Sweden industry
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Whether it’s in mobility solutions, industrial production and clean energy or design and high-tech manufacturing, Sweden’s capabilities in top sectors are among the world’s best. The UAE has leveraged Swedish expertise and know-how for the last five decades, initially to consolidate its key industries and more recently, to drive its innovation-driven economy.

Sweden and the UAE have a long history of partnerships and cooperation. With more than 200 companies operating in a range of sectors, Swedish brands contribute significantly to the UAE’s diversification agenda by fuelling innovation, creating jobs and driving industrial competitiveness.

“Trade relations are often evaluated based on the trade volume between countries, overlooking aspects that indirectly have a significant impact on the local economies. But it is also important to look beyond trade volume figures. Several Swedish companies have invested in new factories, built R&D facilities, and provided thousands of job opportunities in the UAE and will continue to do so,” says Liselott Andersson, Sweden’s Ambassador to the UAE.

Major Swedish companies, such as Volvo, Scania, Saab, Ericsson, Electrolux, ABB, H&M, IKEA, AstraZeneca and many more, as well as several start-ups, have made sizeable investments in principal sectors of the UAE economy, including energy, retail, engineering, technology, defence and security, life science, healthcare, consulting and infrastructure. With the UAE pushing forward with its economic diversification agenda and charting a new path towards a more resilient future, Swedish companies are set to play a more significant role. They are looking ahead to foster growth of new talent and capabilities, create more employment opportunities, and enhance domestic production.

Anna-Karin Rosén, Managing Director of Saab in the UAE

“Saab is dedicated to utilise its expertise and spearhead innovation and foster growth within the UAE’s defence and security sector. We are strongly committed to nurturing Emirati talent, while also delivering cutting-edge technology solutions and expanding our local supply chain,” says Anna-Karin Rosén, Managing Director of Saab in the UAE.

Expanding local production capacity

Development and production in the UAE are part of Saab’s strategy to increase its sustainable growth and enhance market reach. “We seek to provide national and global markets with world-class Emirati defence and security solutions locally made in the UAE,” Rosén says.

Since the 1980s, Saab has built a robust partnership with the UAE. Saab’s GlobalEye, a multi-domain Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) solution, supports the UAE Air Force and Air Defence (AFAD) by providing long-range detection and identification of objects in air, at sea and over land. Moreover, in cooperation with Tawazun Council, Saab has launched DeployNet, a locally developed communications system.

“We are also establishing the first sovereign 3D printing capability for the UAE AFAD,” she adds.

Another contributor to the UAE’s growth trajectory is Gulf Agency Company (GAC). Founded by Swedish entrepreneur, Bengt Lindwall, GAC has been driving the UAE’s maritime and shipping sector since 1967.

“We were one of the first companies to initiate a Ship Supply Service (SSS) providing essential assistance to ships arriving in the UAE by enabling them to unload their cargo while at anchorage. GAC played a crucial role in that venture,” says Ronald Lichtenecker, Managing Director, GAC Dubai.

Ronald Lichtenecker, Managing Director, GAC Dubai

GAC Dubai opened its distribution centre in the Jebel Ali Free Zone in 1993. “The establishment of dedicated warehouses capable of handling the increasing volumes of imports was crucial for the expansion of imports into the UAE. What was a new and innovative business model at the time has experienced remarkable growth ever since, with GAC still a leader in the field,” says Lichtenecker.

Growth driver

GAC has consistently pursued expansion and business growth in the UAE. “We have continuously expanded our warehousing capacity through the acquisition or construction of additional warehouses. In 2018, we opened our new purpose-built warehouse with a capacity of 40,000 pallet positions

divided into two air-conditioned chambers, at Dubai South. Our market share in the UAE is exceptionally strong, primarily attributed to the fact that we were among the early companies to establish operations in this region,” Lichtenecker explains.

Drawing Swedish entrepreneurs

The UAE’s strategic location, backed by a liberal trade and visa regime, world-class infrastructure, and supportive legal framework, makes it extremely attractive for Swedish businesses looking to enter the region. As a leading player in the automotive sector, Eveons Mobility Systems has made significant contributions to the development of new capabilities in the UAE’s electric vehicle (EV) and electric mobility sector.

Feri Zekisson, CEO, Eveons Mobility Systems – Middle East Office

“The UAE is a vital contributor to Eveons’ business due to its thriving market for electric mobility solutions, support for innovation, strategic location, and favourable business environment. The country’s commitment to sustainability and clean transportation, along with its infrastructure and logistics networks, make it an ideal choice for our company’s establishment and growth,” says Feri Zekisson, CEO, Eveons Mobility Systems – Middle East Office, adding, “The UAE’s infrastructure and start-up ecosystem are instrumental in driving Eveons’ growth. The well-developed infrastructure, including charging networks and smart city initiatives, supports the adoption of electric mobility. Additionally, the supportive start-up ecosystem provides opportunities for collaboration, funding, and access to resources, accelerating our expansion,” he says.

A business climate survey of Swedish companies in the UAE, published by Business Sweden and the Embassy of Sweden in the UAE, also echoes the same, highlighting the UAE’s favourable business environment as the biggest draw for Swedish brands. Despite challenges during the pandemic, most Swedish companies in the UAE (about 61 per cent) reported profitability from their UAE operations and 67 per cent of Swedish companies described the business climate in the UAE as good or very good, indicating increased ease of doing business such as improved regulations, infrastructure, and security.

Innovation and exchange of expertise

Knowledge sharing and technology transfer is crucial to Swedish-UAE ties and Swedish industrial majors undertake various initiatives − including R&D collaborations with local institutions and businesses, training and workshops − to stimulate innovation and enhance competitiveness in key industrial sectors.

“There are many opportunities that exist for Swedish-Emirati cooperation, including technical and exchanges in various areas, including those that are connected to the green transition. Student exchanges are also important on so many levels, even for building personal relationships that last a long time. I would be very happy to see more Emirati students choosing Sweden as their study destination and Swedish students coming to the UAE,” says Andersson, Sweden’s Ambassador to the UAE.

Sergio Hicke, Cluster President, India, Middle East & Africa, Alfa Laval

Together with the other Nordic embassies, Swedish embassy in the UAE has launched a mentorship programme, connecting prominent Nordic business leaders with young successful Emirati women.

“This has been a very rewarding cooperation which has provided a valuable exchange of experience in management and business culture, and also a way to build closer relationships between our cultures,” says Andersson.

Among key Swedish companies operating in the UAE, Saab is committed to nurturing Emirati talent in the defence sector through strategic investments in training initiatives. “We actively collaborate with local programmes such as Tawazun’s Emirati Global Acceleration Programme (EGAP) to empower UAE nationals and enable them to make significant contributions to their country’s thriving economy,” says Rosén. ■

Driving the UAE’s green agenda
As the first country in the world to pass an environmental protection act in 1967, Sweden has been a pioneer in integrating business and sustainability. With efforts being increasingly made in the UAE to drive transition to a circular economy by harnessing the power of technology, Swedish companies have taken the lead in fuelling innovation across the value chain.
“Embracing sustainability and renewable energy sources is our top priority. In February 2022, we successfully concluded the construction of our third 2.87 MW solar rooftop project in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone,” says Ronald Lichtenecker, Managing Director, GAC Dubai. “This new addition complements two existing solar-powered plants that supply clean energy to various contract logistics facilities in Dubai. By integrating clean energy into our operations, we actively contribute to a sustainable future while ensuring the provision of dependable and efficient services to our valued customers,” adds Lichtenecker.
Leading innovator of products in the areas of heat transfer, separation and fluid handling, Alfa Laval provides customers with solutions that enable them to reuse and protect natural resources, such as energy and water, in their industrial processes.
“The company’s technologies are constantly improved and refined to optimise its customers’ processes, reduce their environmental impact, and help them reach their sustainability goals. The company has a sustainable partnership with customers by helping them achieve circularity, energy efficiency, and shift towards clean energy,” says Sergio Hicke, Cluster President, India, Middle East & Africa, Alfa Laval.
In fact, Alfa Laval will deliver compact heat exchangers to the world’s largest green hydrogen plant, which is to be constructed in the Middle East, says Hicke. “When completed, the facility is expected to produce 650 tons of hydrogen per day, while being powered by renewable energy.”