Thanks to its educational infrastructure and the steady presence of major software and hardware companies, such as Ericsson and Sony Mobile, Skåne has long been a hub for innovation in the tech industry. The skills and competency that can be found in the region were among the top reasons why major actors in the automotive industry, including Bosch and Volvo, chose to establish software development centers in Skåne in 2016. They were joined by another major actor, Continental, and the feeling within the local ecosystem is that more companies could follow suit.
"I would say the competency available in the area was the top reason for starting up here," says Carl Gustavsson, deputy site manager at Bosch's new software development center at Lund's Ideon Science Park. "The amount of people working in embedded software solutions, connectivity, [and] software security was a reason for choosing Lund for this location." The team at Bosch's Lund site is currently just below 90 employees, and Gustavsson expressed that they aim to grow to around 110 during the first half of 2017.
Local research institutions enhance regional attractiveness
Over at Volvo Cars, senior manager Henrik Svensson also attributed local skills and competency as major reasons for creating their site in Lund. For Svensson, it was a combination of the long history that Lund has with not only fostering software engineers but also producing them at local research institutions, like the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, Malmö University, Halmstad University, and Blekinge Institute of Technology. He also sees the university system as key to overcoming one of the major obstacles that the automotive industry faces in growing here in Lund, which is its newness.
"To make a substantial difference, we need to build more automotive competence and capacity in the region and from the universities. We're not even 200 professionals in the region now, from a software perspective. So for sure, it's a long journey."
But according to Svensson, there's no better time than now for that journey to start.
"The whole automotive industry is in a huge change. You have four megatrends: electrification, connectivity, autonomous drive, and sharing. All of those things are creeping into the design [of] the car and also outside the car...and all of this is interlinked with software somehow. So in addition to being a mechanical company working with combustion engines, we are now also growing our skills and capacity into being a software house, handling and developing complex software for all systems related to the car. It's a huge journey and its extremely exciting to be involved in that now. And that is just going to increase in the coming years."
Volvo Cars site has grown since last year and now consists of around 40 professionals, with plans to recruit additional talent in 2017.
The move into automotive companies by software engineers is promising to both the industry and the local business environment. "There is -slowly building up- a bigger mass of people who will be doing automotive-related stuff. In the long run automotive competence will increase in the region, which is good for us," says Gustavsson.
Proximity to end customers
Another reason why Skåne is a logical choice for companies like Bosch is its proximity to customers. Former Sony Ericsson CTO and Lund-based intra- and entrepreneur Mats Lindoff points out that – in contrast to the mobile phone industry – the car industry depends on multiple sub-suppliers producing units for components like infotainment or the telemetric transmission system.
"Sub-suppliers need to find resources and be close to their customer. We have the resources here...and [companies] are close enough to Gothenburg, Volvo Cars, Scania, and southern Germany."
Looking towards the future
It's yet unclear how the automotive industry will continue to evolve in Skåne, but the current landscape points to a blossoming sector focused less on what is under the hood of the car and instead on the technology within the cockpit. This could be positive not only for further talent attraction but also talent distribution. Lindoff points out that society benefits when competent talent is spread out amongst various businesses.
"It's much better have lots of choice, both [for] the engineers and for the companies. For society, it's also better to have 20 companies with 100 engineers each than to have one company with 2000 engineers or even 5000 engineers like I had at Sony Ericsson."