Description: Introduction at University of Texas at Austin
I am honored to inagurate this seminar on an interesting subject. Swedish inventors and inventions. I just want to stress one point, which i find of special interest.
The foremost Swedish inventors and inventions – from Linne to Losec – have always been created in an international environment. The inventors hve never been Gyro (Djaro) Gearloose – you know the loone genius in Donald Duck. No, they have always had international contacts, travled a lot.
The knowledge of the outer world has always been surprisingly big. My own great grandfather – a farmer and soldier in the rural areas in the north of Sweden in the late 18hundreds – knew exactly were he should go in Germany to import the first cirkular saw to Sweden. That is quite respresentative.
In many respects, the Swedish economic structure has always been international in scope—or, globalized, to use the popular term. A small country like ours, with a vital export sector of raw materials such as wood and iron has always been dependent on the world market. Our major industries have always found their primary markets abroad. In this respect, Swedes are globalization veterans.
During the great emigration 1,2 miljon Swedes left for America. Less known is that 200.000 of them returned. And they returned with new knowledge, a sence for the market and new methjords fo§r prdsouction. The renewd the swedish industry – but also popular orgnasations and political parties.
And there is a parallell to the contemporary. Thousends. They learn a lot, they get a lot of training. They might not come back. But we can, and I see that as one of my missions – by networking – to help them to get business contacts in Sweden and get there knowledge and business back.
Sweden has really left the middle way, today being the Wireless Valley of the world – to quote Newsweek.
Today’s rapid and far-reaching changes both in technology and in our way of thinking make it relevant to speak of and reflect upon this new formative period. Sweden is casting about for a new role, being the forerunners of the new economy.
Last summer I was at a conference in Stockholm’s Archipelago. At every break, all the Swedes reached for their cellular telephones. Seeing this, an American professor there asked me, “Why don’t you implant those things at birth?”
The way things are going, this may not be far off! My youngest son got his first cell phone when he was fourteen. He is now eighteen, and on his eighth. He communicates with his computer using his cellular—which he also uses as his main phone. More than every other Swede has his or her own cellular phone. They use it in the subway, in elevators—the coverage is very good everywhere. Sweden is a wireless society.
Most people also have their own personal computer. Surfing on the Internet is also common. Recent studies of how Swedes use the Internet showes that 50% of those under the age of 80 used the Internet—mostly for email, but also to read the newspaper. A staggering 22% do their banking on-line and many track and trade stocks over the Internet—bypassing banks and brokers. Sweden has surpassed other countries in the extent to which its population uses the Internet.
This is of great significance for business, Sweden is already an experimental laboratory for the future, wich make many american companies to establish themselfs the swedish market, inventing new products, methods or connection in the international economy.