Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2017

Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2017



Number of companies


Direct employees


National contact

IKEM - Innovation and Chemical Industries in Sweden

Magnus Huss

Director General


Chemical industry snapshot

A massive exporter

The chemical industry produced 17 % of total Swedish exports in 2015, worth approximately €12 billion. That’s more than automotive or pulp and paper industry, which were 11% and 8% respectively.

Underpinning many other industries

Acting as a foundation for economic development, our industry includes chemicals and chemical products, oil refining, pharmaceuticals, plastics and rubber products, paints and coatings, hygiene products, detergents, agrochemical and other chemical products. Basic chemicals include plastics in primary forms and organic and inorganic basic chemicals.

Providing many jobs

The industry provides about 33,000 full-time jobs in 440 companies: the ten largest companies together employ more than half the workforce.

Northern region: a large proportion of employees work in companies that are bio refineries or use biogenic feedstock.


Western region: basic chemicals and refining are the main chemical employers. Cluster initiatives have been launched and large chemical companies in Stenungsund are working together on sustainable chemistry and with other local players in the regional Kemiindustriklustret initiative. The region has made green chemistry and bio-based products a strategic areas.


Central region: is dominated by companies which develop and manufacture pharmaceutical products and chemical products for medical purposes. Many of the companies are heavily committed to R&D.


Southern region: has an even balance between companies producing basic chemicals, chemical products, and pharmaceuticals.


Eastern region: has by far the smallest chemical industry. Companies are focused on chemical products and are more likely to be Swedish-owned.

How are we doing?


  • Well-educated and highly skilled workforce
  • Good physical and social infrastructure
  • Renowned environmental expertise
  • Strong safety and responsibility culture (Responsible Care) in production and distribution
  • Very good R&D centres, university and technical university infrastructure
  • Highly integrated globally-competitive clusters and chemical parks
  • High resource efficiency
  • Strong collaboration with trade unions


  • High energy and logistics prices
  • Reliance on raw material imports
  • High labour costs
  • Low acceptance of chemical industry and products by the Swedish public

Our contribution to a competitive Europe

Building a bio-based economy

Sweden does not follow a sectoral industrial policy. However, the government has a national strategy for developing a bio-based economy, which includes research, development and innovation and coordinating the work of research funders, researchers business and potential customers.

Investing in research

Only South Korea, Israel, Japan and Finland invest a bigger share of GDP in R&D than Sweden. In 2013 investment totalled €12.5 billion, including €3.9 billion of public money and €8.6 billion by business. Public research resources are channelled primarily to universities.


Companies collaborate with universities and research technology organisations to establish R&D agendas in processes, materials and pilot lines, but there is room for improvement and work is underway to improve integration.

Links with other industries and research/universities

The chemical industry and the forest industry in Sweden are collaborating and in 2014 the strategic innovation program BioInnovation was established. This will hopefully lead to a closer collaboration in the future when cars, wind generators, medical supplies, cables, colours and materials could be made with Swedish timber as a raw material.


Both the chemical and the forest industries are needed for that to happen. It is also important that the research is relevant to the business community and the surrounding community in order to be useful.

Opportunities for Growth

Growth in the Swedish chemical sector is low, despite high R&D activity. A better capacity to create innovation and collaboration between industry and R&D organizations are important to find and seize growth opportunities. The industry has identified innovation as the top common agenda for joint efforts. Policymakers and government are being addressed to find new growth opportunities and secure a good collaboration between government and industry.


An opportunity for Sweden is to build a bio-based economy. Sweden has a unique position to attract investment for this transition, since Swedish timber can be used as raw material.

Smart specialisation

As an enabler of all other industrial sectors, the chemical industry is highly integrated to other sectors, and smart specialization is a natural way for a small country like Sweden to compete and succeed amid global competition.



Reference: Chemical Industry Companies in Sweden – an update including data for competence analysis, Johanna Mossberg, CIT Industriell Energi AB, May 2016, VINNOVA Analysis VA 2016:04.