Sweden & Artificial Intelligence: An Awesome Future
As a country with a relatively small population, Sweden has a highly export-oriented economy that is always open for emerging technology and opportunities.
Artificial intelligence technology is definitely one of the main industries that Sweden is trying to develop.
Nowadays, Sweden has a 2.2% annual growth rate on its GDP. If the potential of artificial intelligence is fully realized, Sweden’s economy could be boosted to a new height and become one of, if not the leader of the European AI industry and technology development.
Sweden not only acknowledges the rise of Artificial Intelligence, but has also embraces the trend, trying to take the lead in harnessing the opportunities that the application of AI offers. According to a report published by VINNOA, Sweden's innovation agency, Sweden has contributed to the following significant and highly related fields with its unique way to combine the industry with long-term social welfare to benefit the entire business and society. These five main fields have most benefits:
• Process development - quality improvement such as safer mining processes with remote controlled vehicles
• Travel and transports - autonomous driving with reinforcement learning and transport infrastructure optimization with multi-objective programming
• Sustainable and smart cities - energy, transportation and education with AI-enabled IoT
• Healthcare - products and processes, especially for image screening and examinations diagnostics
• Finance - financial service improvement such as leveraging efficiency with chatting bots, and saving cost for risk profiling with automatic scoring system
Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova has also announced that it will be investing significantly in AI over the next decade. Additionally, the Swedish Digitalization Minister Peter Eriksson launched an AI Arena in Gothenburg at the Lindholmen Science Park to enable collaboration and strengthen Swedish companies.
To strengthen AI competitiveness, Sweden needs to achieve several mutually dependent conditions so that the environment for researchers and business is attractive enough.
By publishing favorable policies and national strategy, Sweden is accelerating domestic artificial intelligence development and attracting more investments and technology teams at the same time.
The Government Offices of Sweden declared its AI strategy, National Approach to Artificial Intelligence, in 2018. It pictured a framework for AI in Sweden and the general direction to move forward. The document highlights the government’s goals to develop standards and principles – while acknowledging existing national and international regulations and norms – for ethical, sustainable, and safe AI; to continue to improve digital infrastructure to leverage opportunities in AI; to increase access to data; and to play an active role in the EU’s digitization efforts.
The Swedish model for Artificial Intelligence, also known as the Nordic model, is the architecture beneficial to society and long-term economic growth. Guided by the promoting government policies, AI innovation will flourish on the solid base of data infrastructure.
Sweden has built a comprehensive ecosystem for AI education-research-innovation chains.
According to the national strategy, Swedish education institutions need to cultivate AI talent with professional skills. Endorsing this perspective of view, both formal education and continuous learning chances are provided.
The European commission collected the data of proposed AI programs in 2019. AI-related programs are launched at Swedish universities, such as master's programs on Data engineering, Image analysis and machine learning at Uppsala University.
The stock of AI talent is one of the primary conditions for AI development and innovation in Sweden. Another assessment is to link AI education with research. "AI is a research area that operates with increasing speed worldwide. And with this program, we are raising Sweden to an internationally competitive level," Anders Ynnerman, program director for Wallenberg Foundations.
The foundations will invest about $585 million to support professors and senior lecturers in different disciplines, including machine learning, deep learning, and the basic research behind those techniques. New research findings are welcomed and harnessed by the industry. Through commercialization, those brilliant ideas could be applied to the market. With considerable amounts of budgets being applied to these programs, artificial intelligence’s potential in the education and research area can be activated to the greatest degree.
Vinnova, Sweden's innovation agency, is the pillar of the country's innovation organization. By funding innovation projects and research, Vinnova aims to make Sweden an advanced global player in the AI field and build a favorable investment environment for entrepreneurs.
Till November 2019, the number of projects related to AI in Vinnova's database reached 187.
AI innovation of Sweden, funded by Vinnova and other partners from all sectors, is a national center for applied AI research and innovation.
"Sweden should be the best in the world at using the opportunities presented by digitalization. AI Innovation of Sweden is an important part of making this a reality" - Anders Ygeman, Minister for Energy and Digitalization.
Indeed, the initiative functions as the internal engine to boost collaboration and accelerate the implementation of AI. Projects supported by AI Innovation of Sweden include data labs and hackathons. For example, it provides a data infrastructure for the Road Data Lab, in which data from different stakeholders is aggregated and merged.
The platform could be used for multiple purposes such as autonomous driving, maps and navigation, and traffic flows optimization. Text data is another mine of treasure with tremendous potential. The Swedish Medical Language Data Lab fully utilizes the data to build a language model(library) for health care services.
One Important Concern: Housing Shortage
Sweden embraced a big immigration of skilled AI talents over the last few years. However, even though the immigrants may have a nice job, they may not be able to find a suitable place to live.
The housing shortage in Sweden has been growing over the last 20 years and has been exacerbated by the new flood of immigration over the last 5 years.
It takes nine years to be granted a rent-controlled property in Stockholm, on average, and the queuing time could reach two decades in some of the most popular neighborhoods. Maybe this is a great opportunity for Swedish real estate developers?
The imbalance between the current rate of construction and the increasing speed of the population in Sweden mainly contributes to this situation.
According to Robert Emanuelsson's report, the population increase per newly-built bed in Stockholm was over 2 in 2015, with a sharply increasing trend.
In other words, despite the surplus housing supply generated by the Million Home Programme(MHP), not enough new homes are being provided to meet the demand in Sweden.
The cumulative surplus of beds available in the Stockholm region came to an end in 2011. Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (2014) estimated that the deficit in the area exceeded 120,000 homes.
Additionally, the percentage of housing devoted to rentals have declined in Sweden compared with new buildings that have been focusing on tenant-owned housing, which makes the situation even more difficult for immigrants who might have a good job, but no saved capital to purchase an apartment. Evidens (2015) explained that there was less risk in tenant-owned projects than building rental properties as households funded a large share of apartments themselves.
The government supported upgrading the existing infrastructure at the outer edges of the metro system. A sustainable solution called Stockholm Loop was introduced to activate those sleepy outlying areas and propose more than 120,000 new homes in twelve under-utilized locations.
We do not know how far artificial intelligence will take Sweden, however, with such strong support from the government and the private marketplace, Sweden should be able to fully apply AI’s awesome potential to its industry and society, making Sweden one of the leading countries in the artificial intelligence field today.
Written by Sheng Zhao & Edited by Alexander Fleiss