Today about 290 companies make up the Latvian electrical engineering and electronics (E&E) industry, which has strong historical traditions in Latvia. One of the most well-known Latvian inventions is the legendary VEF Minox miniature camera, the first of its kind in the world, invented at the VEF factory in 1937. Telephones or radios made in Latvia are still used and their brands are remembered fondly throughout the former Soviet republics. Today, the Latvian E&E industry is set to become one of the key high-value-added industries in Latvia thanks to the determined work of the government and industry professionals.
Companies in Latvia manufacture products such as advanced acoustic systems and related accessories, wireless data transmission equipment, and other telecommunications systems, industrial optics, nuclear electronics, electronics control, and monitoring devices used in many industrial and scientific applications. The high proportion of exports in relation to output (approximately 91 %) and the variety of export destination countries indicate the competiveness of the Latvian electronics industry in the international arena.
The key strengths of Latvian companies are know-how in modern technologies and creativity in solutions. Small and medium electronic companies can offer immediate scale, cost-effective business solutions based on the full cycle of product development, engineering, support, and services.
Rapid development and presence in world markets has been achieved during the last decade, involving global supply chain management. Despite economies of scale, Latvian companies compete internationally with market leaders in the telecommunication industry such as Nokia, Siemens Networks, Ericsson, Alcatel, or NEC in specific niche product markets.
Companies take advantage of the valuable intellectual resources in the microelectronics industry, a broad pool of researchers, well-developed infrastructure, an efficient telecommunications system, and extensive R&D experience. As the life cycle for various electronic products has become too short, it is of outmost importance to follow up-to-date industry trends and integrate cutting-edge technologies.
The Latvian E&E industry can be divided into five main subsectors:
- Radio, television, telecommunication, and data transmission equipment.
- Electronic components (including automotive components).
- Heavy-current electrical technology (electrical machines and equipment, e.g., electric distribution and installation systems and accessories, electric motors and generators, cables, etc.).
- Instruments and automation equipment (e.g., medical, optical, precision-measuring, radiation and time measuring devices, industrial services).
- Computer technology (computers and other equipment for information processing).
While the industry can be roughly divided in this way, the lines are not sharply drawn. The communications sector, for instance, makes switches used to run telephone networks that are essentially specialized computers. Control units and software developed for computers have come to be used in consumer electronics, while high-volume manufacturing techniques have been invented in the consumer electronics industry and applied to other sectors.
The production of electrical and optical equipment has developed rapidly: the sector’s output has tripled since 2005 and has remained stable in recent years. Total E&E industry output in 2018 exceeded EUR 500 million.
Exports of electronic goods from Latvia were EUR 568 million in 2018. The growing proportion of exports in relation to industry output indicates the competitiveness of the Latvian electronics industry in the international arena.