Eight groundbreaking Stockholm inventions that changed the world

The 2022 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is soon upon us. This year, locally-born geneticist, Svante Pääbo, will receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in sequencing the Neanderthal genome. Stockholm has a long history of innovation, creativity and ingenuity, and here are a few examples of fellow Stockholm trailblazers responsible for some truly world-changing inventions.

Eight groundbreaking Stockholm inventions that changed the world
Stockholm's City Hall, where the Nobel Prizes are awarded. Photo: Visit Stockholm

GPS for navigation

Håkan Lans’s navigation system, the STDMA (Self-organising Time Division Multiple Access), is used globally, including on our mobile phone GPS systems. This navigation system employs both GPS and radio to help all road, air traffic and maritime traffic avoid collisions and becoming lost. Stockholm-born Lans had nearly four decades worth of scientific research experience at the University of Stockholm, and he spent 15 years and roughly 2.6 billion Swedish kronor (€238m) worth of venture capital to develop, test and demonstrate the STDMA data link before the patent was published in 1997.


This list would not be complete without including Spotify, who changed the world of music forever. Launched in Stockholm in 2006, today it’s the most popular music streaming provider in the world and with more than 456 million monthly active users, including 195 million paying subscribers. Spotify is now so globally recognised that it’s inspired its own Netflix TV series, The Playlist, which focuses on its invention by coder and co-founder Daniel Ek, and the growth of Spotify into a tech unicorn.

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Daniel Ek, of Spotify. Photo: Supplied.


Alfred Nobel, born in Stockholm in 1833, wanted to make construction sites safer to work by developing a safe nitroglycerin explosive for workmen to use. First he invented the blasting cap and then he discovered that a siliceous earth, kieselguhr, would stabilise nitroglycerin, thus making dynamite, a relatively stable explosive.

However, Nobel was deeply troubled by the way his inventions came to be used in war and became increasingly concerned with advancing the cause of worldwide peace.

He died in 1896, leaving his sizeable estate as an endowment for annual awards in chemistry, physics, medicine or physiology, literature, and peace, all of which represented his lifelong interests.

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While working at the Municipal Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Stockholm, Carl Gunnar Engström invented the Engström Universal Respirator. It was the first mechanical ventilator that could deliver breaths of controllable volume and frequency and also deliver inhalation anaesthetics. Mechanical ventilators soon became a standard feature of all anaesthesia machines, thereby hugely improving patient safety.


By 1958, 43-year-old former Swedish hockey star, Arne Larsson, was nearing death. His heart stopped beating up to 20 times a day, requiring his wife, Else-Marie, to resuscitate him each time with chest compressions. Larsson was clearly dying. But Else-Marie did not give up on him. She had read that a doctor, Åke Senning, was working with an engineer Rune Elmqvist at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, to develop a cardiac pacemaker that could be implanted into the body. She made sure she spoke to them every day to convince them to let her husband be the first to have the device fitted. They eventually consented and the device, despite problems at first, was a success. Arne lived until 2001, when he died at the ripe old age of 86, even outliving the device’s engineer Rune Elmqvist, who passed away in 1996.

One of Sweden’s greatest innovations, the pacemaker, seen on a chest X-Ray. Photo: Getty Images

European banknotes

Stockholms Banco was the first European bank to print banknotes. It was founded in 1657 by Johan Palmstruch in Stockholm, and began printing banknotes in 1661. It was the immediate predecessor to the central bank of Sweden, founded in 1668 as Riksens Ständers Bank and renamed in 1866 as Sveriges Riksbank, which is the world’s oldest surviving central bank.

Household refrigerator

In 1922, when Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters were civil engineering students at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, they were working on an exam project and ended up inventing and developing a cooling cabinet for food: the gas absorption refrigerator. Humans had cooled food and drinks in cellars and ice boxes for generations but these cooling solutions were large, bulky, and very expensive, making them inaccessible to most people. Von Platen and Munters’ solution, however, made household refrigerators cheaper and more accessible to all and the refrigerator became a worldwide success.


In May 2009, Stockholm-born Markus Persson published a game called Minecraft, a virtual sandbox where players could build anything they could imagine. Minecraft became incredibly popular with children (and their parents who saw it as an almost educational game). It has sold more than 238 million copies as of 2022, according to Microsoft, who bought the gaming franchise from Persson in 2014 for $2.5 billion (€2.4billion).

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How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Stockholm?

The cost of renting an apartment directly in Stockholm has risen over the last year, but the price of sublets is stable or falling. Here's how much you can now expect to pay in Sweden's biggest city.

How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Stockholm?

Sweden’s housing market is tightly controlled, with rents from the big private and municipal landlords set in negotiations with the Swedish Tenants’ Association, or Hyresgästsförening. Subletting rents – theoretically at least – are supposed to cover the costs of the apartment without making a profit.

So far this year, the hikes agreed with the Tenants’ Association have been well below the headline rate of inflation, meaning rents are falling in Sweden in real terms. The latest statistics on sublets, meanwhile, indicate that, in many areas, rents have been falling even in nominal terms – without being adjusted for inflation.

“In the wake of economic crisis, interest rate hikes and inflation, more and more Swedes are seeing the need to rent out part or all of their property,” explained Fredrik Strömsten, chief executive of Qasa, which runs Blocket’s property listings site, in a report in April.

There had, he said, been an “explosive increase in the number of sublets”. 

How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Stockholm directly? 

The most recent rental numbers from Statistics Sweden data back to the end of 2022.

These show that while upmarket areas like Östermalm and Södermalm are the most expensive areas to rent in, so-called “first-hand apartments” (apartments rented directly via the municipality’s housing queue) there are only about a third more expensive than much less desirable areas of the city. 

These rates, however, give quite a misleading idea of the real cost of living in these parts of the city.

With queues for rental apartments in these areas running to longer than ten years, most foreigners coming to the capital are unlikely to ever get a chance to rent at such rates, and we’ll get to that further down in the article.

Nonetheless, rents across Sweden are rising more slowly than inflation and Stockholm is no exception. According to Hem & Hyra, the news site run by the Tenants’ Association, the big private and municipal landlords proposed hiking rents by an average of 9.04 percent at the start of the year, but by the end of February the Tenants’ Association had managed to bargain this down to 4.22 percent.

So if you’re lucky enough to get to rent an apartment directly from a municipal or private landlord, you can expect to pay about 5 percent more than the numbers in the table above. 


What are rents like outside central Stockholm? 

If you decide to live outside central Stockholm, rent can be considerably cheaper, but it can also more expensive if you live in the desirable municipalities such as Täby, which is home to the Danderyd area where many of Stockholm’s richest have their villas.  

How much does it cost to sublet an apartment in Stockholm? 

As a foreigner coming to Sweden, you are much more likely to end up subletting an apartment, using sites like Blocket or The Local’s own rental platform

Although Sweden’s rental rules are designed to prevent subletting for profit, in reality you will often find yourself paying a hefty premium.

But according to the most recent statistics from Blocket and Qasa, sublet rents are stable or falling as cash-strapped renters are forced to sublet rooms or their entire apartments.

The number of sublet announcements on their platform for Stockholm was 78.8 percent higher in the first three months of this years than it was in the first three months of 2022.

As you might expect, sublets in Norrmalm, Östermalm and Södermalm are the priciest, going for roughly double what you would pay for directly leasing an apartment in these areas.