Sweden and the Netherlands: innovating together


‘Sweden and the Netherlands are both innovative countries,’ says Bengt van Loosdrecht, Dutch ambassador to Sweden. Innovation – particularly in the areas of green energy, life sciences and smart transport and mobility – therefore features prominently in the King and Queen’s state visit to Sweden from 11 to 13 October.

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Lindholmen Science Park in Gothenburg.

Innovation is in the spotlight during the state visit to Sweden. At SciLifeLab (Science for Life Laboratory) in Stockholm, for instance, the royal entourage will see how researchers, companies and healthcare institutions work together to grow knowledge and develop innovative technologies. There will also be a roundtable meeting with CEOs of Dutch and Swedish companies to discuss the transition to green energy and the scope for collaboration in a wide range of areas. The port authorities of Rotterdam and Gothenburg will sign an agreement on cooperation in the areas of digitalisation, zero-emission shipping and developing a green shipping corridor for the use of sustainable fuels.

The state visit also affirms the good relationship between Sweden and the Netherlands, which goes back to the 17th century. At international level, Sweden and the Netherlands often work together, according to Bengt van Loosdrecht, who was appointed Dutch ambassador to Sweden two years ago.

Both Sweden and the Netherlands are advocates of a feminist foreign policy and work to uphold the international legal order.

‘We share common values and speak out internationally when those values are not being upheld, such as in the case of human rights violations. We’re also working together to make Europe safer, greener and economically more robust. We do this, not only as EU partners, but also by welcoming Sweden as a NATO Ally.’ Both countries are advocates of a feminist foreign policy and work to uphold the international legal order.

On what topics are Sweden and the Netherlands collaborating?

‘The main topic here at the moment is the threat posed by Russia. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Scandinavian countries have been concerned that it could happen to them, too. This topic completely dominates the media. Sweden and Finland have both applied to join NATO and the Netherlands supports their accession.’ During the state visit the two countries’ defence ministers will attend a session devoted to Dutch-Swedish cooperation in the area of defence.

‘Sweden and the Netherlands are both highly innovative countries. Innovation brings us together and makes us both stronger. We’re cooperating in the development of artificial intelligence and the transition to a digital society, as well as in life sciences and on renewable energy. A Swedish company is producing steel using green hydrogen, which means a huge reduction in carbon emissions. And Stockholm Exergi, one of Scandinavia’s largest energy companies, produces fossil-free energy from various sources and aims to have a positive climate balance by 2025. The King and Queen will visit Stockholm Exergi on the second day of their visit.’ 

‘Challenges like climate change are global issues and demand innovative solutions. It’s part of the Dutch embassy’s job to connect our countries’ brightest minds, to enable Dutch and Swedish academics and companies to get to know each other, learn from each other and work together on solving the major challenges of our time.’

The Swedish company Elekta, for instance, entered into a 10-year partnership with the Netherlands Cancer Institute to improve cancer treatments. It has also worked on this with Philips. Several Dutch and Swedish research institutions, medical centres and medical organisations will sign new partnership agreements during the King and Queen’s visit to SciLifeLab.

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The Ambassador of the Netherlands in Sweden, mr Bengt van Loosdrecht.

What can the Netherlands and Sweden learn from each other? Can you give an example?

‘There are a lot of engineers in Sweden. And there are a lot of science parks – sites where government, the business community and knowledge institutions work together. Not only do they work together, they also help each other out. And this produces appealing results.’

‘This will become clear during the tour of Lindholmen Science Park in Gothenburg on the third day of the state visit. There, some 375 companies and more than 9,000 students, teachers and scientists are working on practical innovations in a range of areas, including sustainable transport and mobility and AI.’

You've stressed the similarities between the Netherlands and Sweden, but in what way do you think the countries differ markedly?

‘There’s an abundance of space here and nature is everywhere. That’s a big difference with the Netherlands, which has no real wilderness. And this has an influence on the people. The Swedes are quieter and more polite than the Dutch. And they’re more considerate with each other: it’s not done to blurt out your opinion. Even more than the Dutch, the Swedes tend to seek consensus. I like that, but of course there’s a downside too. It often takes a while before a problem can be openly discussed.’