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In first, Sweden and Israel to join forces in research and development

The initiative will be open to tech firms, academics and multinationals; aim is to create cutting-edge tech using assets of both nations

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Swedish flags on the National Day (TT; iStock by Getty Images)
Swedish flags on the National Day (TT; iStock by Getty Images)

Sweden and Israel are setting up an initiative to boost joint research and development projects, making use of the advantages each nation has in the innovation ecosystem.

The initiative, the first of its kind between the countries, was set up by Sweden’s Innovation Agency Vinnova, Business Sweden – the Swedish Trade and Invest Council, and the Swedish Embassy in Israel.

The organizations have partnered with Start-up Nation Central, an Israeli nonprofit organization that seeks to connect Israeli startup firms to corporations, governments and organizations around the world.

The new platform, called The Connector, aims to create joint market-oriented research and development teams, and allow companies, government organizations and academic players from Israel and Sweden to work together, share data and form partnerships.

The initiative is open to all kinds of companies from both countries — small and bigger startups, tech firms, multinationals active in both countries, research bodies and academic institutions.

“The Connector is a long-term effort to bring two highly creative but also different and complementary innovative ecosystems closer,” the parties said in a statement.

“Innovation has never been more important as key to address global challenges,” said Ibrahim Baylan, the Swedish minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, in the statement. “Israel and Sweden represent the strongest startup hubs in our respective regions and can offer competitive solutions in the global markets. Solutions that are sorely needed in a world that will face the economic comeback after combating the pandemic and saving human lives.”

Sweden and Israel are ranked as top innovation leaders globally and are placed among the top nations in rankings such as the Global Innovation Index (GII), the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) and the Bloomberg Innovation Index (BII).

Together they account for a substantial part of patents issued globally, with Sweden recently being ranked number two in patents per capita and Israel number five.

With a population of around 10 million, slightly higher than that of Israel, Sweden is known for its large number of innovative multinational companies and a thriving startup scene. Stockholm has given birth to firms like Skype, Spotify, Minecraft, and Candy Crush.

“Both countries face common challenges in the need to constantly innovate in order to drive economic growth and compete globally,” the statement said.

At the same time, the innovation ecosystems in Israel and Sweden are complementary to one another: Sweden’s tech scene is primarily driven by its strong manufacturing industry and large multinationals, while Israel is known for the power of its startups, its entrepreneurial spirit and deep research capabilities.

The partnership “is a vote of confidence” in Israel’s tech ecosystem and is “another example of the great impact innovation has on global partnerships,” said Eugene Kandel, the CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, in the statement, calling for Israeli entrepreneurs to join the program.

The idea of creating The Connector stems from a similar program Sweden set up with Switzerland. The program, called SWII, has helped create 39 publicly funded projects worth 64 million euros in the past six years, the statement said.

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