New project will enhance knowledge about Swedish innovations
What factors generate innovations? How important is funding? Why do we see more Swedish innovations during certain periods? These are some of the questions that the Lund researchers behind the Swinno database are now going to investigate in a continuation project, which Vinnova is funding with SEK 20 million over a five-year period.
“Our research aims at understanding transformations, like the ones we are in now, particularly digitalisation and sustainable development. This means that we can provide an evidence-based foundation for innovation policy. What makes a company innovate and when?” says researcher Josef Taalbi who is heading the new project.
A key resource for the researchers in this work is the Lund-developed database, Swinno. It is run and updated by economic history researchers at the Lund University School of Economics and Management. The database contains, for example, information on 4 700 Swedish innovations in the period between 1970 and 2017.
“We have worked on mapping innovations and the processes involved for several years. But in the new project we can deepen understanding of what we have found. Part of what we will do is to examine what happened to the innovations, if and in what way they were relevant for society, solved environmental problems or contributed to growth”, says Josef Taalbi.
He states that the material in the Swinno database provides, among other things, a basis for saying that digitalisation drives innovation.
“From accounting for zero per cent of the innovations in 1950, it now accounts for 60 per cent of all Swedish innovations being produced today. We can also see that previously it was large companies that were behind the innovations. That’s not the case anymore. The corporate giants account for a smaller percentage of the innovations than they did 30 years ago. Now, it is new, small companies that innovate. We can learn from findings like this”, says Josef Taalbi.
The researchers’ material shows that it is often immediate problems that lead people to invent and find new solutions. One example is the petrol shortage in the Second World War, which led to wood gas cars. Similarly, the oil crisis in the 1970s paved the way for some of the energy technologies we see today. One of the new sub-projects concerns environmental innovation in the paper industry.
“We can see that environmental innovations occur sporadically before 1970, but they became more numerous after 2010. It is likely that crises create the pressure that leads to transformations”, says Josef Taalbi.
So, how do the researchers capture thousands of innovations in their web? They use a literature-based methodology.
“This quite simply means that we read trade and expert journals and register the innovations that are mentioned, based on certain set criteria”, says Josef Taalbi.
SWINNO, which stands for Swedish innovations, is an extensive database that brings together products and processes classed as Swedish innovations. The Swedish database is one of only two databases in the world that cover an entire country and so many years. The only comparable “sister database” is in Finland.