And this was where a new hero began to play a serious role: Flemming Ørneholm. Ørneholm, a Dane, was employed by SRA in 1977 to sell mobile terminals for the MTD network in Denmark. One challenge was that SRA was offering simplex terminals so that only one person could speak at a time, while the competitors were selling duplex models, which allowed two people to speak at the same time. Ørneholm told his sales representatives to use the following argument:
“Ericsson’s terminals are the best for our operations because they are of the simplex type. Simplex forces the participants in a conversation to express themselves concisely and directly. This means that you can be sure your telephone bills will be no larger than they have to be.”
The simplex terminals soon enabled SRA’s Danish subsidiary to gain a 15 percent market share in Denmark, and SRA paid serious attention to Ørneholm. He was offered a job in Stockholm as head of marketing for the radio division, where he made a creative contribution to SRA’s sales successes in the important start-up phase.
SRA needed, however, to create a development unit for mobile telephones strong enough to match the competitors. It created the Ericsson Mobile Telephone Laboratory in Lund, a university town in the southern Swedish region of Skåne. Two members of SRA’s board were ardent advocates: Thure Gabriel Gyllenkrok, owner of Björnstorp Manor, and Nils Hörjel, formerly director-general of the Swedish Post Office, who had now become governor of the then county of Malmöhus. They wanted to set up Ideon, a science park in Lund, and they knew who they wanted as the first tenant: Ericsson.
The decision was taken to all intents and purposes on October 11, 1982. An SRA board meeting held in Lund was to conclude with dinner. However, because nobody had remembered to book a restaurant, Gyllenkrok invited the board and its guests – researchers from Lund University and local politicians, 26 people in all – to Björnstorp. They were served an impressive dinner in the manor house and the atmosphere definitely helped to strengthen relationships.
SRA signed a lease with Ideon shortly afterwards. Gyllenkrok described the challenge later as: “A question of getting the Stockholmers to believe in Lund and people from the university there to believe in Ericsson.” Hörjel reflects: “In the maneuvers around Ideon, it is difficult to underestimate the importance of the dinner at Björnstorp.”
The ERA laboratory was inaugurated in temporary buildings in Lund in October 1983. From the start, the company worked hard to establish cooperation with the Engineering faculty there. For instance ERA’s head of research Sven-Olof Öhrvik was appointed associate professor in applied electronics (he was succeeded as head of development at ERA by Jan Uddenfeldt). When, shortly afterwards, the chair in this subject became vacant, Öhrvik was appointed to occupy it. ERA was also interested in the university’s research into information technology, telecom transmission theory and telecom traffic systems.
Johansson, who took over as head of mobiles at ERA just when the Mobile Telephone Laboratory started in Lund, recalls: “It was probably not considered a drawback that these activities had ended up so far from the head office. The feeling was that the mobile phone operations should have as little as possible to do with Ericsson’s management and develop our own culture instead.”
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn