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Wider playing field and courage important for deeptech research

Translating new, exciting ideas that can change society into practical solutions in everyday life is something KTH works on a broad front- not least with the help of KTH Innovation.

A particularly interesting area for innovation is what is usually called “deep tech”. These are pioneering technology areas that require large investments in research and development to move from idea to application and commercialisation. New deep tech companies are therefore research-based and knowledge-intensive, with a business model that requires both high investment and risk-taking.

Unlike ordinary start-up companies that have a clear product or solution, deep tech covers multifaceted issues, often some of our societal challenges with research that can take a long time and have a long path to the market. It can involve research in AI, energy, waste management, biotech, materials, robotics and life sciences, to name some of them.

In most of these areas, KTH has important and relevant research to contribute with. We want and should be a research actor when it comes to society’s future issues, which are very much in areas that are crucial for the future.However, deep tech requires patience, perseverance and a research policy that supports this in order to benefit society.

When it comes to the development of deep tech, a key challenge is to find solutions within the research and innovation policy system so that research advances can be scaled up via pilot and test facilities or demonstrators to eventually generate commercial solutions. Often these are steps that traditional research funding cannot handle, but it may also be too early in the process for traditional venture capital to be available. Therefore, large strategic investments are needed that probably need to be a mix of public and private, national and international capital.

Identifying how different deep tech areas can be managed and the national conditions have been analysed by Vinnova. KTH is active and prominent in several of the eight deep tech platforms identified and analysed and our responsibility in the larger research and innovation policy system is to continue to build research environments with groundbreaking research in an ecosystem where innovation and applications go hand in hand.

KTH does not operate in a vacuum; collaboration across both disciplines and national borders is a matter of course. Sometimes Sweden’s playing field can seem a little too small and we as a university should seek international collaborations to be at the forefront of breakthrough areas – not least in Europe.

Now that the Government is dealing with the comments on the research funding inquiry, Fofin, and preparing a new research and innovation policy bill, it is hoped that these major strategic investments for Sweden and the future will also find their way into the budget tables!