Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sweden sees a bright future in green tech

STOCKHOLM. For a small country on the Northern fringe of Europe, Sweden has produced a fair amount of world class products and brands over the years. Swedes can take pride in safety-leading cars, mobile phones, the Nobel Prize, Ikea’s inventive furniture stores, Abba’s music, a welfare model admired by some, and leading athletes in many sports.
However, what might be the most important contribution for the future, and the best next business opportunity for Sweden, lies in a field now commonly knows as green tech.
Not all Swedes seem to be aware of this.
“When Stockholm was chosen as the European Green Capital 2010 it received much more attention abroad than here at home”, says Ulla Hamilton, Stockholm’s vice mayor for environment and traffic.
She spoke yesterday at a gathering of green tech companies and entrepreneurs in the Swedish capital. The topic was the opportunities Stockholm’s year as the European Green Capital creates and how they could be used to catapult more Swedish green tech on to the world market.
“We can already see an increased interest from officials and politicians from around the world that want to come here and see what Stockholm is doing”, says Ulla Hamilton.
When the European Commission chose the Swedish capital as the first European Green Capital (Hamburg in Germany will follow in 2011), the jury concluded that Stockholm “has an outstanding, long historical track record of integrated urban management also confirmed by its ongoing credible green credentials. Ambitious plans for the future clearly demonstrate continuity”.
“We can show how you can have a growing city and at the same time lessen the damage done on the environment, if you only do it right from the beginning”, says Ulla Hamilton, who represents the liberal-conservative alliance now running Stockholm’s City Hall.
The European Green Capital award aims to promote and reward commitment and innovation from cities as they take on the environmental challenges that face a predominantly urban continent.
Stockholm is considered to have strong green programmes in most relevant areas. The long term ambitious goal is to be a fossil free city by 2050. The European Commission also notes the fact that 95 percent of the population in Stockholm live within 300 meters of green areas.
The overall picture of a city committed to sustainable urban development with a strong focus on public transportation and new technology in buildings and infrastructure, sets the stage for an ambitious green tech-business.
Next stop on the journey to promote Swedish green tech will be Shanghai and an event in the Swedish pavilion at Expo 2010 on June 11.
Strong fields in Swedish green tech include waste management, district heating, biofuels, water purification, energy efficiency and sustainable urban planning in general.
The European Commission also hails Stockholm for its “well-conceived communications strategy” when it comes to sharing its experiences and acting as inspiration to other cities.
A major part in this effort over the last 5-10 years has been Hammarby Sjöstad (left) near the city center, seen as one the first true examples of sustainable urban development. Despite the failings shown in evaluations of the Hammarby Sjöstad project (more on that later in this blog) this has been a showcase for Swedish urban development and green tech that has earned a world reputation.
Work is now under way on the Stockholm Royal Seaport project and visitors are already making their way to what vice mayor Ulla Hamilton calls “Hammarby Sjöstad 2.0”.
Efforts to co-ordinate Sweden’s and Stockholm’s ambitions when it comes to green tech is also under way. Last year the Sweden Green Tech Building opened in central Stockholm to serve as a meeting place and trading centre for green technology companies.
SymbioCity, a new trademark for Swedish green tech, is another effort administered by the Swedish Trade Council to help companies reach markets abroad.

Tomorrow: the story of a waste management company that came to symbolize Swedish green tech.

Copyright: Sweco/City of Stockholm
Stockholm Royal Seaport, the next showcase for Swedish green tech.