Swedish research in figures

How much government funding is spent on research? And how well is Swedish research doing in international comparison? Here you can read about the allocation of government funding and our role in the research system. We have also summarised data on our own research funding.

How is Swedish research funded?

Research and development (R&D) is defined as “creative and systematic work aimed at increasing the amount of knowledge and finding new applications for existing knowledge within all fields of science”. R&D therefore includes basic research, applied research and experimental development.

In order for an activity to be classified as R&D, it has to fulfil a number of different criteria. For example, it must be innovative, based on original concepts and hypotheses, and carried out systematically, and it must also be possible to reproduce.

The proportion of a country’s GDP that is spent on R&D and the proportion of the population that are active researchers are both measures of the amount of resources a country spends on R&D. In international comparison, Sweden is near the top in terms of investment in R&D.

In Sweden, business enterprise is the sector with the highest expenditure on R&D. Higher education institutions absorb around 23 per cent of the total Swedish R&D expenditure, and are mostly funded by the government.

Table of the cash flows in the Swedish R&D system 2021.

Funding of research and development can be seen from two perspectives: divided up by funder (top edge of figure) or divided up by research performer (bottom edge of figure). The figure shows the financial volume in billion SEK, and the cash flows in the Swedish R&D system for 2021. Source: The Swedish Research Barometer 2023.

How much government funding is spent on research?

For 2023, 46.8 billion SEK of the government budget was expected to be spent on R&D. This corresponds to 3.7 per cent of the total government budget, and 0.7 per cent of GDP. The proportion of R&D funding as a percentage of GDP has remained more or less unchanged since 2015.

Around 70 per cent of the R&D funding goes to the general advancement of science, while around 30 per cent is used for various socio-economic purposes, such as transports, industrial activities, or defence.

Targeted initiatives from the Government

The Government sometimes earmarks money for research areas that are considered to be particularly important. Public agencies, including the Swedish Research Council, are responsible for implementing the targeted initiatives. One example is the national research programmes.

The Swedish Research Council distributes nearly 8 billion SEK

The Swedish Research Council distributes almost 8 billion SEK each year to research and research infrastructure at Swedish higher education institutions. This means that we fund just over one tenth of the research carried out at higher education institutions in Sweden.

We are the largest external funding body for research at Sweden’s higher education institutions in most scientific fields. We are also the only research funding body in Sweden to fund research in all scientific fields.

How we allocate our funds

The Government’s guidelines and our own funding strategy govern how we allocate funding between different types of research support.

The largest amount of funds goes to projects for independent research. A large portion also goes to advanced tools in the form of infrastructures that researchers require. Other types of support are grants to research environments, collaboration and career support.

Most support goes to projects for independent research

The greater part of our research funding goes to project support in the form of project grants, where researchers have the freedom to formulate their own research concepts, methods, and implementation. Undirected project grants can be applied for in all subject areas.

We select the best research concepts in a process with open calls, in competition, and following a detailed peer review and prioritisation.

Major responsibility for research infrastructures

The Swedish Research Council funds research infrastructures in Sweden and other countries. Research infrastructures are advanced tools that researchers require in order to carry out their research. Examples include databases, research facilities, biobanks and large-scale computational tools.

A portion of the funds that we allocate to research infrastructures goes to various memberships in large international research facilities, such as the particle physics laboratory European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the neutron-scattering facility European Spallation Source (ESS), which is currently under construction in Lund, Sweden.

We allocate funding to research infrastructure via our calls for up to 50 per cent of the overall budget. Really large national research infrastructures, such as MAX IV next-generation synchrotron radiation facility the synchrotron light facilitylaboratory MAX IV, sometimes require a larger collaboration effort on funding. Additional partners are then involved.



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Difference between research and development

Research is about systematically searching for new knowledge or new ideas, with or without a specific application area in mind. Development is about using research results and scientific knowledge to create new products, services, processes, systems and methods, or to improve those that already exist.


Analysis and evaluation



  1. Forskning.se – for news and communication about research

    Forskning.se publishes news about research from Swedish universities, research institutes, and research organisations. The Swedish Research Council coordinates the development of forskning.se, and the editorial team is based at our offices.

  2. New research collaboration with USA on 6G, quantum technology, AI and other areas

    The Swedish Research Council and Vinnova have signed a five year declaration of intent with the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which will facilitate research and innovation collaborations between Sweden and USA.

  3. Agreements completed with four publishers of open access journals

    Last autumn, the Swedish Research Council, Formas, Forte, and Vinnova made a focus decision to fund publishing using publishers that only produce journals with full open access. Agreements have now been entered into with four publishers.