Today, almost 30,000 people are estimated to work in the technology and computer consulting sector in the Gothenburg region, split between 7,000 workplaces and with some 3,800 working as self-employed consultants. The companies include both large international enterprises and many smaller players with fewer than 20 employees, a similar structure to many other business sectors in the Gothenburg region.
Following the economic boom seen in recent years, perhaps most notably in the automotive industry, human resource planning is a constant issue even among technology and computer consultancies. As early as 2016, Swedish employers' organisation Teknikföretagen (Association of Swedish Engineering Industries) noted that 89 percent of companies needed to recruit and Region Västra Götaland published a report indicating a need for more than 6,000 new technology consultants in Western Sweden by 2025 (Education and labour market forecast for Västra Götaland in the run-up to 2025 (Utbildnings- och arbetsmarknadsprognos för Västra Götaland med sikte på 2025)).
Skills transfer between industries
Furthermore, another report, Knowledge transformation and industry 4.0 (Kompetenslandskapets omvandling mot industri 4.0), shows that several thousand people in the region switch sector each year, which reflects the key role played by technology consultants as a catalyst for cross-industry knowledge sharing, which can also be seen as a business advantage for clients.
"For a growth area such as the Gothenburg region, we cannot overemphasise the importance of this large group of flexible, highly educated consultants. They are essential for adding dynamism to the labour market, transferring skills between industries and increasing innovation. These phenomena are central to maintaining and promoting growth during the business cycles of different industries, which is why Business Region Göteborg has increased its focus on these companies in recent years," says Per Österström, Group Manager Transport and Vehicles at Business Region Göteborg.
The strong growth seen in the region since 2015 has given consulting companies a pivotal role, with their expertise helping to recruit international talent to the region. When it comes to issues related to human resource planning and finding the right people, these companies are the real experts. As an aid to recruiting overseas personnel, the website Move to Gothenburg was created.
"One very encouraging example of just how much technology consultants influence the establishment process is Geely locating CEVT (China Euro Vehicle Technology) in Gothenburg. In three short years, a brand new car brand – Lynk & Co – was created, along with new platform architecture for Geely's and Volvo's future car models in the supermini segment. To achieve this, the company grew from zero to 2,000 workers, the positions largely filled by Gothenburg's technology consulting companies. A feat that wouldn't have been possible without the existing automotive expertise. This is one of many testaments to the region's strength," says Joel Görsch, Establishment Advisor at Business Region Göteborg.
A most important gauge
A couple of years ago, Business Region Göteborg began discussions with leading representatives of the technology and IT consulting industry to gain insight into the challenges the sector faces and how the region is developing. The companies underline the need for forums where they can discuss issues of strategic importance to the industry, such as business intelligence, business development, human resource planning and industry partnerships.
Business Region Göteborg is now planning to expand the initiative by launching a network/cluster initiative for technology and IT consulting companies in the Gothenburg region with operations centred on the automotive industry. This network/cluster initiative will aim to strengthen the competitiveness of technology and IT consulting companies in the Gothenburg region by means of dialogue, collaboration and partnership.
The consulting industry, with its regional and international assignments, is a very important gauge and knowledge base for answering questions about development and growth and human resource planning issues, as well as for mobilising forces in new fields and industries and attracting new investments and business establishments. It's also a good early indicator of whether things are moving in the wrong direction as regards the challenges faced by trade and industry and its continued growth.
"In our meetings with the consulting industry, we've discussed various matters, ranging from housing issues, labour migration and encouraging young people to choose careers in technology to current affairs in the region and trends in different industries," says Per.
"When we began our discussions a couple of years back, many of the consulting companies' clients weren't particularly keen on international labour. We've seen a marked change of opinion since then and today increasingly more of their clients are talking about the benefits of knowledge from different countries and cultures. English has become a corporate language for most clients in the industry."
Boosts business with product companies
Another matter that has been discussed is how the consulting industry and working as a consultant is perceived by pupils and parents. Here, too, perceptions have changed as more people have become aware of all the interesting assignments conducted by consulting companies, as well as the great expertise, passion and collaboration found within and between the consulting companies and their clients, whether currently acting as competitors or serving a mutual client.
The technology consulting industry plays an extremely important role in new investments and business establishments in the region. Moreover, the technology consulting industry is also important to initially getting a foot in the region or contributing to a contract with a product company. The consulting companies can support the initial establishment, participate in preparations to help a prospective subcontractor qualify for the automotive industry, or mediate contacts with the right people in the automotive cluster by means of their services to and knowledge about networks and players.
"Similarly, many of the consulting companies have their feelers out and deliver to successful automotive companies throughout Europe and the rest of the world, several of them through local operations in other countries. More companies could use them as a springboard for future exports, internationalisation or acquiring business intelligence about a new market," says Per.
Green Gothenburg regularly helps overseas delegations arrange visits to Gothenburg, such as to study sustainable business and technology solutions. And each time it does, the delegates raise the question of how the city's solutions could be mirrored in or adopted by their own countries or cities.
"There's great potential here for technology consultants, in collaboration with leading product companies, to actively increase Swedish exports by cooperating with and offering solutions to other regions in the world. Today, it's increasingly rare to sell an individual product, instead you sell a system solution. The challenge lies here, as does the potential for greater collaboration and increased exports," says Per.
What's the secret behind our unique position?
Gothenburg has a world-leading position in the automotive industry with a highly innovative cluster encompassing all aspects of both current and future mobility, whether that be safety solutions or self-driving, connected, electric vehicles. We have the Volvo companies, research and development, favourable business environments, projects such as Drive Me and Born to Drive and an undoubtedly unique openness to collaboration.
And, as mentioned, we also have a technology consulting industry that works in close concert with the automotive industry. To present the breadth of the industry and to provide insight into the automotive cluster from a consultant's perspective, we'll visit a few of the leading players in a series of articles.
What's their take on development in the automotive industry? How do they find working in the Gothenburg region? And what's the secret behind our unique position?