An input that dares to make a difference

For the sake of Sweden’s development as a knowledge nation, it is imperative to strengthen those universities in Sweden that have leading positions internationally. Please read the above sentence one more time. This is namely exactly what is needed not only to further develop our most successful universities but also to raise the level in general and the opening of KTH´s input to the coming research proposition in 2020.

That several universities, including KTH, are actively pursuing this route, is crucial for the quality of higher education and research and for Sweden’s competitiveness. That to pretend differences do not exist as a gesture of good intent in general, fools nobody. Nor that there is some kind of academic Law of Jante meaning. In my view, the fact that different universities have, and are permitted to have different roles, ought to be an advantage for all parties involved.

Today’s situation, where all universities have basically the same mission but different conditions to operate and maintain high quality in is unfortunate. It is time to review this, just as the other Nordic countries have already done.

I thought about casting more light on several important points in this input here. That good old hobby horse about increased basic funding is, if anything, even more important today. As one third of KTH research is covered by basic funding and two thirds come from external sources where co-funding is an ever increasing requirement, more and more basic funding is being eaten up. One consequence is that strategic room for manoeuvre and freedom of movement are shrinking for KTH. The money is tied up and is only enough to cover fewer projects and the academic freedom to choose research subjects risks falling by the wayside. A recently published report discusses  this among other things together with the question of why despite a promising platform, Swedish research is not better.

Reduced requirements on co-funding, at least from government research financing bodies would make a big difference, or if the proportions were changed instead of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth as is the case today.

When it comes to cooperation with industry and in joint projects, it is clear that we should make common cause, but in the case of other financial sources, the money seems to bounce between different state authorities and I cannot for the life of me understand the benefit of this. With the proviso that I am not an economist.

A well-functioning, clearly regulated and properly financed research infrastructure is absolutely vital if we are to be able to hold our own in global competition and develop our expertise – not least within AI. This infrastructure is not only important for interfacing with society around us and the quality of the research, but also in giving our students the opportunity to turn theory into practical reality.

Cyber security and fusion research are examples of new research areas that require specific investments and clarity if Sweden is to be able to assert itself. KTH is ready and willing to assume a greater national responsibility.

Converting strategic research areas from strategic investments into a special part permanent basic funding is yet another of the proposals we set out. KTH is responsible for five such strategic research areas today and by taking a long-term approach with regular evaluations, research excellence can be taken to an even higher level of development.

If society is to be able to have a reset, meet the global sustainability goals and dare to look beyond 2030 already today, KTH can play a big part, but more and continuing targeted investments in research within sustainable development are necessary. There is a lot of research at KTH just waiting to develop and deepen when new resources come.