Sharpens Kista’s innovation edge

Located in Kista, Ericsson's global headquarters stands as a major employer with about 13,000 people within their organization. Ericsson and Kista have grown side by side for decades, and the company continues to contribute to the district’s evolution. Today, with greater openness and frequent collaboration with other stakeholders who share the vision of the future Kista. Prime examples include the Ericsson Innovation Lab, the “invention garage” nestled in the heart of Kista, open to all curious minds, and the partnership with The Kloud to create the creative hub known as Kista Innovation Park.


Nearly 50 years have passed since the first Ericsson companies moved to Kista. The rest is, as they say, history. The modern telecommunication required to fill our mobile phones and computers with content – and to drive the rapid development of the “Internet of things” – would certainly not have been where it is at today, without the intense and innovative development that for a long time has been the hallmark of Kista.
- The first employees who arrived in Kista during the mid-1970s could hardly imagine what the future would bring – neither for Ericsson as a company nor for Kista as a district. Back then, some areas were lacking roads and could be so muddy that employers working in certain buildings were forced to walk on wooden planks, laid out as a pathway, to reach the office, says Magnus Norrman, Head of Hardware Engineering Unit Systems and Technology at Ericsson.
When including both employees and consultants, about 13,000 people work within Ericsson's organization in Kista today. This is where the global headquarters is located, as well as where a significant part of the company’s research and development is still conducted. Many other companies connected to Ericsson, such as subcontractors and consultants, have also established themselves here.



Magnus Norrman

Ericsson’s Innovation Lab – the “invention garage”

The telecom industry has traditionally been quite secretive. Development work has often taken place behind locked doors and windowless walls. Of course, there is still much secrecy around product development, as being first with the latest technology and the best solutions is highly valuable. But Ericsson also has a new strategy involving increased openness and inclusion – even in their innovation work.
An interesting example of the new direction is the Ericsson Innovation Lab, which is located across the street from the demo center “Ericsson Studio” and is a part of Kista Innovation Park. Since its opening in May, the Innovation Lab has offered exciting technology experiences and a glimpse of the future for both pre-booked and spontaneous visitors.
- Our Innovation Lab in Kista is one of Ericsson’s many innovation centers around the world. We usually call them “garages”, since many of the big tech companies actually started in garages once upon a time. An example is when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began the collaboration that later resulted in the company Apple. We want to create a similar creative and not too regimented startup environment here, says Catalin Matei, one of Ericsson’s managers for Kista Innovation Lab.


Metal containers with future technology

The slightly rough garage feel in the Innovation Lab is obvious. The premises consist of three large, furnished metal containers, where visitors can experience and test the technology of the future. One example is the “Connected Greenhouse” – a greenhouse that uses sensors and artificial intelligence to optimize the supply of water and nutrients to maximize the harvest on minimal space. On that same sustainable theme there is the Connected Beehive, where sensors and AI-based control systems create optimal conditions in two beehives placed on the roof of Ericsson buildings nearby. In another container, visitors can use VR technology to experience climbing a dizzyingly high mast to install a base station.
In the third container, visitors are invited to sit down in a fixed driver's seat which comes with a steering wheel, gas, brake, and gearbox. Via the 5G network, the seat is connected to a remote-controlled race car which can be driven on the huge blue plastic mat outside the container. On a screen in the container, and thanks to the cameras installed on the car, the driver can see what is in front of the car, just like they are looking through a windshield. Since the signal travels so quickly via the mobile network, it is possible to sit thousands of miles away and still control the car almost in real time. The technology not only allows for play and racing but can also be used to increase safety and precision in, for example, mining operations or drone flying.
- Innovation and development are both in Ericsson's DNA. The playful and small-scale found here at the Innovation Lab is needed to unleash creativity and encourage people to think outside their usual box. The company encourages both employees, students, and others to drive their own projects all the way from idea to prototype. Not necessarily because the work should result in a finished and marketable product, but rather because the project and development journey promote both the individuals’ and the company’s innovation capability, says Catalin Matei.


"Big Blue Mat" has something for everyone

Catalin Matei, originally from Romania, runs Kista Innovation Lab together with colleague Sasha Galic from Croatia. They are also responsible for the "Big Blue Mat," the 1,250 square meter activity area in Kista Innovation Park. The imagination and creativity are the only limits to the mat’s use. Since it was installed last fall, it has hosted – apart from 5G racing with remote-controlled cars – Lego building workshops and yoga classes, qigong, and other workout sessions. There has also been live music, mingling, and basketball and football played on the giant meeting place

The Innovation Lab, Big Blue Mat, and the box park, which has been filled with culture and entertainment from May to September this year, together create Kista Innovation Park – a close collaboration between Ericsson, The Kloud, and the property owners in Kista Limitless. It is a unique pilot project that has had a very good start, according to Sasha Galic:

- We have “garages” in many different places in the world. But this is really the most inviting and inclusive, as we welcome all types of visitors, including spontaneous ones. Regardless of age, we want to awaken the visitors’ creativity and curiosity about future technology – and about Ericsson as a company. If the project continues to be as successful as it has been so far, we hope to be able to open similar facilities in other cities where we operate.


From Katrineholm to Kista via Nanjing

Magnus Norrman has a well-established career at Ericsson, even if he was not there when wooden planks were needed to get to the offices in Kista. He grew up in Katrineholm and began his Ericsson career at their local production unit around the beginning of the 21st century.
- I was introduced to the development work early, or “R and D”’ as we say, which stands for “Research and Development”. The rapid technological development, where Ericsson is a global leader, caught my interest and made me eager to try different roles within the company. I came to Kista in 2014, after coming back from Nanjing and Beijing, where I worked and lived for five years together with my family.



Sasha Galic and Catalin Matei

Communications, services, nature, and international vibe

Ericsson is an international company with a wide operation and a large diversity of employees. Therefore, Kista's geographical location and good communications are a great advantage. It is easy to get to and from both Stockholm city and the Central Station, as well as Arlanda and Bromma airports – and soon, the tramway will also start running through the district.
- Kista is an extremely central place for Ericsson's corporate culture and innovation work. For me, who commutes by train from Katrineholm four days a week, it is great to be able to take both the train and the subway. I also like the international “vibe” in Kista, the wide lunch selection, and the well-assorted mall. Another advantage is the proximity to Järvafältet, where I sometimes have “walk and talks” with colleagues either walking next to me or talking from the other side of the world in my headset, says Magnus.
Sasha Galic adds:
- There are not many places that can accommodate such a large ecosystem as Ericsson's. It’s also quite remarkable that we, in collaboration with The Kloud, have been able to create Kista Innovation Park in the middle of the business area in a relatively short time. Here we also have close access to the universities, from where we recruit interns, undergraduates, and graduates. In addition to The Kloud and the academia, we also have good collaborations with Kista Science City, the local property owners, and City of Stockholm, the municipality.


Kista in ten years

Magnus Norrman is asked what he thinks could be improved in Kista and what he believes the district will look like in ten years. The answers come without much hesitation:
- The historical division of Kista into a residential half and an office half benefits no one. Therefore, it is great to see that new homes are now being built and planned in many places throughout the business area. When people not only work but also live here, local services will develop, and the area will become livelier, especially in the evenings and weekends.
- Ten years is not a very long time for urban development, but I do envision a very vital Kista, where trams pass by new residences, schools, kindergartens, restaurants, and other services. A district that is alive during all days and evenings of the week, with a natural mix of residents, students, and employees of various ages. I also see interesting new buildings, a well-developed charging infrastructure, autonomous vehicles, and underground parking instead of the dull asphalt areas. That’s where we are heading – as soon as possible!

About Ericsson

101 000 employees globally
13 000 employees in Sweden (more than 100 different nationalities)
Clients in 180 countries
271 billion SEK in sales (2022)
60 000 registered patents
Founded 1876 by Lars Magnus Ericsson
Group CEO today is Börje Ekholm

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