Municipalities, county councils and regions face major challenges with increased cost pressures, changing demographics and changing demands from different user groups. In addition, extensive efforts are needed for the provision of skills and recruitment of future employees. As this require new solutions and ways of working SALAR works to strengthen the innovation capacity of our members.

The Innovation Barometer

For the first time, a survey of innovation in the public sector has been made in Sweden. The survey was performed in 2018 by SALAR, in collaboration with the City of Gothenburg, the Council for the Stockholm Mälar Region, and Vinnova, which has also provided funding.

The aim of the project is to establish a regular survey of innovation in the whole public sector, and to contribute to:

  • increased knowledge of the public sector’s innovation ability in Sweden
  • an overview of innovation development in the country
  • inspiration for improved quality and efficiency in the public sector through innovation
  • better material for politicians and other decision-makers to make decisions on

What is the Innovation Barometer?

The Innovation Barometer is a quantitative survey that consists of two questionnaires.

Census Survey on Management Level

One of the questionnaires has been sent to all municipalities, regions, county councils and authorities.

Census survey on management level (PDF, new window)

  • The population consists of 525 organisations.
  • The form is sent to the organisation’s central email address, addressed to the person responsible for innovation and development issues.
  • It includes questions about strategy, direction, organisation and financing of overall innovation work. Everyone is also asked to what degree a number of factors that are considered important for innovation work exist in the organisation.

Sample survey on workplace level

The other questionnaire has been sent to 5,300 public sector workplaces.

Sample survey on workplace level (PDF, new window)

  • The questionnaire is sent to the organisation’s central email address, addressed to the manager responsible for the chosen workplace.
  • The population consists of 38,000 publically owned workplaces.
  • The selection is random, but stratified so that comparisons can be made between different sectors, workplaces of different sizes, and different municipality groups.
  • The workplaces respond to the questionnaire anonymously, and the result is presented summatively or for various groups.

The questionnaire sent to workplaces asks if any innovation has been introduced over the past two years. If at least one innovation has been introduced, a number of questions about the latest innovation follow. Everyone is also asked whether a number of factors that are considered important for innovation work are present in the workplace or not.

Low Response Rate

The result of the Innovation Barometer shows that work with innovation is ongoing among many public sector parties, and that the innovations that are developed are useful for the organisations. The study does not, however, give a complete picture of the innovation ability in the public sector, as the response rate is relatively low. The census survey on the management level had a response rate of 46.86 per cent, which equals 246 responses, while the sample survey on the workplace level had a response rate of 31.9 per cent; 1,608 responses.

The Nordic Innovation Barometer has been an Inspiration

Work is based on the Innovation Barometer, which was initiated by Danish organisation the National Centre for Public Innovation, COI. The barometer survey has been carried out twice in Denmark, in 2015 and 2017, and once in Norway, in 2017, by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, KS. In 2018, surveys have also been performed in Finland, Iceland, and in the Norwegian state sector.

Some Results

  • Eight in ten of the workplaces that have responded to the questionnaire have introduced at least one innovation over the past two years. More still have begun working with the development of innovations during this period.
  • Needs and expectations of citizens are described as the most important factor that led to work with the latest innovation being initiated. For strategic innovation work, however, societal challenges are the most important.
  • New or changed ways of organising work, such as new processes or new modus operandi, is the most common type of innovation. Around half of the innovations are of more than one type.
  • Better quality is the most common benefit that the innovations lead to.
  • Most innovations are inspired by another solution but adapted to suit the workplace. More rarely do people invent something completely new.
  • Lack of time and other resources is highlighted as the biggest challenge in work with innovation, both in the census survey and in the workplace survey.


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