The Nordic region experienced its most successful year to date in 2017 in terms of number of foreign direct investments (FDI) secured, with growth outperforming Europe as a whole for the second straight year.
The EY 2018 Nordics Attractiveness Report reveals the region’s strength in securing FDI in high economic value sectors and activities, despite an increasingly competitive and unpredictable investment landscape.
To ensure the Nordic region continues on an onward and upward path, renewed organizational mindsets are needed to ensure the Nordics remains a priority destination for entrepreneurs and global tech firms.Download report
- Foreign investors launched a record-breaking 411 projects, up 25% from 2016 figures, and created an estimated 12,000 jobs.
- Finland topped the Nordics’ FDI project leaderboard, followed by Sweden and a strengthening Denmark.
- Intra-Nordic flows dominated activity in 2017, with Nordic-based investors collectively creating over one third of all projects.
- The digital and business services sectors proved to be the Nordics’ FDI pillars in 2017 and accounted for 40% of all projects launched.
- Denmark recorded a peak year in 2017 from an FDI perspective, securing 86 FDI projects, up 19% from the previous year.
- 44% of all FDI projects in Denmark in 2017 were launched in the digital and business services sectors.
- Finland achieved its best ever year in 2017 from an FDI perspective, securing 191 FDI projects, up 44% from the previous year.
- Finland climbed to 10th position in Europe’s FDI project table in 2017.
- Norway captured 26 FDI projects in 2017, down 21% from the previous year.
- Norway was the only Nordic country in 2017 where digital was not the leading sector, as well as being the only Nordic country that did not record more projects in the digital and business services sectors in 2017 compared with that of 2016.
- Sweden captured 108 FDI projects in 2017, up 20% from the previous year.
- Sweden jumped to pole position in 2017 as the leading Nordic country for estimated FDI job employment.
Finland continues as the leading FDI country in the Nordics thanks to ease of doing business
Invest in Finland, Business Finland
According to the EY 2018 Nordics Attractiveness Report, Finland leads in the Nordics for the number of FDI projects for the sixth straight year. Our investment environment has been shaped by decisions that have caught the attention of international investors.
Digital Economy and Society Index of 2017 ranks Finland as the second most advanced digital economy in the EU. Finland has a long history in IT, as the global success of Nokia spurred the development of our software and electronics cluster. Currently half of the world’s population uses mobile technologies developed in Finland!
Helsinki region sees the greatest pull in terms of investments. The Global Startup Ecosystem Report2018 attributed the strong startup ecosystem to world-class universities, strong support from the national government, as well as the popular tech conference Slush.
Digitalization strengths range from gaming, with companies such as Supercell and Rovio, to IoT expertise where IT professionals and machinery companies, such as Kone, Metso, Valmet and Wärtsilä are pioneering the industrial Internet. “The autonomous shipping ecosystem in Finland provides compelling capabilities for Rolls-Royce: research partners like VTT Technical Research Center, top level ICT experts, a viable ICT ecosystem specializing in innovative technologies, and the testing site to boost piloting,” says Asbøjrn Skaro, Rolls-Royce Director for Digital & Systems — Marine.
Finland is a politically stable nation, leading to a predictable operating environment. Already in the 1960s, the Finnish Government started systematically storing health data. Digital registries, combined with 100%population penetration, make our health data unique. The electronic health data can be combined with the biological samples and phenotype data stored in the Finnish biobanks. Thanks to this and university-trained R&D professionals, global pharma and health-tech companies, including Pfizer, Merck and Roche, have partnered up with Finnish biobanks. “Finland has all the keys for success: quality education, smart and honest people, and a well-functioning society,” Didier Deltort, former director at GE Healthcare summed up.
Finland is the only country in the Nordics that uses the euro, providing investors easier access to EU markets. This spring, Nordic banking giant Nordea’s shareholders voted to move its HQ from Stockholm to Helsinki in order for the bank to join Europe’s banking union. Together with our regional development agency partners, we are inviting international talent also to look at Finland as the next step in their career — as UN report finds Finland the happiest country in the world!
Sweden: digitalization, technology and innovation at the forefront
Ulrika Cederskog Sundling
Executive Vice President
Sweden remains attractive in the eye of global companies. Innovation, transparency and stability are components that build a solid foundation for FDI into Sweden. The flow of FDI into Sweden amounted to more than EUR 10 billion, which is in line with the average for the period 2000–2016 (as yet, there are no reliable figures available for 2017). Overall, the FDI stock in Sweden amounted to about EUR273 billion, which represents 62% of GDP, a figure in line with our neighboring Nordic countries.
Rapid development in the R&D sector
Sweden enjoys a strong reputation and offers an exciting international business environment that is modern and business friendly. Skilled professionals, smooth business procedures and openness to international partnerships are all characteristics of Sweden that keep us attractive for foreign investors.
An example is the Swedish R&D and innovation sector, where Sweden is taking a leading European position when it comes to digital growth, a fact also mirrored in the EY 2018 Nordics Attractiveness Report. During 2017, Sweden continued the path of attracting large-scale data centers. This is an important journey towards job creation across the country, also outside the big cities.
The digital revolution requires companies to prepare for a transformation that is forcing them to reimagine how they operate. This creates an opportunity for global companies looking to be a part of the Swedish ecosystem within the ICT sector and beyond. New technology is transforming existing industries, such as manufacturing, materials, automotive and logistics — sectors that are of high interest for international investors. Both US and German investors continue to show a vibrant interest in Sweden, which is also shown in the EY 2018 Nordics Attractiveness Report. Sweden also sees a strong demand from leading Asian countries.
Sweden has a strong potential to increase international investment into Sweden even further. We look forward to welcoming corporate HQs, R&D centers, strategic alliances, global entrepreneurship and born globals. Sweden is set on continuing to be at the forefront of innovation. Let us explore it in cooperation!
Standing out, not stalling out, in the digital age
EY EMEIA Digital Leader
As revealed by EY 2018 European Attractiveness Survey, business leaders are steadfast in their view that the digital economy will be the dominant driver of growth in Europe in years to come. According to them, Europe’s economic future will be significantly shaped by the tidal wave of digitalization that is transforming the way we live, work and play.
This is positive news for the region based on latest FDI performance results in the digital sector. The Nordic countries collectively achieved 75% growth in digital FDI projects in 2017. An impressive feat and over double the growth witnessed across Europe as a whole. In addition, the Nordics’ share of European inbound digital projects increased to 8.2% in 2017, up from 6.2% in 2016 and 4.3% in 2015. The figures leave little room for doubt of the region’s digital status and attractiveness. Government initiatives including the ambition to lead 5G deployment and initiation of “regulatory sandboxes” — testing grounds for new business models that are not protected by current regulation — will only strengthen this appeal further.
While there is clearly much to celebrate, there is also a creeping sentiment that the Nordic region’s digital leadership and momentum is in danger of stalling out. Put another way, the Nordic countries’ biggest threat in digital is more likely from themselves than competitors. To avoid the pitfalls of a digital plateau and to truly get ahead of the transformations impacting every industry will require a greater sense of urgency. The word “disruption” is concededly overused, but the potential to disrupt or be disrupted is a clear and present risk for the region. Digital is an increasingly competitive landscape and there is everything to play for. Changes that could disrupt the Nordics’ digital growth are happening now, so public and private decision-makers need to instill an organizational mindset that helps anticipate and respond to these changes.
Innovating growth after a lost decade in Finland
Technology Industries of Finland
The financial crisis and recession hit Finland much harder than the other Nordic countries. Despite healthy growth recently, cumulative GDP growth since 2008 in Finland is 8% behind Eurozone average. Closing the gap would require a challenging 3% annual growth for the next five years. The growth gap compared to Sweden is even bigger - as much as 20%, equaling 38 billion euros in annual Finnish GDP.
EY Nordic Attractiveness Report highlights Finland as the clear leader in number of received FDI projects for the sixth consecutive year, with a remarkable 44% growth in 2017. Pull factors include the strengths of the country: a leading education system, proven by international benchmarks, and technological innovation capability, largely thanks to the rise of the Nokia cluster during the last few decades.
One might expect that in a recession period, public investments in growth would be prioritized to encourage businesses to invest as well, but the Finnish government has failed to do so. Public R&D investments, accounting for about 1/4 of all R&D funding, have seriously declined since 2008. During the same period, public R&D investments in the other Nordic countries have increased clearly.
The Research and Innovation Council of Finland, an advisory body chaired by the Prime Minister, has now created a vision to make Finland the most attractive and competent environment for experiment and innovation. This vision includes a commitment to raise R&D investment funding from current 2,7% to 4% of GDP by 2030. This sets a good direction, but the implementation remains to be seen. Current domestic R&D investment level is alarmingly low.
The education system needs renewal to prepare for the disruption of businesses and the future of work. Universities should offer modular life-long learning in co-operation with the businesses. Employees across industries are in immediate need of new digital capabilities learning. Technology education should be included already in elementary schools. Mathematics should be prioritized in high schools and made compulsory subject in matriculation exams. The whole education system should be more agile than today to address rapidly changing needs of businesses. Many of these actions are already on the agenda, but rapid implementation is key to respond to the global competition on time. Finnish technology industries alone need 53.000 new employees by 2021, while the current education system can barely produce half of them.
The EY report is welcome evidence of foreign investors’ increasing trust in Finland. Hopefully Finnish investors join the club!
Europe Attractiveness Survey 2018
Reveals a slowdown in the pace of FDI influenced by four powerful game changers remaking the European rulebook on cross-border investment
Nordic Government and Public Sector Leader, Sweden
Telephone: +46 70 318 93 20
Government and Public Sector Leader, Denmark
Telephone: +45 25 29 66 53
Country Managing Partner, Finland
Telephone: +358 407 092 907
Country Managing Partner, Norway
Telephone: +47 982 06 224
Manager, Advisory Services, Norway
Telephone: +47 48 07 45 48
Nordic Go-to-Market Leader, Finland
Telephone: +358 40 506 8456