Innovation and migration

The important role of the international mobility of skilled workers. 

What is this research project about?

The programme focuses on the competences and knowledge that foreign talented individuals bring to Sweden and to Swedish companies when they move to the country for study or work reasons. The international job mobility of skilled individuals has been shown to contribute to the innovative performances of the companies of receiving countries. Innovative firms often need competences that are not readily available in their local labour markets and they also benefit from the diversity of knowledge skills that is brought by foreign employees.

All of this points to the important role of international mobility of skilled workers. Existing academic research has highlighted the large innovative contribution provided by skilled immigrant employees, especially in Science and Technology, in the US: in particular among high-tech and digital companies. Evidence in growing also in Europe concerning the important role of foreign employees for innovation. In this programme we focus on two specific channels that are likely to bring foreign talents to Sweden: Universities and multinationals. We study the careers of foreign students that come to Sweden to study and who then decide to continue their career and work for private firms in the country.

We also study the Swedish careers of foreign skilled employees who come to Sweden to work for a multinational company, either a Swedish or a foreign owned one. The contribution of this research will provide well-needed information about the careers of foreign talents in Sweden, the channels through which they become involved in business activities and their contribution to innovation and firm performances.

What challenges are you solving in this project?

The lack of skilled workers in innovative sectors is often highlighted by different parts of the Swedish society. It is not only about clearly identifying the need for foreign skilled workers, but also about how to attract them to work in Sweden. This has also led to tax-based incentives precisely aimed at making Swedish employers better able to recruit internationally.

The same is true for the impact of foreign students on the Swedish economy: not so much is known about how many of them stay and what is their contribution to Swedish business activities. Also in this case answering these questions may have an impact on important decisions, concerning for example the strictness of student visa regulation or the setting of appropriate tuition fees. Even if these questions address relevant issues in the Swedish society there is still a lack of rigorous empirical analyses able to understand which is the current state of affairs. Who are the foreign talents that contribute to Swedish firms’ innovation outcomes? Where do they work and which competences do they bring with them?

What has changed with innovation and migration since Covid-19 happened?

The latest development of the Covid-19 pandemic and the big constraints that it has implied for the movement of people makes the issue of skilled mobility even more up-to-date. What happens when new innovative start-ups cannot anymore hire internationally, what is the long-term impact of a substantial decrease of the inflow of international students among Swedish universities? The research conducted in this programme will provide the basis to address these questions.


Research Team

Claudio Fassio 
Programme Director and Senior lecturer
Phone: +46 46 222 98 93

Martin Andersson
Professor at Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH) & CIRCLE, Lund University

Ioana Igna 
Project assistant, postdoctoral fellow
Phone: +46 46 222 03 45

Viroj Jienwatcharamongkhol
Senior lecturer at Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH)