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Strategiskt förnyelsearbete inom svensk industri [Elektronisk resurs]

Authors Claes G. Alvstam
Martin Henning
Inge Ivarsson
Richard Nakamura
Ramsin Yakob
ISBN 9789198589740
Publisher Vinnova - Sveriges innovationsmyndighet
Place of publication Stockholm
Publication year 2020
Published at Centre for International Business Studies
Department of Business Administration, Management & Organisation
Language sv
Keywords Strategi, Förnyelsearbete, Svensk industri,
Subject categories Business Administration, Economic Geography


A key challenge for an increasingly international Swedish manufacturing industry is to maintain and strengthen the capacity for renewal, especially in the face of strong and growing transformation pressures. The question is not primarily whether the international groups engaged in manufacturing in Sweden have resources and motivation to invest in renewal in general, but to what extent their renewal efforts will take place and contribute to value creation and employment growth in Sweden, and what factors affect this. In light of this problem, the purpose of the present report is to investigate to what extent the integration of Swedish industrial operations into international and global business structures affects the conditions for strategic renewal work in Sweden, and how changes in this area affect the opportunities for future value creation in industrial operations in Sweden. By strategic renewal work, we refer to activities and processes that, through the replacement or development of the company's resources, properties or way of functioning, have the potential to significantly affect the company's long-term competitive conditions. Examples of strategic renewal work are technical and product-oriented research and development activities of various kinds, organizational change to facilitate renewal (for example, acquisitions and mergers), or when the company is implementing a process to approach new markets. This report focuses mainly on the development of two business groups, namely medium-sized Swedish-owned companies with significant exports and foreign production and whose R&D operations are mainly located in Sweden, and partly medium-sized former Swedish-owned companies acquired by a foreign global group and where operations in Sweden account for a smaller part of the Group's global production and R&D. However, the largest Swedish-owned engineering industry companies, as well as a number of foreign-owned companies with extensive employment in Sweden, have been used as reference objects. We have concentrated on the engineering industry in the broad sense, with the emphasis placed on companies located in the middle of the value chain, that is to say, neither the basic industry nor its main production in the category of finished consumer products. Instead, the studied companies produce complex industrial products that consist of a number of different components and systems based on different technologies, which are sold through direct contacts with customers (business-to-business). The companies studied are often leaders in their specialized market niches (many even globally). The selection of the companies surveyed is to a large extent based on the fact that they can be presumed to be subject to significant transformational pressure as a result of rapid technological change and growing market competition. The study is based on extensive secondary data on more than 50 companies, as well as detailed information from 24 company interviews conducted during 2018-2019. The empirical study has included dimensions such as employment in Sweden / Europe / Global, with distribution in business areas; location of existing R&D units in Sweden / Europe / Global; historical growth and growth logic (organic or through acquisition); motives behind possible acquisitions; and generic descriptions of the company's strategic renewal efforts and its change. Our results reveal the complexity and advanced international division of labour that today's manufacturing industry in Sweden operates under. This situation is the result of a long-term development, where many of the companies over time have come to belong to the top within their market niches. The companies we examined, both Swedish and foreign-owned, are largely internationalized. The survey points to the fact that the renewal activities for the industry in Sweden are more internationalized in nature than traditional literature can lead us to believe. In the same way that Swedish companies often allow renewal activities to remain in their locations of origin when acquiring companies abroad, the same applies when foreign companies acquire companies in Sweden. The dynamics are basically no different. A picture emerges that international companies operating in Sweden carry out renewal activities both in Sweden and abroad. The report shows that there are no real differences between Swedish and foreign-owned companies in terms of strategic renewal work and the integration of Swedish industrial operations into international and global business structures so far generally has not adversely affected the conditions for renewal work in Sweden. Rather, it seems that the foreign-owned industrial companies have the opportunity to secure new extensive resources for renewal, in combination with the resources already located in Sweden, while the Swedish companies invest both in Sweden and abroad, where headquarters and more important R&D units remain located in Sweden. However, the interpretation of our results should be made in light of the fact that industrial evolution has contributed to the creation of an internationally competitive and knowledge-intensive manufacturing industry in Sweden. Labour-intensive production has essentially been phased out, and renewal with the help of new process technology and advanced products is a long way off even in the remaining "traditional" industries. Most of the companies in our study, both Swedish and foreign-owned, have also in most cases developed a leading specialization in different niches, and can thus be considered to be among the more successful in their markets. This fact can partly explain the relative autonomy in the strategic renewal work that many of the companies testify to, and which is actively supported through long-term and stable ownership interests. The results of our study are relevant to Sweden's innovation and business policy, where we specifically identified four important areas. The first policy conclusion is that an overall national strategy should continue to support operations in Sweden in the more advanced parts of global value chains. The studied companies, both Swedish and foreign-owned, view Sweden favourably as a location for strategic renewal activities, both at present and in the future. Support for strengthening management operations and R&D is particularly important here, but also support for logistics, marketing and sales. This does not mean that industrial production in Sweden will not be of great importance in the future, but it will operate under new conditions. This is largely linked to the second policy conclusion, which concerns the future supply of educated labour, where several of the companies expressed some concern about the long-term availability of digitalisation skills. Considering that advanced human capital is concentrated in Sweden's three metropolitan regions, it becomes a central policy question how the human capital supply for continued strategic renewal work can also take place in peripheral and semi-peripheral locations, where many of the renewal activities today take place among the companies surveyed. The third policy conclusion is that it seems important to stimulate increased co-development of products and processes. Given rapid development of the modern manufacturing industry, where products and production methods are increasingly based on new combinations of technologies, companies' need for external collaboration is growing. However, our study shows that both the Swedish and foreign-owned companies to a small extent developed products and processes together with external partners. Policy initiatives to increase companies' opportunities to find suitable partners in Sweden may be of importance in stimulating such co-development. The fourth, and the last policy conclusion, is related to the fact that companies' strategic renewal work is to a large extent taking place both in Sweden and abroad. Swedish policy should then continue to facilitate the exchange of renewal activities across the country's borders. This applies to both resources for renewal and the results of renewal.

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