Blog: Simon WarburtonNetworking in Gothenburg

Simon Warburton | 10 October 2013

My hotel in Gothenburg's hosting an undertaker's company conference - not something I've ever encountered before - but it is and a cheerful bunch they are too.

I don't know if I was expecting anything else, but it's a business just like any else and they have conferences just as we all do, while I just about managed to resist all the puns they must have heard a thousand times.

Moving on from the funeral trade, today (10 October) was also conference day, but this time the FKG's Annual Suppliers Forum in Gothenburg, which brought together an impressive 450 component makers across Scandinavia.

And it took some time, but when his name was finally mentioned on stage in the very impressive auditorium of Gothenburg's prestigious Chalmers University of Technology during the final session of the Forum, a frisson of times past could almost be felt rippling through the room. 

Victor Muller - Saab's former boss and someone used to bringing the house down on several stages himself - was eventually name-checked by - well the automaker's new owners NEVS and then people couldn't stop saying it, Harry Potter like.

NEVS' VP purchasing, Per Svantesson, made his presentation to the 450 suppliers packed into the hall and although gave a tub-thumping glimpse into what many hope will be the rebirth of the 9-3, memories flooded back as the audience remembered Saab in its former incarnation's unhappy descent into bankruptcy.

Today's conference was crammed full of presentations, but what was also striking was the way FKG, much along the lines of CLEPA in Brussels and the SMMT in the UK, are cannily using the breaks and lunches to facilitate generous dollops of networking, everyone standing up and taking advantage to chat. 

That was also certainly the case last night at FKG's 'mingle' dinner in a swanky Gothenburg hotel, that wasn't really a dinner at all, but a much more friendly buffet for the 270 guests, the maximum the venue would allow.

CLEPA does this sort of thing very well and I certainly met people I would never have bumped into from the Swedish component sector and who were good enough to speak their excellent English to me, although I reckon any conversation almost anywhere in the world can be started just by mentioning football, even if one supplier thought I was German.

The evening was essentially Swedish-themed - a point forcefully underlined when an impersonator strode onto the stage dressed as Carl Gustaf - the er King of Sweden.

The King's act was followed by a Swedish stand-up - who I'm told did some pretty good impressions of his country's politicians and sportsmen - but it clearly flew straight over my head.

Back to the conference today and I interviewed Sweden's Enterprise State Secretary, Hakan Ekengren, who was, well, pretty political in his approach, while I also talked to UK Trade & Investment technology specialist, John Kell, as well as FKG chairman, Per-Ewe Wendel.

FKG is a great admirer of the Brits and our influential Automotive Council and with GBP3bn (US$4.8bn) of potential supplier opportunity in the UK, the component makers in the room were rapt with attention to Kell's 'Automotive is Great Britain,' presentation.

I have a free evening tonight and FKG has recommended the Linnegatan area of Gothenburg, so I might give it a go, although something tells me it'll be another night of ice hockey ahead of the huge football games tomorrow.

It looks like there is - another - French air traffic control strike today - but thankfully I'm returning home via Amsterdam tomorrow so should avoid any snowball effect and this time I have some reasonable time to make my connection through one of the world's busiest airports.

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