Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour and pleasure for me to attend the Shanghai Expo 2010. This magnificent Expo is in itself a living proof of the remarkable progress made in China over the last decades.
China has a long and proud tradition in science and technology as well as successful innovations. Among other things China is the birthplace of printing, paper money and the compass. And, as we all can see, in today´s China innovation is continuing at a breathtaking pace.
Innovation and scientific and technological advances have also been distinguishing features of Sweden. My country is known as home of groundbreaking scientific discoveries such as the ball-bearing, the zip fastener, the safety match, the pacemaker, GPS, as well as the Nobel Prize.
Against this background it seems quite natural that the Swedish pavilion at the Expo is named “Spirit of Innovation."
What is innovation and what does it mean to be innovative?
Sweden has a long tradition of creating internationally competitive companies. In today's globalized economy, many of them are no longer Swedish-owned. Even so, quite a few still have large operations in Sweden thus taking advantage of the climate of innovation and creativity we try to maintain in my country. Volvo, Scania, AstraZeneca, Ericsson, ABB, TetraPak and IKEA are some of the names that come to mind. These companies have become leaders in their respective areas because they have combined various aspects of technological development, innovation and research.
I am often asked how Sweden has managed to produce so many large and internationally successful companies. There is no easy answer to such a question. The explanation lies in a combination of factors. Nevertheless, let me try and single some of them out.
Firstly, a good education system giving all children access to high quality education. An open-minded approach to knowledge and learning as well as stimulating the capacity for creative thinking are also vital factors for a country´s ability to produce first-class engineers, scientists and innovators.
Secondly, you need a tradition of openness to international trade. In order to be competitive, companies coming from a small open economy such as Sweden´s, have to become highly skilled global operators, able to work in foreign markets and manage a multicultural workforce.
Thirdly, a considerable proportion of a country´s GDP needs to be invested in research and development.
In my view, it is the above factors - combined with several others — that can explain Sweden´s frequent ranking as one of the world´s most innovative countries.
It is therefore my pleasure today to open this seminar on innovations and the partnership between China and Sweden. Today, China is amongst those countries making the most rapid and concrete efforts in innovation and research. The eyes of the world are increasingly focused upon these exceptional Chinese successes. Many Swedish companies and universities come to China to seek productive partnerships.
Sweden and China have a long history of cooperation and political and economic ties. Sweden was the first Western country to recognise the People´s Republic of China. Indeed, some Swedish companies, such as Ericsson, were already operating in China back in the 19th Century. I believe both countries stand to benefit immensely from continued, close interaction.
It is my hope that China and Sweden will continue to make the most of each other's qualities and unique knowledge, fostering in the best possible way the growth and success of both countries.