The Swedish Proving Ground Association (SPGA) was founded in 2002 to bring together entrepreneurs in the vehicle testing industry.
Important issues at the time were better mobile network coverage in the region and access to fibre to the facilities. Over the years, structural issues have been complemented by more direct research and development issues. An increasingly strong testing cluster has emerged, which is a natural development related to the high-tech work of the industry's clients in the region.
Today, the association is led by the four largest testing companies in the region. The main purpose of SPGA is to define and develop prioritised areas and to create a collaborative cluster to provide the test environments of the future. The starting point for the ongoing development is of course the subarctic winters. People come here to test and develop the next generation of robust and durable products.
The four main actors within the test cluster want to act as a driving force in the transition work and have the following vision and mission:
To create a world-class test region for sustainability.
Mission To be the obvious test region for global players whose focus is on mobility within sustainable societies.
Society is changing and so is the automotive industry. In the coming decade, we therefore invite association members from different sectors to define test and validation procedures for sustainable mobility and to develop concepts for the society of the future. We have already started this journey by inviting stakeholders from community development, academia and companies from the energy sector.
Winter testing in the automotive industry has its origins in the mountain airstrips on Lake Hornavan's ice. By the time the first deal was struck in the early 1970s, there was already testing activity in areas such as defence, aerospace, power generation and mining. In the 1980s, the scale of vehicle testing grew rapidly and the shared use of ploughed straight tracks on the sea ice was supplemented by completely dedicated track geometries, workshops/offices/garages/meeting rooms and, last but not least, test tracks on land. This extended the season, increased the number of entrepreneurs and the new testing industry is growing to catch up and overtake all other testing industries. Around 2010, a consolidation towards fewer but bigger players takes place in the industry. Sales figures and growth continue to increase. Today, the vehicle testing industry contributes significantly to Sweden's trade surplus from services. The industry is also extremely important for the region in terms of employment, as it employs many residents both directly and indirectly.
Today, the winter testing area stretches from northern Västerbotten up to Norrbotten's northernmost municipality of Kiruna. In total, there are about 30 facilities in the region. Most of them are located in the municipalities of Arjeplog, Arvidsjaur and Älvsbyn, with Arjeplog being the centre. Much of the business is done in secret, but it is now no secret that a large proportion of the world's leading vehicle manufacturers, system suppliers and tyre manufacturers are on site every winter. This concentration makes the region the place in the world where most of the players in the automotive sector meet at the same time. The industry generates more than 100,000 guest nights in a normal year. In recent years, there has also been a clear trend towards year-round operation. Electric vehicles undergoing long-term testing using the region's green electricity, tyre manufacturers setting up tracks that can also be used in summer, year-round winter operation in climate-controlled halls, three-shift testing with daylight around the clock and much more.