Sweden’s long coastline, lakes and waterways, together with a robust innovation ecosystem, provide opportunities for increased self-sufficiency, competitiveness, job opportunities and international attractiveness for investment and partnerships. In several marine sectors, the development and innovation of new businesses and products as well as new cross-sectorial alliances and partnerships are on the rise.

However, a whole-system approach that considers not only economic growth but also social and ecological sustainability is a precondition for a sustainable blue economy. A multifunctional approach to marine spatial planning will be increasingly important to ensure that the ongoing industry expansion in energy, food production, mobility and data is done in a way that at the very least ensures resource efficiency and minimizes negative social and environmental impacts, and at best contributes to the regeneration of coastal and marine ecosystems.

To achieve this, Sweden’s blue economy requires a national approach that is well-connected to the EU and international agendas, with clearer mandates and allocation of responsibilities. It requires a long-term strategic direction that increases confidence among Swedish actors to mobilize and dare to invest at home.

This report presents some of the information necessary, based on existing data from research, government documents, industry reports and official statistics. A consultation process with key stakeholders in Sweden was carried out in 2022, including a stakeholder workshop held on 2 December 2022. The purpose of the workshop was to collectively detect the Swedish potential, pathways, and necessary enablers for transformation. Based on stakeholder inputs, the report was revised and adjusted.

The report is divided into five sections: (1) an introduction setting the scene of the challenge ahead and a way forward to guide future marine spatial planning; (2) the status of maritime industries in Sweden broken down by sectors – for each industry the authors suggest a shift beyond a sector-based focus and towards a mission-oriented approach; (3) cross-cutting pillars of Swedish society that can contribute to the development of a sustainable blue economy; (4) final remarks; and (5) recommendations.

This report was commissioned by Formas in collaboration with Vinnova and Mistra and in dialogue with the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM) and the Government Offices of Sweden. The analysis was also used as a basis for the UN Stockholm+50 Conference (Stockholm, 2–3 June 2022) and the UN Ocean Conference (Lisbon, 27 June–1 July 2022). Target groups for this report are politicians and economic actors.

Cranes, Gothenburg harbour, Sweden © Peter Berglund / Getty

Cranes in the harbour of Göteborg, Sweden. © Peter Berglund / Getty