Sweden makes overtures to Canadian wireless firms

OTTAWA — In the last five years, Sweden has attracted an increasing number of Canadian high-tech companies, securing its reputation as a springboard into the European Union, according to a senoir official with the Canadian

Embassy in Stockholm.

Canadian companies in the wireless, semiconductor, and bioinformatics industries are finding Swedish partners, opening new offices in cities such as Stockholm, or acquiring Swedish companies, said Euan Scott, the embassy’s business development officer, whose team ensures these activities take place.

“”It’s a country that has a lot of experience in doing business with North Americans,”” he said during his visit to Ottawa this week for the Wireless Industry Congress 2003. “”For that reason, we’ve put a lot of our energies into creating opportunities for Canadian wireless companies.””

Those efforts include the Canadian embassy’s partnership with Swedish co-organizers of a biotech and IT convergence forum held last May. Canada had the largest foreign delegation with 60 members, said Scott.

Meanwhile, Swedish delegates will soon converge on Ottawa to study the city’s IT clusters and how they were created. Equally important was Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson’s visit to Ottawa last February. As part of the visit, he dined with some 15 Canadian IT leaders.

Among the crowd was Patrick Brockett, CEO of Ottawa-based Zarlink Semiconductor Inc. The company has 175 employees in Sweden who produce microchips for ultra-low power medical devices such as pace-makers and hearing aids. The Swedish plant focuses on integrated circuits and optical electronics, an area that is growing in strategic importance for Zarlink, said Mike Salter, manager of corporate communications at Zarlink Semiconductor in Ottawa. The Swedish location generates 15 per cent of the company’s overall revenue, and is growing in prominence every year, . Salter added.

“”There is no question Sweden is a springboard to economic powerhouses like Germany,”” he said. “”Germany is becoming a more important market for Zarlink. We want to sell more to German telecom companies, and our location in Sweden helps.””

Similarly, Calgary-based Wi-LAN Inc. has been selling broadband wireless equipment to Sweden for a number of years. Wi-LAN is currently in negotiations with Swedan-based SkyCom to purchase the Canadian company’s equipment for a nationwide rollout, according to Nico Roelofsen, vice-president of global sales for Wi-LAN.

“”Their interest, as well as ours, is to look at other countries and use Sweden as a springboard for Germany and Balkan states,”” he says.

Roelofsen said Sweden’s business structure is “”very open”” and the bilateral trade relationship between the two countries is quite liberal, making it even more appealing for Canadian companies to do business there.

Scott added: “”We can look at our situation and say: ‘We have so much expertise in the area of (IT), and here’s a European Union country with very substantial players in this sector who need suppliers. We have the (suppliers). So we need to create a situation where they can get together. If we do that, then we’ve done our job.””

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