Chapter 40. Sweden

Figure 40.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Sweden
Figure 40.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Sweden

Source: Charts A, C, D. OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics Database 2018. (; Chart B. OECD Timely Indicators of Entrepreneurship Database 2018 Chart: E. OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics Database 2018, Employer Business Demography dataset.


SME business conditions and access to strategic resources

Institutional and regulatory framework

Administrative conditions for Swedish start-ups and regulatory procedures are on par with OECD practices. Sweden has long placed regulatory simplification at the core of its reform agenda and further efforts are made through the consolidation of a business online portal (, capacity building for regulatory impact assessment and the digital simplification of communication between municipalities and firms. The pilot programme Serverat, which targets micro firms in the food industry with streamlined digital services, has also been extended to the hospitality industry. Since 2015, the central government has taken steps with municipalities in order to improve land-use planning and regulations and reverse the structural undersupply of housing that constraints labour mobility and business dynamism.

Market conditions

In view of it large public procurement market, Sweden has adopted a more strategic approach to procuring in order to increase savings and benefits to society. The 2017 National Public Procurement Strategy aims to improve trust in public markets, make public procurement more innovation-friendly and provide the right conditions for SMEs to compete, including by dividing public contracts into smaller lots and removing crippling capacity criteria.


Sweden has strong network infrastructure and ranks among the top OECD in many related dimensions. The government is making historic investments in railway, road and maritime infrastructure, and public transport. The National Plan for Infrastructure (2018-29) earmarks SEK 700 billion in both new construction and modernisation with a focus on climate, job creation and housing. In addition, the Digitalisation Strategy announced in 2016 aims to reinforce digital security and privacy, improve business climate for data-driven innovation, support the digital transformation of public agencies and develop hard and soft digital infrastructure, especially for data transmission.

Access to finance

SME lending has increased in Sweden since 2012, coincidently with decreasing interest rates, increasing business lending and low rate spread. Private equity funding and alternative finance are also on the rise. Venture capital (VC) investments were EUR 411 million in 2017, up from EUR 263 million the previous year. The volumes raised through alternative finance have increased by +548% in one-year time. The government restructured the public financing for innovation and sustainable growth in 2016 and simplified the state VC system to rationalise public resources in the area. Saminvest AB began operations in 2017 as a fund of funds focusing on development-stage companies.

Access to skills

Sweden has a highly educated workforce, among the top 5 OECD with regard to its digital literacy. Skills shortages are nevertheless widespread and weigh on SME capacity to grow. According to 2015 national data, a third of Swedish firms report labour shortages, most often because of a lack of candidates with the right skills. Sweden also faces challenges in adapting migrants’ skills to its knowledge-intensive market. The Smart Industry Strategy (2016) steps up efforts towards an Industrial Skills Boost and the development of a skills system for Industry 4.0, including by raising interest in STEM and encouraging lifelong learning, mobility and career changes. Measures also aim to speed up the integration of immigrants into vocational education and training.

Access to innovation assets

SME digital transformation is on march in Sweden. The share of SMEs investing in high-speed broadband or cloud computing, or selling online, is among the highest in the OECD area. The government set up in 2017 a coaching programme for small firms to optimise the benefits of digitalisation. A SME-targeted programme aims to raise knowledge on immaterial assets with grants and specialised hubs for using them. Efforts also focus on commercialisation, through support for the validation of technology and business concepts, specifically targeting innovators and young firms (2016). The Testbed Sweden (2017) increases capacity for demonstration facilities.

The full country profile is available at


EC (2017), 2017 SBA Fact Sheet Estonia, European Commission,

Government Offices of Sweden (2019), “The Government’s plan for infrastructure – how we build Sweden strong and sustainable”,

OECD (2017), OECD Economic Surveys: Sweden 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2016), Getting Skills Right: Sweden, Getting Skills Right, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Swedish Government (2017), “For sustainable digital trasnformation in Sweden: a Digital Strategy”, Ministry of Enterprises and Innovation,

Swedish Government (2017), National Public Procurement Strategy, (accessed on 05 December 2018).

Swedish Government (2016), Smart Industry - A Strategy for New Industrialisationfor Sweden, (accessed on 05 December 2018).

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