Uppsala Place Brand Analysis

imageA team from Bearing has over the past two months worked on analysis and recommendations for an updated place brand for the city of Uppsala in Sweden, and today we delivered our report. The assignment has been a follow-on from a strategy  analysis project which we are working on for Uppsala county and Uppsala city since January this year.

Place branding is more relevant and important than ever for the success of cities. The global competition of places is estimated to host 2,7 million towns, 3 thousand large cities and 455 large metropolitan areas with a population over one million. All of them compete in the struggle for attention and in this international competition, Uppsala could do better.

Place branding is the process of image communication to a target market. All places compete with other places for people (visitors, residents), resources, and business. Rather than being advertising-based, efficient place branding is about delivering an exceptional experience that is memorable and emotional. In this sense, place branding is actually a bridge building activity between stakeholders and several target markets. The integration between the main target markets is therefore an important issue for place success.


In analysing a place brand, one should always start by understanding the dominating trends in the three main target markets. For some places with a strong demand for talents, residents are most important. For other places with unemployment and economic stagnation, investors and companies are the top priority, and available talents and labour are an attraction factor. For other places, historical or cultural attractions are the assets and tourists are the prime target market.

For Uppsala, the city is already doing very well, although it could do better in the international competition for talents, business establishment and investors within the niches where the city has a competitive edge. No city today can succeed in the long run without a clear place brand, and fortunately for Uppsala the city´s competitive edge is quite clear and well anchored in its past.

Historically, Uppsala has a great story. In the origin, before the arrival of Christianity in Sweden, Uppsala was a religious centre. The Temple at Uppsala was the core of the ancient Norse religion and one of the most important ceremonial sacred sites in Scandinavia, hosting regular sacrificial rites and burials of royalty.


The Uppsala temple, which was described in detail by Adam of Bremen in the 1070s, housed wooden statues of the Norse gods Odin, Thor and Freyr. A golden chain hung across its gables and the inside was richly decorated with gold. The temple had priests, who sacrificed to the gods according to the needs of the people and the Swedish Kings and their royal families were given elaborate funerals and rich burials in barrows near the temple.

The pagan temple at Uppsala was probably destroyed by king Ingold I in 1087, during the last battle between the pagans and the Christians. A church was built on top of the temple ruins, and this was the cathedral of Sweden until the archbishopric moved to the modern site of Uppsala in 1273. The Uppsala name was used for the first time in an official document in 1286.

imageThe Uppsala University was founded in 1477 and then throughout hundreds of years, knowledge about Uppsala has been communicated by bishops, academics, prominent culture sector people and students of Uppsala University. The city was presented as a place of knowledge, research and culture and this is the image which remains in many people’s perception of Uppsala. In the 16th-century a royal castle was built, and throughout much of its early history, the castle played a major role in the history of Sweden.

Uppsala has always also been a place of market and business, from the early history of the Uppsala temple where people from across the Scandinavian peninsula gathered for the religious ceremonies. In 1951, the Stockholm based pharmaceutical company Pharmacia moved to Uppsala, to get closer to the Uppsala University scientists with whom they cooperated, and this ignited the development of life sciences industry in the city. In the 1990s Pharmacia was acquired by Pfizer and the city lost its corporate driver when the Uppsala site was almost completely closed down in the early years of the Uppsala Place Brand – Analysis and Recommendations Report present century. Only Phadia, the former Pharmacia diagnostics plan now owned by Thermo-Fischer, survives.

However, when the many experts who had been employed by Pharmacia lost their jobs, this ignited an entrepreneurial drive which timed well with the rise of user demand for customized rather than generic solutions to health care challenges, and there has been a boom of life sciences SMEs originating from the city.

Through the one thousand years of history described in summary above, the place brand of Uppsala developed to be a place of religious importance, knowledge, research and business.


In 2003, the city government, the university, business sector representatives and civil society came together in an understanding that there was a need to clarify the brand of Uppsala. A number of studies were conducted to assess the Uppsala residents image of their city. The core conclusion was the quite obvious conclusion that the core characteristics of Uppsala is the city being a university city with a history and a hectic student life. The aim with the process in 2003-2005 was to broaden the image of Uppsala by clarifying the advantages the city has as a destination. The brand platform that was produced had as vision that Uppsala is exciting arena of knowledge, culture and business.

Place branding is the process of image communication to chosen target markets, and the primary purpose of the branding work in 2003-2005 was for Uppsala’s residents themselves to see that Uppsala was so much more than a university city with history and student life, as had been concluded from the initial surveys. Much was about to increase the pride and the knowledge of everything the city has to offer. Many successful events, promotions and development efforts were initiated by this early work, including the Sports City and City of Culture concepts and events.

The people’s opinion on Uppsala was revisited through a survey in 2009, and then apart from the city of knowledge and research and history had been complemented by the attractive city of living as become an important implicit place brand factor.

For the place brand identity and communication towards residents, talents, investors and present- and future business sector companies, we believe that the city brand of Uppsala should contain the four components in the model below, which is consistent with both the place branding work made in 2003-2005 and the new ideas in the on-going revision.

Further, for the smart specialisation of the city the emphasis should be on how well the Knowledge City, the Research City and the Innovation Support system actors collaborate to support entrepreneurship, start-ups and growth companies, and thereby to attract talents, primarily within the city´s strong industry sectors, being life science and tech growth companies.

The innovation support system of Uppsala, with the internationally recognised Uppsala Innovation Centre (UIC), the science park, Uppsala Bio, STUNS, incubators and other support organisations is in itself the strongest smart specialisation opportunity for Uppsala and should be communicated as such, through both information which actors are in the system, how they work, success stories they have produced and how they link into value chains. The report we have delivered to the city of Uppsala today develops this in detail and provides recommendations for implementation.


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