West Sweden, or Västra Götaland, on Sweden’s west coast is Sweden’s foremost maritime region. The region has a strong concentration of maritime activities, ranging from maritime industry, fisheries, marine research,academia and maritime agencies. Roughly half of Sweden’s maritime employment can be found along the coast of Västra Götaland, according to a study from the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (Vinnova) in 2013.
In Västra Götaland, the maritime sector is an area of strength and therefore a prioritized area in public efforts to create innovation platforms and infrastructures. Between 2008 and 2012 the Region of Västra Götaland was financially involved in approximately 100 projects.
In an attempt to strengthen the maritime development of West Sweden, the stakeholders in the innovation system have joined forces in a maritime cluster. The purpose of the cluster is to increase innovation and business development. The method used is increased contact and collaboration between the maritime business sector and research.
Also the public sector is strongly involved, e.g. through financial support but it also provides a connection to innovation and maritime policies aswell as the national maritime strategy. The long term goal of all these efforts is growth in the maritime sector of Västra Götaland.
The current cluster started in 2013. The participants from the innovation system have a long-term commitment but will evaluate the methods and activities used to reach the objectives after two years.
Maritime focus areas
The method is based on an analysis of the growth potential in six subclusters:
- Marine governance
- Maritime operations and marine technology
- Marine biotechnology
- Marine energy
- Marine tourism and recreation
Background of the Maritime Cluster
The sea has always played an important role in Sweden, which has been a seafaring nation for over a thousand years. The Swedish East India Company is an excellent example of how Sweden was carrying out global trading activities in distant places as early as the eighteenth century. This tradition has continued into modern times, with a large merchant navy and global trade. Even today, shipping represents nearly 90 percent of trade. Much of the maritime expertise is located in western Sweden, with Gothenburg at its hub. Gothenburg is also the logistics centre of Sweden, due to the role that it plays as the largest port in Scandinavia, which has led to considerable know-how in the area of transport and logistics.
A large part of Sweden is surrounded by water, and we have the longest coastline in the European Union (EU). We also have unique archipelagos both on the west coast and the east coast, as well as coastal areas that are sensitive to pollution and to other forms of environmental disturbances, which can be seen particularly in the Baltic Sea. It is our duty to manage these areas, and thanks to a long tradition of research, we have good expertise within the marine disciplines. Some of our research stations date back more than a hundred years.
Västra Götaland is the most distinctly maritime region in Sweden, with a range of different activities, as well as the largest lake in Western Europe – Lake Vänern – and the largest river in Sweden, the Göta älv. There is every reason to continue this tradition and to build expertise in the maritime fields, naturally to protect the environment, but also to strengthen existing activities and to develop new ones that are associated with the sea. This entails using the ecosystem services of the sea in a long-term, sustainable manner.
Marine governance is a common denominator for the whole cluster, as spatial planning along with functioning ecosystems are a prerequisite for the long-term sustainable development of the maritime clusters. Legislation in the maritime fields is very complex and requires an investment in internationally oriented expertise of a high level.
Sweden is passing legislation on maritime spatial planning, and maritime spatial planning is also a priority area of the EU, which will require development of methodologies and a considerable development of expertise and know-how. The knowledge production in the marine and maritime areas and tools for analysis are fields in which there is considerable expertise in Västra Götaland. This can be further strengthened by means of cooperation between research, public authorities and companies.
Maritime operations and marine technology
Västra Götaland has a strong maritime identity, based on its long tradition as a port and shipbuilding region. The region has a great number of large and small companies engaged in maritime operations and marine technology; some of these companies are world-leaders in their field, which contributes to creating a very strong cluster. The region has very broad research expertise in maritime operations and marine technology, particularly at Chalmers University of Technology, and through the Lighthouse national maritime competence center, www.lighthouse.nu.
Gothenburg is today the largest transport and logistics hub in Scandinavia, with the Port of Gothenburg as its center, which gives it a unique position in Sweden.
There is a broad range of research expertise in the region, which includes all of the five target areas for Marine Biotechnology: Food, Energy, Health, Environment and Industrial Products and Processes. Special areas of strength for growth, in which there is a well-developed cooperation, are marine genomics, antifouling, the health effects of fish consumption and the use of microalgae for bio energy and other purposes.
The University of Gothenburg, Chalmers, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and SIK Swedish institute of Food and biotechnology, provides research expertise. The unique access to marine infrastructures, particularly the research stations of the University of Gothenburg at Kristineberg and Tjärnö, form a foundation for these efforts, and provide good conditions for innovation and growth in marine biotechnology. There are only a few, small companies in Västra Götaland specialised in research and development in the field of marine biotechnology, and for these to be successful, a long-term perspective and long-term funding are needed.
There are strong research environments in Västra Götaland, not least at Chalmers, which work with different aspects of marine-based energy, such as wind and wave power, transmission technology and marine bio energy. There is potential for considerable synergy effects between wind power development and wave and tidal power regarding foundations, underwater anchorage, the transmission of electricity and environmental aspects. Despite its base on the Baltic coast, an important actor on the Swedish west coast is Uppsala University and the company Sea Based which is currently building one of the largest wave power parks in the world off the coast of Västra Götaland; www.seabased.com.
Chalmers, in cooperation with the University of Gothenburg, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, is carrying out important research on the production of biofuel from micro- and macro algae. The cultivation of biomass at sea for energy production may in the future be an important sector within marine energy. The development of marine-based energy in the Baltic Sea and in the North Sea can offer considerable potential for service and maintenance companies, as well as companies for design and construction of offshore wind power stations.
The conditions for developing the cluster for seafood are excellent, as the entire value chain from “the sea to the table” is present in Västra Götaland. This is one of the major fishing industry regions in the Nordic countries. Scope for growth and increased profitability in the fishing sector can be created by diversifying and by quality improvement measures that increase the value of the product.
The processing industry and distribution sector are important actors in the cluster – playing the role of bridging Norway to the EU – with a key role in developing products that meet the demands of the modern consumer for accessible, tasty, healthy and environmentally friendly food from the sea. Marine spatial planning plays an important role for future growth of the aquaculture sector.
Tourism and recreation
Bohuslän – the coast of Västra Götaland – is considered one of the ten great wilderness areas of the world, according to a CNN survey (2013). The uniqueness of Bohuslän lies in the archipelago which stretches from Gothenburg in the very south to the north, which is the border of Norway. Actually it is not one archipelago but a row of different archipelagoes – all different in nature, culture and history.
Sustainable tourism offers many opportunities for development-projects involving the industry and “the knowledge sector”. Improved and new knowledge is essential in order to take new initiatives within this cluster area. One focus area is education to support the development of long-term, sustainable tourism and recreation. Increasing the attractiveness of the region, and thereby extending the season for visitors, requires a new approach and focus on new activities, not least in the cultural field.
The maritime cluster of Västra Götaland is a joint project involving Region Västra Götaland, University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, SSPA Sweden AB and SIK Swedish Institute of Food and Biotechnology. The universities and institutes of the partnership are all active on a global scale which makes it possible to stimulate development without borders. Involvement of partners in Västra Götaland is an important aspect but we seek global collaboration. An important role of the core partnership is to involve their own networks of collaboration partners – companies and research groups – in Sweden and elsewhere in innovation projects.
The maritime cluster is part of a larger group of five strong clusters in the west of Sweden. The other areas of strength that are highlighted are:
- Urban development
- Transport solutions
- Green chemistry and biobased products
- Life science
Contacts with the other clusters or the Five Cluster collaboration as a whole can be provided by Anders Carlberg, Region Västra Götaland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Hjerpe Olausson
Maritim expert Västra Götalandsregionen
+ 46(0) 70-080 60 18
University of Gothenburg
+46(0) 76 622 96 78
Chalmers University of Technology
+46(0)31 772 11 38
Communication & PR
+ 46(0)70-381 92 22