ANALYSIS: Comparison of Finnish and Swedish Patent Activity, 2006-2016

The status of Finland and Sweden as the world’s leading technology and invention centres is declining according to a patent analysis done in collaboration by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office and Teqmine Analytics Oy. The research analysed how inventive activity has evolved in Finland and Sweden in 2006-2016 and assessed how on-going trends will shape the countries’ future economic competitiveness.


Index Comparison 2006-2016 USPTO patent applications by Finnish, Swedish and total of all USPTO patent applicants. 2006=100, *Estimate. Data 1.1.-31.8.2016, Source: USPTO, Teqmine Analytics Oy.


Key Insights of the Study

Global patenting has increased steadily over the last 10 years, and the relative decline of Finland and Sweden, if continued, can present a major challenge to their economic competitiveness and skills. Such development could also undermine their reputation as globally leading innovation ecosystems.

The change in innovative behaviour in Finland and Sweden is so strong that it can be compared to the “technology boom” that started in the 1990s. Although the two countries have trod a largely similar path, there are also important differences.

The inventive activity in both countries is in a state of strong transition characterised by declining overall inventive activity and the diminishing role of traditionally central actors (Nokia, Ericsson). The transition implies the increase in relative importance of startups and small and medium-sized businesses, but only future developments and further studies can provide the full answer.

The central difference between the countries is that Sweden accomplished an “innovation leap” in 2008-2013, when Swedish inventors applied for far more than the global average of US patents, whereas Finnish inventors maintained their historical performance level. During the last few years, inventive activity has begun to decline in both countries at a similar pace.

In both countries, regional inventive activity is becoming more concentrated in the Stockholm and Helsinki regions. Comparison of these capitol regions also reveals that inventive activity in Stockholm has increased strongly during the last few years, over four-fold between 2006 and 2016, and it is currently about to overtake Helsinki – where inventive activity has not increased – as a source of new inventions.

Despite significant changes, the historical and structural differences between Finnish and Swedish inventive activity have remained largely unchanged. Most important of these differences is Sweden’s broader scope of technological competencies.

Technological competencies in both countries were analysed by classifying all patents with TEQMINE’s artificial intelligence solution into 25 technology areas. In this comparison, Finland was the clear leader in five technology areas, whereas Sweden led in 20 other technology areas.

More spending on research and development is needed to bolster Finland’s and Sweden’s faltering inventive activity.

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