Sectra's history –
the road to world-leading products

Sectra carried out its first consulting assignment in the late 1970s. A few years later, the company recruited additional joint owners with grand visions for Sectra’s future. This marked the start of the company’s expansion and development into a well-established brand in the area of information security and medical IT. Given the fact that customer confidence is a critical success factor, Sectra has always prioritized stable, long-term growth over rapid, high-risk expansion.

Roots in research

Data security became Sectra’s first niche area in 1978, when a team of researchers from the Institute of Technology at Linköping University were presented with the task of creating a security solution for banks. In order to take on the assignment, Professor Ingemar Ingemarsson formed the company Sectra (SECure TRAnsmission) together with his postgraduate students Viiveke Fåk, Rolf Blom and Robert Forchheimer.

The founders Viiveke Fåk, Robert Forchheimer and Ingemar Ingemarsson in connection with Sectra's Annual General Meeting September 6, 2016.

Sectra's ties with the research community remain strong and the company’s history is marked by innovation and business development that create significant customer value. Linköping University remains a valuable source of knowledge for Sectra and many of the company’s most prominent employees have been recruited from the institute.

Sectra conducts research projects together with universities, hospitals and other players around the world. The Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV) in Linköping, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Lund University, Utrecht University in the Netherlands and University Hospitals in Cleveland in the US are a few examples of Sectra’s research partners. Solutions for digital pathology and 3D trauma surgery are examples of the results of successful university collaborations.

From consultancy to product development

A few years later, Jan-Olof Brüer became a postgraduate student in information theory under the supervision of Professor Ingemarsson. When one of Sectra’s founders left the company, Jan-Olof was recruited as a joint owner, bringing with him new ideas on how to turn Sectra into a “real” company and ultimately taking over as President. The company now transitioned into the development and sale of products and system solutions in data security and image encoding.

We had a good laugh at what we thought was simply Jan-Olof’s flight of fancy. Today, I would say that his vision has been surpassed”, explains Professor Ingemarsson.

While Sectra’s aim has always been to operate in niches with long-term growth potential, not all of its operations throughout the years proved to be successful and some were discontinued or divested. Digital equipment for press photographers, which was launched at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, smart heating regulation systems for apartment buildings and private homes, and communication systems for monitoring air traffic are a few examples.

Then: Year 1987 Sectra presents products for data security and image transfer.

Now: At the RSNA radiology trade fair in Chicago, Sectra presented solutions for more efficient, patient-centered care flows.

National security

After an initial focus on bank customers, Sectra’s operations took a new direction.

Already in 1987, we received a defense order for a new cryptoprocessor. This marked the beginning of our focus on security products for customers in defense departments and government authorities,” explains Jan-Olof Brüer, who is currently a Board member and one of Sectra’s principal owners.

Sectra has been a market leader in crypto equipment for the Swedish Defence Forces since the 1990s and the company’s security products are currently used by government authorities and defense departments in most EU member states.

Then: Year 1999 Sectra delivers telephones to the Swedish Defence Forces, which becomes the first organization in the world to use encrypted mobile communications.

Now: Customers in more than half of all European countries protect their classified information using Sectra’s products.

Medical technology

Guided by a keen interest in medical technology and a vision of digital radiology images, Sectra’s current President and CEO, Torbjörn Kronander, came to the Institute of Technology at Linköping University as a postgraduate student in the 1980s. He was soon recruited to Sectra by Professor Ingemarsson and the company began expanding into digital image management systems for radiology departments in 1989. Imaging IT Solutions is now the company’s largest business area and a niche in which Sectra commands a world-leading position.

Then: Year 1993 Sweden’s first film-free radiology department – using Sectra systems – is opened. Torbjörn Kronander shows how images are sent from a radiology clinic to a nearby hospital via the telephone network.

Now: More than 1,700 hospitals worldwide use Sectra’s medical products and approximately 75 million radiology examinations are managed using Sectra’s systems each year.

International expansion

Sectra decided early on to focus on niche areas with global potential and its first subsidiary outside Sweden was formed in Norway in 1995. The company’s international journey also included plans to become a listed company, and a listing was carried out in 1999. The aim was to confirm that the company had developed into a strong player before turning its focus to the international arena. The listing also enabled strategic acquisitions and financing of the company’s continued expansion. Following the formation of companies in France and Finland in 2015 and in Canada in 2017, Sectra now has subsidiaries in 15 countries.

Past the one billion mark

The Group’s sales surpassed SEK 1 billion for the first time in 2015/2016. Thanks to its long-term private and institutional owners, Sectra has been able to develop at a controlled pace and remain a Swedish company. President Torbjörn Kronander on the company’s historical development:

Sectra has never experienced explosive growth. We have deliberately chosen to prioritize stable, long-term development over rapid, high-risk expansion. We don’t need to be fast. We keep on working and have grown 5–15% per year. Over the years,this really adds up.

Further reading

If you would like to read more about Sectra’s history and how ten Swedish companies have achieved success through exports, we recommend the book (only available in Swedish) Miljardvallen by Forum for Global Business.

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