We arrived at Vinnova at around 10:00 a.m. the following day. Vinnova is Sweden’s government agency for innovation. The head of department and programme manager greeted us and introduced what their agency has been doing over the years. (We also enjoyed another round of Fika and a healthy salad lunch!)
Vinnova’s vision is for Sweden to become an innovative force in a sustainable world and strengthen the innovation capacity by funding research and innovation projects. Their mission is to open the way for innovation that makes a difference and contribute to sustainable growth. They promote collaborations between companies, universities and other higher education institutions, public services, etc. as well as strengthening international cooperation. A sum of SEK 3 billion is invested in fostering innovation each year. They are tasked with promoting sustainable growth by funding needs-driven research and development of effective innovation systems. Vinnova believes in research that is put to use and is relevant to society. They create opportunities to test ideas before it becomes profitable. They are not discouraged by failure and believe it is a necessary part of the innovation process.
Digitalisation in education
Since 2009, schools in Sweden have begun implementing the 1 device for 1 pupil scheme. Over 94% of the population is online and in 2017, over 70% have been doing their annual tax declaration digitally 2017 (they even have an app for it and it is so efficient and convenient to use!).
Digitalisation in education is extremely important in Sweden. They see the need to incorporate 21st Century skills in education, in particular programming and digital literacy. In 2017, digital competence was included in the school curriculum.
The Swedish Edtech Industry is described as an ecosystem in the making. Sweden is the home of Skype, Minecraft, Spotify, King (Candy Crush) and so much more! The start-up scene in Stockholm is so impressive that it has earned the highest amount of Unicorn startups per capita in the world, after Silicon Valley (a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion). Sweden also has the highest smart device penetration in Europe at 150%, meaning that on average, every person in Sweden owns 1.5 devices. It really just makes sense to develop further in the area of Edtech innovation. However, it is still not that well funded compared to investments in other Stockholm tech categories. The Swedish Edtech Industry aims to speed up the pace of digitalisation of the education sector; build strong networks nationally and internationally and exchange knowledge; maintain a free and healthy market; and contribute with increasing quality in the use of Edtech as well as delivering high quality products and services. They strongly believe in the collaboration of the government, industry and academia sectors (Triple Helix Innovation Model) in the development of Edtech in Sweden.
Sana Labs and Kodecentrum
Two Edtech companies gave presentations about how the funding from Vinnova has helped them to start and develop their products and services.
Sana Labs makes use of AI for education and partner with various education companies (i.e. Duolingo, Learnosity) to bring personalised learning to students around the world. Their three main products are Sana Learn, Sana Insights and Sana Voice. Sana Learn is able to measure students’ answers, response times and various contextual information to figure out what they know, how they learn best and how they forget. Sana Insights help to provide teachers with information about their students through an extensive collection of data from their courses and assessments to predict possible issues or problems before they occur, identify areas for improvement and to assign personalised material and resources for intervention. Sana Voice enable learners to improve their pronunciation and sound like a native through their state-of-the-art speech recognition technology.
Kodcentrum is a non-profit organisation that introduces children to programming and digital skills for free, as their vision is to provide all children the same opportunity and ability to fulfill their dreams by using code and digital skills. Programming and coding has been a part of the curriculum in Sweden since 2018. However, they lack resources and teacher training. It is predicted that the IT sector in Sweden will lack 70,000 professionals in 2022 and currently, only 28% of the IT workforce are women. All of Kodcentrum’s activities and programmes are volunteer driven. Their target groups include children, teachers, educators and parents. The funding from Vinnova has allowed them to develop educational material for schools. They have even developed computer-free activities to teach computational thinking.
We visited the Stockholm School of Economics and listened to Professor Per Andersson talk about the history of the school, his research areas, center for digital innovation and transformation. There is an increasing number of industries becoming more connected in the public and private sectors but it is not without challenges, such as leadership, new skills, resources, internal capabilities, customer orientation and practices, internal organisational structures and responsibilities, cultural challenges, and so on.
The school offers a research programme called ‘Managing Digital Transformation’ to encourage further research into the digitalisation of different sectors (i.e. education, transportation, health care, finance, etc.). The digitalisation of education is an ongoing and continuous process.
The university building is very uniquely designed, with an free open space and glass ceiling in the middle where students can sit, relax and study. It doesn’t feel like you are in a university building at all.
End of Part 6
Back to Sweden (Part 5)
Continue to Sweden (Part 7)