Renewal of mature industries in Sweden: Institutional preconditions and routes of innovation

Project Details


The aim of this project is to analyze preconditions for innovation-based renewal in mature industries in Sweden and, based on that analysis, to provide evidence-based policy advice on how to promote competitiveness in these industries. The project applies a novel research approach combining qualitative and quantitative techniques to investigate how institutional change can enable or hinder innovation in mature industries.
Our starting point is the acknowledgement that the Swedish economy is regarded as advanced and innovative. Sweden ranks among the top ten countries worldwide on the Global Competitiveness Index (World Economic Forum, 2015). In addition to the benefits of being an open economy with strengths in export-oriented goods, Sweden is among the world’s leading countries in some high-technology industries such as ICT and knowledge-intensive services. While much attention is being directed to these industries, there are large and important parts of the Swedish economy that are not characterized by such high degree of innovativeness, despite possessing strong technological capabilities and despite being of high relevance for the Swedish economy. Some of these are already facing severe problems, while others are likely to do so in the near future (OECD, 2015).
This project focuses particularly on four industries, namely manufacture of chemicals and chemical products, manufacture of machinery and equipment, manufacture of motor vehicles, and manufacture of textiles. These industries are selected because they have a different impact on the Swedish economy and because they display different development in terms of innovation-based renewal (Tavassoli and Karlsson, 2015). Some show decreasing trends with regard to technological innovations (product and process innovations), while being more successful in non-technological innovations (organizational and market innovations). Others display a reverse pattern, and some face problems on all dimensions (OECD, 2015). The rationale behind the selection of industries is outlined in detail in Section 6.1 below.
We advance the view that innovation capabilities are strongly influenced by institutional structures (e.g. norms, rules, regulations, and dominant logics shared by large groups of actors), which, although admitted to be important, are often neglected in innovation studies. We even argue that renewal in mature industries faces considerable difficulties not only due to technological inabilities but also – and more importantly – because of rigidities in the institutional environment in which firms and related actors are embedded. Identifying and specifying such institutional factors will thus shed light on how processes of innovation-based industry renewal unfold.
Effective start/end date2017/07/012020/06/30

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Sciences


  • Innovation Studies
  • Industry renewal
  • Institutional preconditions