International networks are part of being competitive as a university. They are also part of keeping a close eye on the global academic environment, that contributes to being a guarantee of knowledge driven development.
Stepping outside KTH and meeting other universities, helps maintain relationships and forge contacts within teaching, research and cooperation. The South Africa-Sweden University Forum (SASUF), which I took part in last week, is one way to meet other universities and learn more about them and their values. SASUF is a STINT-financed project that started in 2017, and this year, the network consists of 13 Swedish and 23 South African universities (https://sasuf.org/ ).
This year’s “South Africa-Sweden Research and Innovation Week” was divided into six different themes focused on Agenda 2030 and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. The thinking is to provide the inspiration for a joint research project with opportunities for innovation (https://sasuf.sched.com/). The forum was arranged at Stellenbosch University and attracted around 500 participants, half of whom were from Sweden. The most important part concerned matchmaking between Swedish and South African researchers with the focus on discussions about joint projects. Even though Sweden and South Africa are far apart in sheer geographic terms, we share similar social challenges. What we can each contribute towards finding solutions looks somewhat similar on the one hand and yet on the other hand, not.
A common set of academic values all around the world puts the focus on knowledge rather than letting general opinion soliciting take over. For us at KTH, student/researcher exchanges offer an opportunity to learn new things and to share KTH’s teaching and research.
Something else that is at least of equal importance as cooperation between universities, is having an active national and international participation in civic society. This can be done via the co-production of new knowledge between universities, the enterprise sector, private organisations and the public sector, which produces genuine societal benefits. Next year, the SASUF will be held in Uppsala when we also plan to invite the public and private sectors to meetings with researchers.
Within the parameters of SASUF, how mobility should be developed without long journeys was discussed. This concerns digital solutions that are so attractive that the amount of travel is reduced. Because, when all said and done, it is a long way from Sweden to South Africa.