When a nation is making a major domestic investment (acquiring new infrastructure or defence equipment such as fighter jets, for example), this is often funded by the taxpayer. To favour its own industries and citizens, the purchasing country therefore imposes substantial demands on the seller. This might entail creating jobs or increasing domestic competence within specific areas. These kinds of trade conditions are called offset requirements, and are especially common in the defence industry.
Eva Söderström, Head of Industrial Cooperation at Saab, says: “Saab has a long history of working with industrial cooperation. We firmly believe in it as it drives future development. We would not succeed without cooperating with other industrial players and countries.”
Collaboration directly linked to the product
Saab works primarily with direct industrial cooperation: a form of collaboration that is directly linked to the products it sells. For example, developing or manufacturing parts for Gripen in the customer’s country, and working and training subcontractors there, can lead to the further development of the technology into new, own products. Knowledge sharing is a well-established way of working within Saab and helps the company to maintain a major competitive advantage. Long-term, healthy, profitable business is built when all parties involved share a common commitment.
Technology transfer strengthens Saab
But is it not risky to share too much knowledge? Not if you ask Saab. Technology transfer reinforces both Saab’s and Sweden’s competitiveness. Competent suppliers and business partners benefit all parties involved.
“Some information is confidential and restricted, but apart from that, we are willing to share most of our knowledge with our partners in other countries,” says Söderström.
Swedish working culture facilitates industrial cooperation
Both Sweden and Saab have a reputation for being successful in the industrial cooperation domain. According to Söderström, this may be because Sweden has a long history of cooperation in general, flat organisations, and freedom of expression.
Triple helix approach to collaboration
Another type of cooperation in which Saab has vast experience is the triple helix: that is collaboration between academia, the business sector and governmental agencies.
Magnus Ahlström, Head of Global Innovation at Saab, says: “Sweden is a relatively small country with limited financial resources. In order to develop technology at a high level, there has always been a need to collaborate with other players.”
Saab collaborates with universities and researchers in Sweden, the Swedish Armed Forces as well as innovation agencies on various research projects.
The goal: a long-term partner
When Saab is becoming established in new markets, it strives to transfer the Swedish innovation system.
“We simply bring our ways of working and try to create the same types of connections in other countries,” says Ahlström. “Our goal is to become a long-term partner, with technology transfer being an integral part of the collaboration that benefits all parties concerned.”