sweden as an independent state. On the same date in 1809, the country adopted a new constitution paving the way for Sweden to become the nation it is today.

The National Day is an opportunity for all Swedes to come together and celebrate their shared culture, history, and achievements as a nation.


Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Pereric Högberg calls for climate action (Photo taken from Ambassador Pereric Högberg's Facebook)

As we celebrate our national day, we talk proudly about Sweden. What comes to our mind is a society open to the outside world, tolerant to diversity and firmly committed to values about the inherent dignity and rights of everyone, without discrimination. Sweden has been transformed from a poor agrarian country into one of the world’s most prosperous and sophisticated industrial nations. As we look back, key elements in this process have been a stress on innovation, trade and entrepreneurship.

An innovative nation

Sweden has become one of the most innovative nations in the world. The Swedish innovation power is however nothing new. Sweden has a long tradition of inventing things, and has always held science and technology high. It is therefore no coincidence that Sweden is the home of the Nobel Prize, annually awarded for the most significant scientific achievements in the world.

We invest heavily in R&D. As much as 18 billion USD or 4% of our annual GDP is allocated for research, which is very high by international standards. Furthermore, Swedish schools try to promote creativity and thinking out of the box from an early age. It is essential to allow for the freedom to experiment and the freedom to fail and then to try again. Schools and universities encourage cooperation, free flow of information and free expression of opinions.

Innovation is not only important for economic growth and development. It is also key for tackling environmental challenges. A few decades ago, our capital Stockholm was a heavily polluted city. But now when I go home over summer, I see people fishing trout in the stream running through the city center – and we could even drink that water. In the city, the buses are run and the houses are heated on energy that comes from garbage and waste water sludge. Innovative thinking and innovations helped put this political vision into practice and have in many ways formed the foundation for Sweden’s prosperity.

Trade with the world

Sweden is a prosperous country. We have built our wealth as a nation on being able to produce and compete on a global market. Our economy is based on strong entrepreneurship and the willingness to trade with other countries on equal terms. This has turned us into a country with one of the highest numbers of multinational companies per capita in the world, , most of which are already present in Vietnam. Almost 100 Swedish and Sweden-linked businesses are represented on the ground in this country.

Sweden has a lot to offer, not least innovative and sustainable solutions, in line with Vietnam's green growth development. Our two-way trade with Vietnam increased 10% last year compared to 2015 and stood at around USD 1.3 billion.

Last year, the biggest ever trade delegation from Sweden led by Ms Ann Linde, Swedish Minister for EU Affairs and Trade, visited Vietnam. And just last week, a trade delegation from Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi was visiting Sweden to learn about the Swedish experience in building sustainable cities.


Ambassador Pereric Högberg in a recent visit to Sapa (Photo taken from Ambassador Pereric Högberg's Facebook)

A heaven for tech and start up

Despite our modest population (we just passed the 10 million mark) Sweden is not only in a league of its own when it comes to developing new technology. More recently, Sweden has also become a haven for tech startups. During the past decades Sweden has developed a world-class start-up scene, creating a vast amount of attention from entrepreneurs, investors and talents. Second only to Silicon Valley, Stockholm produces the highest number of so-called ‘unicorns’ (or billion-dollar tech companies) per capita in the world. Stockholm has given birth to global global tech brands and products.

Sweden scores consistent top rankings in the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index, and the UN’s ICT Development Index. The Swedish success in the digitalised economy can partly be explained by strong investments in digital infrastructure. Just like Sweden, Vietnam has a high internet penetration with more than 50 million users to date. This is an impressive figure. Together with Vietnamese partners, we plan to organise the first Vietnam Internet Forum this year to discuss how we can jointly make use of the internet application in a connected and open society.

We come not only with innovations, but with values universally accepted

Sweden is a strong believer in openness and transparency. Freedom of expression is laid down in our constitution, as is the principle of public access to official documents, which is designed to ensure that both politicians and officials work openly vis-a-vis the citizens they represent. This is also a way of keeping corruption at bay. Any citizen can at any time go to any public agency and asks to see the official documents. Democracy and human rights are cornerstones of Swedish foreign policy.

Curiosity and creativity

We strongly believe in the power of creativity. Letting people free their mind and think outside the box has paved the way for success in many areas. This has not only made Sweden the world’s number one exporter of music in relation to GDP, but has also resulted in global successes in literature and film, design, arts, spectacular tourist attractions and exciting digital companies revolutionizing their industries. Famous Swedish music exports include ABBA, Roxette, Robyn, Europe, Ace of Base, Swedish House Mafia, and most recently Icona Pop, Zara Larsson and Avicii.

Swedish universities are renowned for their world class research and independent thinking, and this reputation is cemented with certified international degrees and a long tradition of welcoming international students. In Sweden, you’ll be challenged to find your own voice and critically evaluate the world around you. Nearly 900 degree programmes at the bachelor’s and master’s level are taught entirely in English in Sweden, across the spectrum of academic disciplines and often in ground-breaking interdisciplinary fields. Uppsala University has a representative office in Vietnam and currently offer numerous master programmes for Vietnamese students.

Being the Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam is an honour. I look forward to bringing the bilateral relationship between our two countries to a new height.

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