Scandinavian Mind X Expo 2020 Sweden
”Now is the time for great innovations and disruptive thinking to make sure that we have a planet 170 years ahead”
On the Swedish participation in Expo 2020 Dubai
11 Oct 2021

Since the start of October this year, Expo 2020 in Dubai opened its doors to the world. Sweden’s participation at the world exhibition comes in the form of The Forest pavilion. We speak to programme and marketing director Mattias Hansson on what to expect from the international fair.

You describe Expo 2020 as the Olympics for knowledge. What do you mean by that?

— For six months, from the first of October 2021 to the 31st of March 2022, over 190 countries in Dubai will show each other and the world how we should push this beautiful planet in front of us for generations to come.

Why is this so important?

— Many people, especially younger people, ask me, “What?! Do you grown-ups still do those world exhibitions?” The fact is, they are more important than ever. If you are going to solve the great issues, the best thing is still to meet up, even though we have all these digital communication tools. Expo 2020 will be the first world exhibition to really take on sustainability. Expo celebrates 170 years this year. Now is the time for great innovations and disruptive thinking to make sure that we have a planet 170 years ahead. 

You work for the Secretariat of Expo 2020 Sweden, which is the Swedish Pavilion and its activations in Dubai. What is the setup?

— We do it the Swedish way. This means that the Swedish government took a decision to get involved in Expo 2020 and committed to funding 50 per cent of the costs. We are used to collaborating, cooperating and co‑working together between governments and enterprises. 

When you look at the partner and sponsor list, you have pretty much every big Swedish industrial and innovation company being a part of this. Can you give a sense of how important this is for these private enterprises?

— Let’s divide it into the three most interesting parts when it comes to business. Firstly, it’s a way to meet up with your clients. Secondly, it’s an exchange of ideas and innovations. If you spend just a few hours there, you’ll have access to new experiences and knowledge that you can bring home to your country and organisation. Thirdly, it’s actually a big peace manifestation. If you connect 190‑plus countries for six months, focusing on innovation and how to push this planet forward together, it’s a pretty great manifestation for the world. I think that’s pretty cool.

Sweden is very export‑dependent. Can you elaborate?

— Approximately every 10th worker in Sweden goes to work each day because of our exports. That pretty much says it all. We are a beautiful but far away country, up in the cold and dark North. We have a lot of natural resources. We’re great in exporting services, not least online services with all the unicorns coming from here. We’ve become pretty good in selling our stuff all over the world to make sure that we can grow as a country. We want to continue that way. 

The Swedish Pavilion is called The Forest. Perhaps unsurprisingly built by wood. Can you tell me it?

— The Swedish Pavilion, The Forest, it’s a beautiful architectural achievement. It will really give you a sense of being in a Swedish forest even though it’s a very graphical solution. It’s built of wood from Sweden, which is pretty environmental friendly because you don’t use any concrete or steel in the construction. It’s easy to understand why it’s the most sustainable way of building housing because every tree we cut in Sweden, we plant at least two new ones. We use our pavilion at the Expo as a showcase for building constructions in wood. It’s a beautiful solution.

What happens inside?

— There are three floors in the pavilion. The first is open for everyone. There’s a great exhibition showing off the best new Swedish innovations. There’s the co‑creation stage, where we will present events, artists, speakers, seminars and stuff focused around this Swedish speciality of co‑creation. Upstairs we have a conference section built like huts hanging in the trees. There is a kitchen, headed up by the people behind the Nobel diner, and a rooftop lounge with beautiful views over the Emirati desert and the Expo area. 

The credo for the Swedish Expo offering is, ”Co‑creation for innovation.” Can you say more about that?

— Co‑creation is something we’re especially good at in Sweden. Innovation is the buzzword of our time. Everybody knows that we need to push things forward. The combination of the wording sets the pace not only for Sweden, but for the whole world community for many years to come.