Sweden - Global health R&D

This section focuses on donor countries' support to global health research and development (R&D) that addresses the global health challenges disproportionately affecting the world's most disadvantaged people. Following the methodological approach used by Policy Cures Research (read G-Finder's scope document), it focuses on donor funding and policy in three main areas: 1) emerging infectious diseases (EIDs); 2) poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs); and 3) sexual and reproductive health (SRH). As part of the EID R&D funding, this section also takes a closer look at donor contributions for COVID-19 R&D within the framework of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). This section excludes domestic funding for health R&D that does not benefit low- and middle-income countries. Not all funding mentioned qualifies as ODA.)

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Sweden was the 18th-largest donor to global health R&D in 2020 

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, Sweden’s total contributions to R&D for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in 2020 stood at US$14 million, making it the 18th-largest public donor to R&D for these areas. More than half (71%, or US$10 million) of this funding was spent on R&D for PRNDs only. 17% (US$2 million) was spent on R&D for EIDs and 6% (US$1 million) on SRH R&D. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area. 

Sweden spent US$3 million on R&D for EIDs in 2020 

In 2020, Sweden spent US$3 million on R&D for EIDs, including funding exclusively for EID R&D (US$2 million), funding for R&D relevant to both EIDs and PRNDs (US$546,000), and funding that cuts across EIDs, PRNDs, and SRH (US$111,000). This makes Sweden the 11th-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2020.  

Sweden’s funding for EIDs decreased by 32% in 2020, compared to 2019. It is worth noting that it is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks, and these changes do not necessarily indicate a significant re/de-prioritization of the sector; however, consistent funding for EID R&D (for example, funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; CEPI) is essential to ensuring preparedness in advance of EID outbreaks and ensuring a rapid response—in terms of both research and containment—to emerging disease threats.  

Most of Sweden’s EID R&D funding in 2019 went to R&D for more than one disease (45% of EID funding) and to Coronaviral diseases (including MERS, SARS, COVID-19) which also had 45% of EID funding.  

Sweden has stepped up R&D funding to EID through its international COVID-19 response, committing US$13 million between April and October 2020 

According to Policy Cures Research’s COVID-19 R&D tracker, between the start of the pandemic and October 2020 (the latest data available), Sweden announced funding commitments totaling US$13 million for COVID-19 R&D. US$10 million of this represents extra provision to the Swedish Research Council to fund research on COVID-19 vaccine development.  

Sweden’s funding to R&D for PRNDs decreased by 20% in 2020   

In 2020, Sweden invested US$11 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDS (US$10 million), and areas that overlap with EIDs (US$547,000), SRH (US$181,000), and cut across all three areas (US$111,000). This makes Sweden the 12th-largest public funder of PRND R&D in 2020. In 2020, funding levels decreased by 20% compared to 2019.   

Disaggregated by product type, most of Sweden’s funding for PRNDs in 2020 went toward basic research (50%), while 8% was channeled toward drugs. Broken down by disease, more than a quarter of the spending on R&D for PRNDs was directed to R&D for more than one disease (35% of PRND funding in 2020), malaria (30%), and tuberculosis (24%).   

The Swedish government has been a strong supporter of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in its efforts to accelerate vaccine research and global health with a focus on diseases disproportionately affecting people living in poverty. In January 2020, Sweden announced a contribution of SEK50 million (US$5 million) to the institute over the next five years.  

In 2020, Sweden spent US$1 million on R&D for SRH  

In 2020, Sweden spent just over US$1 million on R&D for SRH, including US$181,000 on HIV/AIDS (which is also part of the PRND funding outlined above). This makes Sweden the 14th-largest donor to this sector. In 2020, funding levels declined by 50% compared to 2019 levels—a drop mainly driven by reduced disbursements to R&D for HIV/AIDS (a 78% decrease from US$813,000 in 2019 to US$181,000 in 2020) and human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cervical cancer, which fell by 72% from US$738,000 in 2019 to US$206,000 in 2020. 

Sweden disbursed US$558,000 for R&D for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (51% of total SRH R&D funding), while it allocated 19% of SRH R&D funding for HPV and HPV-related cervical cancer, and 16% for R&D for HIV/AIDS (portions of which are also counted as PRND funding). More than half of Sweden’s funding for SRH R&D went toward basic research (78%), 8% went to drug delivery technologies and devices, and 8% was channeled toward biologics.  

Sida and the Swedish Research Council are the two main funders of global health R&D  

According to G-Finder data, Sweden’s global health R&D funding is typically channeled through two institutions (91% in 2020): the Swedish Research Council (55%, or US$8 million) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida; 36%, or US$5 million). 

  • Sida sources its funding from its ‘research cooperation’ budget line, which amounts to SEK960 million (US$104 million) in 2022 (a marginal increase from 2021). Sida’s partners in the area of global health R&D include the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (ECDTP), the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI).  
  • The Swedish Research Council allocates public funding for R&D and provides active counseling to the government on issues related to R&D. In the past, the Swedish Research Council has mainly financed Sweden’s own Karolinska Institutet, a medical institute that hosts a Center for Global Health, and centers for research on malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, infectious diseases, and other research areas relevant to poverty-related and neglected diseases.

Other key players in Sweden’s global health R&D include Formas, Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development, and Vinnova, Sweden’s innovation agency.  

In line with Sweden’s broader global health priorities, research on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) remains a key priority. Sweden has been a strong advocate for international cooperation on AMR research. In November 2019, the government announced its application to become a member of the ‘Global Knowledge Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Development’ (Global AMR R&D Hub), a policy network created within the framework of the G20 that coordinates AMR research initiatives around the world. For additional information on Sweden’s focus on AMR, please see Sector: ‘Global Health’. 

Strategic orientations are defined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

Strategic orientations are set out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) 2015-2021 ‘Strategy for Research Cooperation and Research in Development Cooperation,’ which has both national and global components. It aims to contribute to high-quality research that is of relevance to poverty reduction and sustainable development within Sweden, as well as to strengthen research capacities in low-income countries and regions.  

Within the MFA, the Department for International Development Cooperation establishes the strategies for Sweden’s international research cooperation. Regarding implementation, Sida’s Research Council reviews Sida’s proposals for cooperation. The ‘Unit for Research Cooperation’ at the Department for Partnerships and Cooperation within Sida manages the funds. Cooperation through the Swedish Research Council is led by the Committee for Development Research.