The Strategy Potential of Uppsala City

by Jörgen Eriksson on September 26, 2015

Uppsala Municipality ReportThis week, Bearing has delivered a strategy report to the Swedish city of Uppsala. The report is an interim delivery in the Uppsala county RIK strategy development project, which aims to prepare for a new regional development strategy to be decided in 2016.

On the macro level and in the context of competitive smart specialisation, stable political, economic and financial systems are an important asset. In Uppsala, many of the assets which usually characterise prominent innovation systems are already in place. The clusters in a number of high value-added economic sectors such as bio tech, med tech, other life-science industries are strong in the local context, and so are also cleantech and information technology, even if neither cluster is prominent in international comparison.

Given this, what are then the sweet spots, in terms of unique market offerings, that are made possible by smart utilisation and combination of the strong fields of competence and three current, strong clusters of life sciences, cleantech and information technology in in Uppsala?

imageThe review of industrial and academic strengths together with their alignment with international and national strategies as well as international research does not give at hand that the three clusters areas by themselves currently have the potential to form globally unique offerings.

In the world of 2015, specialising only on tech or life science, without making the niche offering more narrow and focused, is not visible on the world market. Such broad focus would be to do what everyone else does, which means that the offering becomes an unnoticed commodity. Something which is made painfully clear by KPMG´s survey of site selection for life sciences companies and European life sciences clusters in 2013, where Uppsala is not even mentioned.

However what Uppsala has which can be developed, as we have found clear evidence for in both background research and internal world interviews, are a set of strengths which are not common in many places:

  1. Strong Innovation-support system
  2. Strong alignment and will to collaborate among the actors
  3. Long traditions of being both a business place and a knowledge city
  4. Fundamentally strong academic research within the three main clusters, and also within the field of advanced materials.

All regions cannot be advanced within the same fields and niche industries, however yet most regions in Europe use labels such as “excellence” and “cutting edge” in how they describe themselves, often when the description is about broad knowledge focus areas such as ICT, cleantech and renewable energies.

To really be attractive in today´s Europe will be about doing things in a different way, but what can Uppsala do then, as no industry niche is unique and strong enough yet, to be visible on the global stage?

The approach we recommend is to utilise the concept of smart specialisation to enhance how the innovation enabling system works and collaborates. By disseminating knowledge, process and value chain thinking, and cross-fertilise this with classic program and project work methodology in how to structure collaboration initiatives across the Quad Helix, we believe Uppsala has the potential to be an innovation system in world class.

What then will develop as smart specialisation areas over time will depend on evolution rather than selection. Naturally the key competitive niches can be expected to come from a subset focus of the current three strong clusters. It may even be likely that the strengths of the future will come from cross-fertilisation between clusters, for example cross fertilisation of life science and ICT, advanced materials and ICT or why not life science and advanced materials. Therefore, value chain thinking and integrated collaboration project development can be a key to enhance Uppsala´s innovation system.

Uppsala (2)

About Jörgen Eriksson :

Jörgen Eriksson is the founder of Bearing and is the Chairman of the firm since it was created. He has successfully expanded Bearing into covering projects on four continents. He is also Adjunct Professor of Innovation Management at the International University of Monaco and at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona and he is an active member of the Founders Alliance organisation.

Working with consulting engagements across Bearings practices, he has over the past fifteen years participated in and supervised a large number of client projects, from innovation system development and place development and branding, to merger and acquisition assignments and leading edge research and business development activities for key clients.

His new book, Branding for Hooligans, will be published in 2015. It is about how innovation and branding are key survival factors in our modern times of hyper competitive markets.

Prior to Bearing, he was Director of Europe, Middle East, and Africa for Trema Treasury Management, a technology and consulting services provider, supplying financial software solutions for the global financial industry, Clients included The European Central Bank, Citibank, SEB, South African reserve Bank, Deutsche Bank, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), as well as many other large financial institutions and Fortune 500 companies.

Early in his career Eriksson was educated at the Stockholm School of Economics, where he studied economics, financial economics and philosophy. He then worked in Scandinavian investment banks and also for the Swedish Institute of National Defense Research.

You can contact Jörgen on e-mail, connect on LinkedIn onörgen-eriksson/0/38/8a0/ and follow him on twitter on joreri508.

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