Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, IVA members, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
I have the great honour of presenting to you IVA’s traditional speech on “Progress in Science and Technology.” It is one of the highlights of the year for me to have this opportunity to talk about the exciting research and development going on in our country, both in the academic world and in industry.
Over the past year we have continued to witness great upheaval around the world. The fact that development in Asia is still going strong must be clear to everyone. Meanwhile Europe is facing a number of difficult challenges. Uncertainty over the economy and the euro is threatening stability which is impeding growth and job creation. There are many ideas out there on how to increase stability in the long term through new organisational initiatives – an avenue that may be necessary but that is still controversial because it doesn’t matter which institutions the EU has if agreements between nations are not complied with. For me there is no doubt that the strategy of the future for Sweden is to continue to work closely with the rest of Europe. The difficulties need to be overcome so that this market, which on paper is the world’s largest internal market, can finally function properly. That will benefit Sweden.
The global research landscape is changing as well. As early as next year, China is expected to pass the US as the country that publishes the most research articles in international journals. Who would have believed that ten years ago when China was barely visible on the research map? Quality, defined by the number citations, may be significantly lower than from our part of the world, but this is steadily increasing as well. China will be a knowledge nation to reckon with in the future. BUT the world’s best research will still be delivered from the US in the foreseeable future.
Sweden’s economy remains strong despite a slow-down in industry in the wake of a decline in international demand. The Government’s budget proposal and research & innovation bill speak of expansion and investment. The fact that the incremental increases in research spending will reach an additional SEK 4 billion in 2016 has pleased many, including me.
The underlying theme for this year’s speech is RESEARCH COLLABORATION. I want to shed a little more light on this topic because I’m convinced that collaboration is crucial if research is going to be able to answer the questions of the future and provide even more benefits for industry and society in general. That’s why research collaboration is an area that will take on many different forms over the next 20 years. It’s not just about natural sciences, engineering and medicine. Social sciences and the humanities will be increasingly important sources of new solutions to our great challenges.
Research is carried out by individuals – the researchers and scientists. The recently presented research and innovation bill strongly emphasises the individual’s role and lays out more clearly the investments that will be made in excellent individual researchers. Is this in contrast with the necessity for increased collaboration? Absolutely not. Individuals bring the brain capacity, but collaboration brings up questions and places results in a broader context. You need both to create excellence.
What, then, is RESEARCH COLLABORATION? It can take many different forms and I’m going to highlight four different perspectives.
INTER AND INTRA-UNIVERSITY COLLABORATION is THE BASIS for all science, where results, methods and materials are shared openly within the entire research community.
Another form is INFRASTRUCTURE COLLABORATION, for example at large and expensive research facilities.
We also have COLLABORATION BETWEEN UNIVERSITIES AND INDUSTRY, a type of collaboration that is often implied when we talk about “research collaboration.”
INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION is growing, with EU initiatives becoming increasingly important for Sweden.
We often see a combination of different forms of collaboration. I’ll return to these later and present a few examples. We’ll begin in an area where Sweden has a strong tradition of collaboration – transport. Off we go.
Transport … into the future, with a fully automatic car. Students at the Institute of Design at Umeå University have a design idea. The car has one cabin for travelling companions – or dividers if passengers are travelling together but don’t know each other. Volkswagen is backing the project in Umeå. And someone will probably invent an entirely automatic car over the next couple of decades. The vision is getting closer. The fully automatic car is no longer science fiction.
One step in that direction is convoy driving which was tested in May for the first time on a public road as part of an EU project that is developing the technology. Up front is a lead vehicle driven by a professional driver. The vehicles behind join the convoy and their drivers are able to relax and enjoy the view. The vehicle takes over and automatically maintains the right distance and speed, steers and brakes. The drivers can read the newspaper or surf their tablet, like Volvo’s project manager.
An important driving force for development is the desire to increase safety. Data from Chalmers University of Technology shows, for example, that it’s possible to reduce the risk of hitting the vehicle in front by more than 40 percent by having adaptable cruise control and a collision warning system.
Sweden is making big investments in traffic safety – for both vehicles and unprotected passengers. In September construction began on a unique testing facility outside Borås. Here, traffic researchers and the automotive industry will test advanced safety technologies. The Asta Zero track will be the first of its kind in the world and is my example of broad collaboration between the Government, industry and academia. A public-private partnership. Collaboration between academic research and industry is extremely important. The hope is that new knowledge will be of commercial use and will create new businesses, jobs and growth. Finding new mechanisms for increasing commercialisation of research results is a welcome debate topic and innovation offices have been set up at several of our universities. More are in the pipeline.
Most innovations don’t actually come directly from academic research at all – or even from high-tech companies. They come instead from ideas close to the market. Our universities are of course still indirectly crucial for the innovation climate, because they produce educated people.
How does industry collaboration affect academic quality? Fears of its decline are often expressed. The studies that have been carried out using bibliometric analysis, however, show that scientific quality is not declining at all. Articles written by authors from universities and companies are cited on average more by other researchers than articles with authors from universities alone.
There are countless examples of collaboration projects between academia and industry. One of them is another test track – this one for electric cars, which was opened near Arlanda this spring. It has rails and cables that are buried under the road. The different sections of the track receive power as each car passes by. A moveable arm brings the electricity from the rails to the vehicle. The fans and lights, which together use as much power as an electric car driving at 90 km/h, show that the power transfer is working. With this technology, today’s electric cars would be able to cover long distances without the need for charging. Right now though we still have to rely on other fuels, like the new trucks Volvo began producing in the spring. Built on an entirely new platform – the first in almost 20 years – with lower fuel consumption than its predecessors, the trucks can handle the EU’s tougher environmental requirements. The new individual front-wheel suspension is stable, which is demonstrated in a spectacular way that has attracted a lot of attention. The video on YouTube has had more than six million hits – so far.
And now to aviation. On 30 April Pratt & Whitney tested its new engine in flight mounted on a Boeing 747. The new engine has a fan with a gear system, which solves one of the problems with today’s engines in which the fan and turbine operate at the same speed. The bigger the fan in relation to the rest of the engine, the higher its effect and the lower the fuel consumption and emissions. But if we increase the size of the fan, the speed of the fan blade tips is increased as well, which increases the noise. The new engine has a gear system that downshifts the fan’s revolutions. This makes it possible to have different speeds for the engines components – a fast turbine, but a slow fan. Noise is reduced and so is fuel consumption.
The engine was developed as part of a collaboration that included Volvo Aero, now British GKN Aerospace, in Trollhättan.
The engine is a hightech innovation. Innovative products and services are needed in all sectors, not just the high tech ones. This is what three economics researchers are telling us.
The researchers have delved into innovation policy, an area which is becoming more and more important in Sweden – both for the Alliance and the opposition. A Framework for Innovation Policy is the name of the book in which the researchers deliver their economic-political “ten commandments.” The three economists address the need for general measures to improve the climate for entrepreneurship.
Another current book is the memoirs of IVA member and medallist Assars Lindbeck entitled Economics is Choosing (Ekonomi är att välja). Assar Lindbeck has, like few other Swedish researchers, made an imprint on the economic-political debate. He is always relevant and perhaps best known for his pioneering work on the Lindbeck Commission in 1992. In his memoirs he talks about his work with socioeconomic issues over six decades. Further proof of his creative abilities is the works he has produced as an artist.
Lindbeck’s research has also, of course, addressed China’s economic reforms. Now two researchers from Lund have looked into the reasons for the Chinese economic marvel. 630 Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty since the 1980s – an improvement with no precedent in history. Frequently the Chinese Government is given all of the credit for this, but according to the two researchers who have studied 700 Chinese manufacturing companies, it’s private and small-scale enterprise that has been the growth engine behind the miracle.
Social media is improving business and making it more profitable. This is the conclusion of a researcher at the Stockholm School of Economics who has studied
seven European countries. The report shows that social media not only makes employees more productive, but that productivity actually goes down in companies that keep their employees out of social networks.
It’s true, our way of working and communicating has changed along with developments in IT and Telecom.
Facebook, SMS, chats – we have so many ways of contacting each other today. And mobile services are growing rapidly, particularly mobile broadband. Fixed broadband is not growing at the same pace, but subscriptions that offer the very fastest service are increasing in number, according to a report from the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority.
With growth comes an increase in the energy consumption of networks. But there is a way to reduce it – by up to 70 percent, as shown by the EU project EARTH, in which Ericsson is playing a leading role. Using network simulations and prototypes, they have demonstrated that energy efficient components in base stations and new functionality in radio links and networks can save energy.
The energy efficiency project is part of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme.
The project is an example of international research collaboration, which is becoming increasingly common. Today it’s easy for researchers to work together, to share data in real time and communicate on the internet. Around the entire globe. And this is of course increasing the traffic on the mobile web.
The growing number of apps in our phones is having the same effect. SICS is developing an app for skiers in cooperation with people like Olympic gold medallist Daniel Richardsson. As he skis his movements are analysed with the help of a pulsimeter and a regular android phone. Different techniques result in different patterns. When the skier uses his poles to propel himself forward, we see one pattern (pause), the skating technique yields another one. Here the first prototype is being tested. Skiing data is sent over the internet to the cloud where it’s processed and sent back in a form that helps the skier optimise the training session. IT has many uses.
According to research carried out at Imperial College, London, IT may even be able to replace composers. Researchers there have created software that can develop music through a kind of digital evolution. The software called Darwintunes creates short clips of sound and human listeners can decide which clips sound the best.
These are then combined to create new sounds. This is how it sounds after 6,800 generations. I think Mozart can continue to rest in peace up there.
And the Web can predict the future as well according to the Recorded Future search service which sorts search results chronologically. It finds information on the Web, blogs, twitter and so on. Let’s test the service with a question: What’s going to happen at Astra Zeneca in the year ahead?
Masses of events come up. Let’s pick one. Nexium, the gastric ulcer medicine, will be available without a prescription in the US. The drug was developed in Sweden, where Astra Zeneca’s research activity has declined and is being shut down altogether in Sodertalje southeast of Stockholm. This announcement has shaken the field of life sciences in Sweden.
Some of the talent released in the wake of the closure in Sodertalje will be saved. A new institute for sustainable process development and catalysis is being formed. It started as a proposal from SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and is now receiving Government support.
Meanwhile Swedish life sciences are being strengthened by the considerable extra resources that the Science for Life Laboratory is receiving as it becomes a national research institute. The lab has nodes in Stockholm and Uppsala where Akademiska Hus has just started some new construction. The funding comes from the Government, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Astra Zeneca.
This is a shining example of how we can work together to build infrastructure for research. But it’s also an example of.
… collaboration within academia – the linchpin for science. This type of collaboration can be organised in the form of centres where scientists work together and share their questions and thoughts right at the beginning in the idea phase, as in the case of the Science for Life Laboratory.
One concept the lab’s scientists are working on is the search for biomarkers which are substances in blood or tissue that can indicate if a person has, or is at risk for contracting, a disease, like a cardiovascular disease.
We know that stress is bad for the heart, but not really what actually happens when we’re stressed. Now, though, researchers from Lund using ultrasound have discovered a previously unknown longitudinal movement in the vessel walls – and that it is increased by up to 300 percent by stress hormones such as adrenalin.
Research is also giving us more accurate diagnoses – and we need these. Close to 10,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Sweden. But only about one in five have a life-threatening form that requires surgery. Today many more are being operated on, often unnecessarily, and are suffering difficult side effects as a result. The new method developed at Karolinska University Hospital finds the dangerous tumours by analysing three specific genes.
We need faster methods as well, not least because bacteria that cause TB are being spread when people go untreated while waiting for a diagnosis. Today we cultivate bacteria samples and have to wait weeks for the results. If the bacteria are instead made fluorescent and can be detected with so-called flow cytometry, the diagnostic process is much faster. The fluorescent particles travel past the detector which counts them and provides results in 15 minutes. The goal for this project is to produce inexpensive and portable equipment for small clinics in poor countries. Vaccinations can often reduce the spread of diseases, and efficient methods are needed to produce them. During the manufacturing process the product is purified several times through chromatography by passing a so-called medium in a column. GE Healthcare Life Sciences has a new medium consisting of small beads that are separated both by the molecule size and by binding properties. Contaminants small enough to enter the core bind to small active substances on the inside of the bead. Large molecules, like the vaccine itself, flow through and are purified in this way.
A new method for activating the immune system is shown in a study of infants. Infants whose intestines are colonised early on by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus develop food allergies, according to findings at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. The bacteria, which may also cause hospital-acquired infection, form a super-antigen that activates the immune system so that oversensitivity does not develop. In other words, bad bacteria that can actually do some good. The antigen will now be included in a drug to treat food allergies. It’s being developed by a company called Premune in Gothenburg – initially for dogs.
In life sciences there is a clear connection between academic discoveries and innovation.
For example, scientists in Lund have shown that thylakoids, special membrane-bound compartments in plant cells that are important in photosynthesis, can make us slimmer. They obstruct an enzyme in the pancreas so that fat is broken down more slowly and we feel full. Scientists in Lund have now developed technology for large-scale production of thylakoids and plan to launch a weight loss drug as early as next year.
Scientists in all different fields are interested in plants, especially the way they use simple raw materials to create energy-rich products. Researchers at Uppsala
University and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) are using chemistry to imitate that process.
With only water, carbon dioxide and sunlight, plants produce energy, usually in the form of carbohydrates. Simple raw materials, but a complicated process – photosynthesis. One way to imitate it is to use chemical compounds to capture solar energy and produce hydrogen gas. One problem, however, is how to break down water. Now, though, scientists at the Royal Institute of Technology have successfully created a molecule that can speed up the reaction. They believe that within ten years we will be able to produce hydrogen gas in this way for fuel cells that drive cars.
Scientists at Chalmers are instead focusing on producing the fuel methanol. They are making it from carbon dioxide – with the help of solar energy. The technology already exists, and now a major Nordic investment will ensure that the process is inexpensive and simple so that it can begin to be used on a large scale.
An article published in a science journal that has attracted a lot of attention was co-authored by Linus Hovmöller Zou who is just eleven years of age. Linus helped his father Sven Hovmöller, a professor of structural chemistry at Stockholm University, to solve a quasicrystal structure he’s been struggling with on and off for years. When Linus beat Sven at Sudoku, Sven asked his son to take a look at the structure. And Linus – then only ten – helped to reveal the patterns in the electron microscope images.
Chemistry research is not only being conducted by scientists at universities. At BIM Kemi doctoral students have been involved in finding a solution to one of the major problems facing the pulp and paper industry – deposits and biofilms that form on the input unit in paper-making machinery, reducing production levels and compromising the paper quality. They have developed a method that stops this in an eco-friendly way.
BIM Kemi is a pioneer in industrial research colleges where postgraduate students have one mentor from academia and one from industry. Their first doctoral students have been followed by many more in other companies. This year fifteen new industrial doctoral students have entered the pulp and paper industry.
The fifteen doctoral students are all focusing on the science surrounding cellulose throughout the chain from wood to finished product. They are students at an
industrial research college called VIPP (Values created In fibre-based Processes and Products), run by Karlstad University, the Knowledge Foundation and the forestry industry. Another shining example of collaboration. Several of them are studying material from so-called side streams – highly topical in industry right now.
Here’s an example: At the old Wargön industrial park in Vänersborg, construction will begin next year on a demonstration facility to extract cellulose from old fabric. Behind the technology is a newly formed company called Renewcell. The company is extracting cellulose using a combination of tested solvents and new processes. Textiles often consist of a mixture of cellulose and oil-based fibres which are separated and can be recycled separately.
And from the sludge that forms in the manufacture of specialised cellulose, it’s possible to extract cellulose nanofibres. They are dissolved in the sludge and only light grinding is needed to get nanofibres of the right size, according to researchers in Luleå. They have conducted three studies at a pulp mill in Domsjö which has a thousand tonnes of sludge waste every year that is currently stored in giant cisterns. If the nanofibres are extracted instead they can be used for a lot of things, for example to reinforce composites.
Recycling is hot, and not least in the area of energy.
Cassandra Oil is extracting oil and gas from old tyres and plastic waste. Right now the company is building two pilot factories where the oil will be extracted in a continuous process. Finely grated waste goes into a reactor chamber where a fluidized bed is created. A catalyst speeds up the process and in just a few tenths of a second, the polymers in the tyres are broken down yielding light fractions of oil. Ten kilos of tyres yields 4.5 litres of oil.
It may one day be possible to recycle nuclear waste as well. The next generation of nuclear reactors can be run on used nuclear fuel. The technology is going to be tested in a demonstration reactor called Astrid. The reactor is being developed as part of a Swedish-French collaboration and construction will begin in 2017. Astrid will be the world’s first reactor of the new, fourth generation and will be run on recovered nuclear waste. Chalmers are heading up the Swedish portion of the project…. … and are involved in work on the Jules Horowitz research reactor which is currently being built in France. There, scientists will be able to study what happens in aging nuclear power plants. This is important because current facilities are being kept open longer and longer. The Swedish scientists are participating, among other things, in endurance simulations that show where the flow of neutrons is the greatest.
There are lots of ways to produce electricity, for example, from the hulls left over when rice is processed in factories. Researchers from Luleå are planning to build a facility in Vietnam that will use biomass to produce both electricity and heat. Today rice hulls are often dumped in rivers where they are a contributing factor in eutrophication, or they are burned. Yes, renewables are on the advance. A majority of newly installed electricity production in Europe in 2011 is renewable. Who would have believed that a few years ago? Solar energy in particular has increased over the past five years. The sun is shining and the wind is still blowing strong.
This development is also giving work to ABB which is expanding its research and testing labs in both Ludvika and Västerås. Power has to be transferred from the source to cities and industries and the distances can be long. In the new grid simulation centre, they are testing the theory in which power is sent from solar energy plants in North Africa and wind power parks in the North Sea. One challenge will be controlling these huge systems…
Our society is facing many challenges, large and small. I’m convinced that research can help us find solutions. Let’s stay on the issue of the significance of research for society for a moment, because with us this evening is our nation’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education and Research, and I would like to take this opportunity to ask him a few questions. Let’s welcome Jan Björklund to the stage.
Now I’m going to return to research collaboration. Some universities are more involved in collaboration projects with industry than others. To find them, we often have to go to the smaller university towns where cooperation with local businesses is common. There’s a very special partnership a bit further north and this one involves materials.
Luleå University of Technology, LTU, is the best in Sweden at university-industry collaboration. From the very beginning it worked with the mining industry in particular, and 20 percent of the university’s external funding comes from industry. At other universities of technology the figure is around 12 percent. The joint projects LTU is involved in are in the areas of metallurgy and mining research.
… and over the next four years LTU will be involved in a major European project addressing the big challenge facing the mining industry – ever deeper mines. They are needed if Europe is to become more self-sufficient in mineral raw materials. But they require new, profitable and safe mining methods. Among other things, the project will study how mining methods used today by LKAB and Boliden can be enhanced to handle the increasing depths.
The Umeå Institute of Design is also involved in creating an ore extraction concept. They are suggesting building mining equipment in modules for more flexible use. One particular module could take care of the power and water supply. The machine could then handle things like inspection, loading and shovelling or drilling. This concept is based on field studies carried out in Sweden’s deepest mine, the Ramström mine outside Skellefteå in the north of Sweden.
The ore extracted can be made into steel, which has to be processed. If you cut into steel, the surface along the cut edge is created through a ploughing process. To construct the optimal cutting tool, it is necessary to understand the connection between the thinnest possible material that can be cut and the quality you get on the surface created. Seco Tools, a subsidiary of Sandvik, has been working with researchers in Lund to define the mechanisms. The image shows cuts in frozen stainless steel.
This year is one hundred years since the first patent was granted for stainless steel – in the steel city of Sheffield where, of course, Sandvik has a sales office. A century later the race is on to find new materials.
In the US a major initiative has been launched to develop the next generation of materials for wind power, vehicles, lighting, batteries etc. China and Japan are following suit with big investments in materials.
The same thing is happening in Europe. And in Sweden the research bill promises special investments in mining, mineral and steel research.
Material scientists will also benefit from Max IV which is currently being built in Lund and will provide unique opportunities to conduct research at the atomic level.
Meanwhile close by, preparations are being made to start construction on European Spallation Source, ESS, in 2014. During the autumn the funding negotiations involving the 17 partner nations will enter the final phase.
Infrastructure collaboration may seem obvious. Investing jointly in expensive equipment to save money. But in my opinion we’re not good at it at the national level. Each university and institute seems to want to have its own expensive equipment instead of working with another institution in the vicinity.
The really expensive equipment is often built under international partnerships when it’s obvious that it wouldn’t happen otherwise, such as ESS, where other countries are investing money in Sweden. And Sweden is contributing to things like the ITER fusion reactor in France and Cern in Switzerland.
And that’s where this year scientists have found what is probably the Higgs particle; a particle that physicists have been searching for for 40 years. Some 50 Swedish scientists have participated in the experiment in the Atlas detector where particles have collided and been converted into new ones. The Higgs particle may confirm the so-called standard model from the 1960s according to which elementary particles get their mass through interaction with the Higgs particle. Now what remains to be done is, of course, to explain how the Higg’s boson gets it mass. The British physicist Peter Higgs is a hot candidate for a Nobel Prize this year. My guess is that he will win the award with theoretician Francois Englert who was actually the first person to predict the particle’s existence. Confirmation of the particle may be this year’s biggest research news across all categories. Now to more physics.
Almost a year ago, researchers at Chalmers conducted an experiment that would come to be ranked as one of the year’s greatest breakthroughs. They succeeded with something that physicists have been waiting for for several decades. They created light from a vacuum. A vacuum is not actually empty nothingness at all. It is, in fact, full of various particles that are constantly fluctuating in and out of existence. They appear, exist for a brief moment and then disappear again. Like magic.
In an experiment, the scientists managed to capture some of the photons that don’t really exist, make them leave the virtual state and become measureable light. The virtual photons bounce off a “mirror” which vibrates at a speed that is almost as high as the speed of light. This creates real photons in pairs in the vacuum.
This news was the most read news of the year on the website Nature News. And the experiment was ranked as one of last year’s greatest physics breakthroughs by the journal Physics World.
A couple of years ago a big topic was graphene, a substance that is an organised monolayer of carbon. Scientists in Linköping presented a new method for producing graphene. Now they’ve started production on a commercial scale in Sweden’s first – and the world’s second – graphene factory.
And the same scientists have another innovation in the pipeline involving material for solar cells. They are making cubic silicon carbide which theoretically can capture sunlight so effectively that it could be possible to produce solar cells that are two or three times as efficient as the ones we have today. And the solar cell contacts can be improved if made from graphene which is an extremely good conductor.
From the sun to laser light and this component from the Royal Institute of Technology, the smallest optical disk resonator in the world to date. It’s a thin cylinder and light moves along the cylinder walls and resonance occurs when the wavelength is such that the light field “bites itself in the tail.” The disk is connected to an optical wave conductor. Light comes in from the left and is either transmitted past or is absorbed in the disk, depending on the wavelength.
What can we use if for? The goal is to manufacture photonic components that are smaller than a micrometer in order to get more complex systems and lower power consumption, for example in large data centres. By connecting microprocessors optically in this way, instead of electrically, the bandwidth can be increased.
It’s not always easy to identify applications right away, and that’s not always the point either. Often the increased knowledge is the objective of new research. And our need is immense when it comes to knowing more about space.
Imagine if we were not alone in the universe.
New research suggests that it’s likely that there are more earth-like planets in the Milky Way than we thought. The planets form around all types of stars, not just around certain ones with a high percentage of heavy elements, which scientists have believed up to now. This is what research results from scientists in Lund are showing us.
And on the closest planet to earth, Mars, the Curiosity mobile lab has landed after an eight-month journey. The lab will move around the planet for two years studying things like the climate, geology and conditions to sustain life. It has already found traces of flowing water. The vehicle has an instrument that uses a laser to analyse rocks and gravel from a distance and to find places of interest towards which to steer the vehicle.
We are learning more about the sun. In June researchers from Sweden and other places reported in the journal Nature about the fact that the data from the Swedish sun telescope, La Palma, had discovered magnetic cyclones. The new study shows
that the storms transport energy from the sun’s surface to its outer atmosphere, the corona, and help it to heat up. This can explain why the sun’s surface is so hot.
It is generally believed that aerospace engineering and astronomy can attract young people and get them to pursue natural sciences studies. And then continue on to university, which leads us into research and education……
A new ranking list from the respected British magazine, Times Higher Education, shows that Sweden’s young universities are good. The ranking is based on data on articles published from each university. Normally the old, established universities are at the top of the list. But now the Brits have also ranked the world’s 100 best universities that are less than 50 years old. The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences is in 27th place and Umeå University is in a creditable 23rd place.
Located by the beautiful Umeå River is the Umeå Institute of Design which I visited in June. It is also high in the rankings on the list of most design prizes won. The German Red Dot Institute ranks it as offering the second best design education in Europe and the German IF Design ranks it as best in the world outside Asia.
Now it’s time for me to round off my speech and I would first like to go back to the theme of research collaboration.
In my opinion, the main reason for collaboration is multidimensional with aspects such as quality, critical mass, usefulness and synergies. I am convinced that finding new forms of collaboration will be the most important area to develop in the future. New types of strong research environments will emerge. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, research will become more and more internationalised: Increasing numbers of active researchers and scientists around the world are working together in order to attack complicated issues. China is stepping up as an important research nation in many different fields and this is creating more collaboration opportunities. Large complex issues require broad-based efforts with the participation of hundreds of scientists the world over. That’s the second reason. This need exists within several areas of research: Sequencing of the 3.1 billion base pairs in the human genome was done in a project involving a huge international collaborative effort and spawned new physical research environments, like the Sanger Centre in England. Understanding the function of every individual protein coded in this genome is an
even more complex issue that will take a long time and require new approaches. Collaboration is key. Thirdly, the need for major infrastructure initiatives is increasing. I’ve already mentioned ESS, Cern and ITER.
Fourthly, collaboration provides new opportunities for research to benefit society. At UC Berkeley in the US we find the Energy Biosciences Institutes where British Petroleum is investing a massive USD 500 million in early research for new types of biofuel. New forms of collaboration with industry will emerge, where the business community will need to delve deeper inside the academic sphere. I hope that the examples I’ve mentioned in my speech will convince you of the opportunities offered by various forms of collaboration. They are important and we’ve only seen the beginning. Returning to the new research and development bill: While many European nations are being forced to cut back, like Spain which is reducing its research budget by more than 20 percent, Sweden is increasing its investments. Insightful! There are many details in the bill for us to celebrate. The field of life sciences is receiving a sizeable contribution – a total of more than SEK 600 million. Investing in making research results beneficial for society is the right thing to do – with investments like the almost quarter of a billion kronor going to VINNOVA to launch strategic innovation initiatives. Research institutes that link universities with industry are receiving much needed funding. But there are questions we need to ask. Where is the EU’s research in the Government’s plans? Although Horizon 2020 is has not reached the final threshold in the European Parliament, the EUR 80 billion being invested over seven years will affect European research until the end of 2020. Sweden needs to continue to take advantage of the opportunities EU research has to offer and make sure we match it with investments here at home. At a more local level: What’s happening with regional universities where excellence is a top priority? The regional seats of learning often have very strong ties to industry and should be recognised more and receive resources for their efforts.
In order to encourage more innovation, we need more than VINNOVA and innovation offices. Only two in ten new cutting-edge technology companies grew out of an academic discovery. How does the Government’s research investment benefit innovators and entrepreneurs outside the academic sphere? The research and innovation bill has a big R in the word Research and a tiny i in the word innovation. There’s not that much innovation in this bill, but I don’t think that we should expect that either. Research is an urgent matter. But innovation issues have not been fully addressed as yet. In the innovation strategy presented recently by the Government, there are clear visions but few concrete proposals. Still, it can serve as a foundation on which to continue developing measures to improve the innovation climate. In summary, there are solid foundations on which to expand Swedish research and further develop our innovation policy. We need to do these things in order to create future growth, jobs and prosperity. Jobs aren’t created at the employment office but in growing knowledge companies. We must not forget that. With these words I will now conclude this year’s speech on Progress in Science and Technology. I would now like to hand over to Chairman of IVA, Leif Johansson.
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