Early this year, two well-known Swedish institutions, Invest Sweden and the Swedish Trade Council (Exportrådet), merged to form the entirely new organization: Business Sweden. “The new brand is the beginning of a common journey in the interest of Sweden,” explained Ulf Berg, the CEO of Business Sweden, “The aim is to make us an even more attractive, innovative and competitive partner to do business with, both at home and abroad.”
Business Sweden’s dual mandate is to facilitate access to foreign markets for Swedish businesses in an effort to help them expand internationally and to attract foreign investment to Sweden. Previously these two functions were performed separately by the Swedish Trade Council and Invest Sweden respectively. The organization aims to enhance the image of Sweden as an attractive business partner through a combination of promotional campaigns, advisory services, skills training and events. Business Sweden works in tandem with trade associations, embassies and chambers of commerce worldwide with an established presence in 57 countries.
Last year, the Swedish government decided to pull the plug on Invest Sweden due to accusations that they over reported the number of jobs created in partnership with Chinese companies. The Swedish Trade Council subsequently assumed the role of Invest Sweden. This has led many to believe that Business Sweden is merely a reincarnation of the Swedish Trade Council. Clearing the confusion, Ulf Berg insisted, “I don’t see it as if the Trade Council is taking over anything. We’re changing our name and identity in order to create something totally new.”
Whereas Invest Sweden was entirely funded by taxpayers’ money, Business Sweden will inherit many of the financing tools employed by the Swedish Trade Council which include selling its myriad services to its clients.
Business Sweden is jointly owned by the state under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the private sector represented by the Swedish Foreign Trade Association respectively. This unique collaboration allows almost unrestricted access to networks across the many sectors of the Swedish business landscape.
The harmonizing of national trade and investment promoters is not a new concept and has experienced success in both the UK and Germany. The new move to marry the two branches stems from an earlier recommendation by a government report on Sweden’s foreign trade and investment promotion structure released in September of 2011. The move is expected to streamline costs while enhancing the services available to Business Sweden’s target audiences. “Alongside this integrated approach, the combined knowledge and experience of the Swedish Trade Council and Invest Sweden will enable us to offer our clients a full range of support,” Ulf Berg added, “We can in principle take on any assignment related to exports and investment in Sweden.”
The new organization’s name has also been raising eyebrows. Unlike the Swedish Trade Council which was known in Swedish as Exportrådet, Business Sweden will exist only in its English form. “We have nearly 600 employees in 60 countries. Only 100 of them are in Sweden. So having an English name was the obvious choice.”