Summary of Skogstekniska Klustret
Increasing competitiveness through technological development is the guiding principle of Skogstekniska klustret (The Forestry Technology Cluster). The supply of skills, industrial research and collaboration between business, society and the economy are the key task of the work. The cluster consists of 10 companies in northern Sweden.
The members of Skogstekniska klustret are located in northern Sweden and consist of forestry machinery and direct-supply component manufacturers. Most of the companies are located in and around Umeå. The guiding principles for the cluster are to be business-driven, innovative and non-bureaucratic.
The companies in the cluster employ 1,100 people. Hence, the cluster accounts for half of the jobs provided by forestry technology companies in Sweden. The cluster companies also engage around 1,000 subcontractors from other industries.
The combined turnover of the companies amounts to SEK 3.2 billion, of which SEK 2.6 billion relates to forestry technology. More than half of sales are exports.
By means of cooperation within the cluster, the companies jointly benefit from shrewd management. Experience of development and manufacturing forestry machinery accumulated over a long period provides a basis for new and innovative products.
A successful example of cluster formation
In Sweden, cooperation between contractors, researchers, manufacturers and forestry companies has led to Sweden occupying a leading position in the world market.
A recent survey of the Swedish forestry machinery industry emphasises that all parties must work together to bring new products to market. Innovations and ideas grow best in smaller companies and structures. However, they then need an infrastructure for developing products, as transforming a concept to a finished product can be a tortuous process.
Innovation is massively enhanced when users, researchers, manufacturers and forestry companies interact in a productive environment. Skogstekniska klustret provides such an environment.
Projects, research and development
The cluster is currently running more than 20 projects with a view to driving forestry technological development and creating ideal conditions for acquiring key skills.
The projects can be implemented thanks to co-funding, mainly from the EU’s structural funds and the Swedish Innovation Agency, VINNOVA. County councils and municipalities are also involved in financing. In-house funding of projects is possible through a significant financial commitment from the Swedish state forestry company Sveaskog. In addition, the companies contribute their own time, personnel and resources.
No direct compensation is paid to the companies for their contributions to development projects and test beds, but they receive other potent benefits from the cluster in the form of competitive advantage. Sveaskog uses its commitment to promote systems development and thinking, thereby boosting profitability and productivity in the industry.
Productivity in the Swedish forestry industry has increased 15-fold during the past 30 years, largely thanks to trees being harvested in predetermined lengths (the cut to length method, CTL-method). However, partnerships are needed for Sweden to maintain its leading global position.
In the “R&D for systems development” project, the cluster has created innovative environments for linking research and business. This increases the industry’s ability to absorb research findings, and reduces lead times for new systems solutions, innovations and products.
To extend these efforts, the cluster has defined five focus areas:
- Powertrains/propulsion systems and other methods/products for driving on non-bearing ground
- Systems for more efficient extraction of wood parts/biomass for bioenergy/biorefining
- Electrical hybrid systems for fuel-efficient motors
- “Shared” crane tip control, i.e. partial automation of driver control
- Systems for more effective forest care: mechanisation of planting
More equal forestry
Almost 100,000 people are employed in forestry and forest industries in Sweden, but the proportion of women is only 16%. Within the cluster, the proportion of women employed is even lower.
The demand for expertise in a variety of areas is high and to meet market demands, the forestry sector must take advantage of the skills of the entire population. Skogstekniska klustret and the Västerbotten County Administrative Board have jointly established three key factors for a gender equality strategy:
- Management-controlled equality work - the role of management is crucial for effective equality efforts.
- A revamped image of the industry – both men and women need to view forestry companies as attractive employers.
- Research and development – knowledge of power and gender fosters success and competitive advantage.
The background to the cluster
Back in 1997, a number of companies formed STC, Skogsbrukstekniskt Centrum, economic association. The association struggled to obtain finance, but a group of interested companies continued its work in network form and organised development projects, seminars and training courses. Money was obtained from various sources.
In June 2010, nine of the companies decided to form an economic association and at the same time recruit a CEO. This has been Maria Hedblom since 1 September 2010.
Membership of Skogstekniska klustret has helped to transform several innovations into products currently on the market. Several cluster projects are currently being organised in collaboration with researchers and students from Luleå University of Technology, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Umeå University. Other expertise will be used when necessary. Business intelligence is provided, for example by Pöyry, Invest Sweden and Västerbotten Invest Agency.