Category Archives: Okategoriserat

KTH important player in Horizon Europe

For KTH, the European dimension is mostly about keeping a close eye on the various funding programmes for higher education and research. On 30 November, EU research ministers reached an outline agreement on the next European research programme.

Horizon Europe 2021-2027 (pdf)

Towards the end of last week, I went on a networking trip to Brussels and to find out more about what is happening with the EU 2012-2027 research programme. While Horizon Europe builds on the existing Horizon 2020, it also contains plenty of new developments.
The schedule for my two-day visit was pretty much booked solid, with visits to the EU Parliament, the Swedish Representation to the EU, the joint Vinnova and Swedish Research Council office, plus the Directorate for Research and Innovation.

KTH should gradually become better placed to compete for new projects. We are currently involved in 201 projects within Horizon 2020, more than any other Swedish university. However, in terms of funding, KTH receives less than two other Swedish universities.
There is still a fair way to go before the programme is finalised and there is a big push to conclude negotiations and reach decisions before the EU parliamentary elections in May 2019. This is mainly due to uncertainty concerning the likely composition of the new parliament. There is a risk that groups more negatively disposed to research will gain an increased mandate.

So far at least, the Horizon Europe research programme has been given a somewhat higher budget and if Brexit actually happens, this will be managed as smoothly as possible.
Compared to the current programme, the 2021-2027 programme will be implemented through three pillars:

  1. Open Science
  2. Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness
  3. Open Innovation.
    One new element is missions, several of the people we met said these would be 5 or 6 of these, while others interpreted the discussions as meaning several more missions would be added. Although these missions will be broader than the current flag ships, there appears to be uncertainty as to whether both will feature in the new programme.
    On the education side, the EU proposes to double funding for Erasmus+. This would be good, even though this and other budget increases are not supported from the Swedish side. Sweden is opposed to increasing funding to Brussels from the current 1 percent of GDP to 1.11 percent as a consequence of when/if the UK leaves the European partnership.
    This is something I agree with, particularly as Sweden has not managed to recoup the sums earmarked for research that we pay to Brussels.

Being an expert on evaluation panels and attending workshops and seminars in Brussels are ways of learning more about how to be successful in winning EU projects. There is a constant need for evaluators and forwarding your candidature to participate is a good move. I myself have been an evaluator on the Co-fund project, which was very instructive. Naturally, cutting edge research and impact, plus an international presence, put you in a better position to win EU funding.

We need to understand and discuss events in Brussels in more detail, and this is especially the case when it comes to what is happening in the EU Parliament. We lack this kind of coverage in Sweden, something I was reminded of after my two-day visit.

There are many access paths to activities in Brussels. KTH’s participation in networks such as Caesar and Cluster is one important gateway. By taking on a higher workload and adopting a greater presence, KTH will be in a good position to influence the direction of the coming Horizon Europe.

Good position for further cooperation with China

Compared to other Swedish universities, KTH has a special relationship with China, thanks to investments over a 15-20 year period to establish close cooperation with leading universities in the country. This almost two decade partnership with students moving in both directions and joint research projects, puts us in a strong position for further partnerships in China.

I returned from an intensive tour of China about a week ago. The programme included a visit to Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, one of KTH’s key partner universities. While there, I also gave a lecture to some 200 students on the subject of the Swedish model with regard to education, research and innovation, and attended an event arranged by the Shanghai alumni chapter. From there, I headed to Hangzhou where I visited Zhejiang University, another KTH key partner university and also took part in the official opening of Westlake University, the first private university in China.

China, along with Southeast Asia in general, is making enormous investments in knowledge and as part of this, in universities and colleges. Several universities in China have moved up the international rankings very swiftly in a short period of time. Within areas such as AI, China is the world leader, alongside the USA. This has helped persuade internationally active researchers and teachers to return. The newly opened Westlake University is looking to recruit 300 people for faculty services in the next few years. There is a clear strategy that also means major investments in education and research infrastructure.

A report published recently (–starkt-samverkan-for-en-hallbar-framtid/) describes developments within research, innovation and higher education in China and presents proposals for how Sweden can strengthen cooperation with China. One point that was raised is that Sweden needs to build up know-how about China at all levels and that long-term relationships are important. The report also says that there should be a specific focus on cooperation concerning sustainable development and Agenda 2030. This puts KTH in an excellent position for continued relationships as we have gained a good reputation over our two decades of cooperation, where KTH alumni have proved splendid ambassadors. The KTH pillar of sustainable development integrated into education and research creates a good foundation for continued development in partnership with China. Cooperation ought to be both open and mutual, while never forgetting the benefits for the development of KTH and Sweden.

To summarise, I can say that I was struck by what an open and friendly reception I received during my visit and that the core academic values are clearly in place, even though it is incredibly difficult to assess the political dimension. The other day, I read an article in paints a different picture of academic reality, however.

This, in turn, made me pause to reflect on the importance of Swedish universities in general needing much better knowledge of conditions in a country or region and the challenges (as were named in the report I mentioned above), and that we need to take a common stance on when we should cooperate and when we should not do so. Academic core values are worth defending and if KTH and Sweden can contribute to positive development in the world, this would be good.

However, now and then, it is important to bear in mind that Sweden is a small country in northern Europe, so our penetration and our visibility do not always coincide with our self-image, perhaps?  As such, strategic alliances that enable us to punch above our weight on the world stage, are very important.


Flexible employers wanted

The other day I was asked what the future global job market will look like, what employers are going to want. But why not turn the question round? What will an employer need to live up to in the 2030s, to be able to attract the best talents and be attractive to new engineering and architecture graduates?

I think it is going to depend very much on seeing the individual behind the CV and to really determine what skills you need beyond the bog standard “flexible”, “stress-tolerant” and “socially adept”.

Despite a range of sophisticated tools that sift out the golden nuggets amongst all the applicants in the employment process, I think there is a risk of missing out on talents that, at first glance, do not appear to match the accepted mould.

It’s not always the case that the one that promises the most, best delivers. Perhaps the exact opposite is most often the case? Nor that there is a perfect age or that an optimal talent or background has a certain look about them.

My guess is that a future employer must be able to see the individual, their specific circumstances that change during the course of their working life and offer flexible solutions that suit the individual’s life situation here and now. Then, as now, opportunities for  development will be important.

Here, as I have written about earlier opportunities for lifelong learning will be one crucial competitive advantage. Employers that offer their employees time and opportunities to update and broaden their skills sets, when this is necessary, will be a step ahead when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Here, KTH as a university is ready to lend a helping hand provided we are given the associated weighted resources.

Rapid technological development in the form of AI, digitalisation, robotisation mean that society and with it the job market will be radically changed. Half of all jobs will be automated within 20 years according to a report published a few years ago.

That the rate and speed of social change is increasing is something everyone is concerned about and implicit in this is the notion – “hang in and keep up”. But this does not mean that we can therefore race past analysis, consideration and questioning when it comes to the know how shift that is in progress.

Here, the enterprise sector and academia must think aloud together and ,not just merely deal with, but  take responsibility for this development.


Digitalisation is opening new doors

With appropriate timing as we approach the application deadline for spring 2019 to KTH and other universities on 15 October, a report has been published showing where jobs of the future will be found.

Anyone studying to become an engineer should be sought-after on the job market on graduation. This is hardly surprising but pleasing nonetheless to see that as usual, our programmes lead to employment for individuals that in turn, generate benefits for society.

According to the Swedish Public Employment Service, engineers within electronics, civil engineering and IT are on the list of professions that are easiest to find jobs in on a five-year view.

In cooperation with the enterprise sector and society in general, our programmes are up to date with what is in demand on the job market and in terms of breadth of subject areas and content.

On the same day, which appeared intentional, a report was released on Swedes and the Internet by the Internet Foundation In Sweden. This explains how we use technology and answers questions such as who, when and how people surf, shop, play games etc., online. Most people in the 15 to 45 age group do so via a smartphone and half the population have things like watches, fridges and cars connected at home. A day without going online is a very unusual day for the vast majority of the population.

Digitalisation is opening new doors not only for people who are studying and researching, but also the way in which it is possible to do this and publish information on results, test applications and usage areas, which is in line with our development plan. “KTH should, with its know-how in the area, be a leader in the digitalisation of education, research, cooperation and education and research support.”

Many of the KTH programmes utilise mixed forms of education, both traditional direct teacher-student meetings and internet-based homework and digital teaching material. In research, digitalisation has become naturally integrated, while data analytics offers new ways to analyse complex processes and create new understanding. Various administrative processes have already been digitalised or on course to become so. Irrespective of the current situation, it is absolutely vital to stay a step ahead, not least when it comes to understanding and developing digital solutions and artificial intelligence that offer opportunities for innovation. Having said that however, a deep rooting in ethical issues is also necessary.

Since KTH gained its fourth leg, digitalisation, along with equal opportunities, sustainable development and global relations, the grounds on which we stand are more stable than ever before. Since being appointed a year ago, our  Vice President for Digitalisation has been dedicated to developing KTH’s role in this area.



Closer to education and employers

A recent report from the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) presents new figures regarding recruitment and enrolment in higher education. It shows that a decreasing proportion of young people are starting university immediately after upper secondary school, even though there haven’t been any changes in the basic qualifications required to enrol. As usual, though, the figures show that there are relatively big regional variations; and the highest proportion of students that started their university studies by the age of 24 come from larger cities.

Since the 1970s, public policy has been to build more colleges and universities outside the big-city regions. Over the years, this has been shown to increase the proportion of students who continue their studies, particularly in their local region. Does the same trend apply in a big-city county such as Stockholm? KTH has facilities on five campuses in Greater Stockholm: Kista, Valhallavägen, Solna, Flemingsberg and Södertälje. This means that our courses are available to many people throughout the county who are thinking about continuing their studies. However, proximity to home is not the only factor in choosing a programme.

Our city integrated campuses mean that KTH has a presence not only where people live, but also where public and private sector organisations are based. KTH Campus at Valhallavägen is the oldest and has the broadest range of courses while Campus Solna is home to fewer courses and programmes but hosts the SciLifeLab, a collaborative national laboratory for the Life Sciences. In addition to the aforementioned locations, Södertälje, Flemingsberg and Kista are three totally different campuses integrated with the city.

In Södertälje, we are close to several large and internationally successful companies within the vehicle and pharmaceuticals industries. In Flemingsberg, KTH shares space with a number of other universities (Södertörn University, The Red Cross University College, Karolinska Institutet) as well as the Karolinska University Hospital. And finally there is Campus Kista, where KTH focuses on information and communication technology, alongside several international companies within IT and digitalisation as well as another university (Stockholm University). This not only creates dynamic environments, but also diverse opportunities to explore and make connections in the job market.

KTH offers many unique opportunities for students throughout the Greater Stockholm region with four locations outside the 101-year old campus on Valhallavägen. We still see that programmes at KTH Campus  receive the most applications; but I would encourage both current and future students to consider which campus they want to study at in addition to the programmes they find most interesting. All of our courses meet KTH’s high standards no matter where you study, but the different campuses can help you get access to the particular industries nearby. By studying at one of the four newer KTH campuses, you can gain excellent exposure and insight into specific sectors such as IT, vehicle engineering or life sciences.

It all starts with the students

Our approximately 13,000 full-time students are the foundation of our enterprise. Education and research go hand in hand in everything we do and they both strengthen and reinvigorate each other.

The Higher Education Act has the following impact on the students:

“Students should have the right to have a say in their education at universities. Universities should endeavour to enable students to play an active part in work to further develop courses.”

Students are, to the very highest degree, active participants in further developing the quality of education. To help ensure this is possible on a daily basis, students are represented on a number of different, preparatory and decision-making organs.

The students’ union, THS, puts forward many proposals and it is inspiring that our enterprise is constantly being viewed through fresh eyes. The fact that the students’ union representatives are replaced on an annual basis can sometimes make things a bit more difficult as we are always having to start again, as it were. On the other hand, it means we have to be more on our toes as new ideas then frequently arrive. And that’s definitely a good thing.

I am always just as delighted when a student approaches me to talk. Even though it is difficult to find enough time for personal/individual contact with students as KTH grows, I appreciate these moments. KTH is structured to ensure that each student is always in close contact with their teachers, programme director, director of first and second cycle education and not least, the study advice service, which is a place where students can discuss and be offered support on education issues. Sometimes, individual students can find it hard to navigate their way around KTH as it is so large. In this case, it is important to bear in mind that you can seek advice close to where you study, such as by contacting the school’s offices and their personnel.

It’s impressive that some students choose to become involved in the students’ union and in the guilds alongside their studies at KTH. I think this kind of involvement is of great importance in terms of how course programmes at KTH continue to be developed and maintain a consistently high quality. It is also shown in the new QS Rankings that a degree from KTH is highly valuable on the global labor market.

The perspective of how it is to be a student today, how today’s employers think, and new ideas on the development of our programmes is not simply vitalising – it is vital for the entire future development of KTH as a university.

Research in the short and long term

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic over the past 12 months. It’s an area where, according to the Vinnova report, KTH ranked best in Sweden, and is a driving force participating in numerous major research projects and collaborations.

The media are writing about it, researchers are researching it and governments are prioritising it; a development that can be seen in both Sweden and other countries.

This summer, I listened to Max Tegmark, a KTH alumnus, recipient of KTH’s Great Prize and Professor of Theoretical Physics at MIT in Boston, and his summer talk that focused on AI. He discussed in an exciting way how AI is leading to superhuman artificial intelligence, where machines can eventually outshine humans.

A thought provoking and challenging look at the possibilities of technology and how this should be used and controlled in the future, and in the service of all humanity. It is increasingly apparent that when new research fields such as this emerge, ethical questions must also be raised. Many social challenges are complex, so it is important to cast an eye over the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and the need for multidisciplinary approaches.

The research world is extremely extensive, which makes it what makes it so dynamic. While it is easy to gain the impression that a specific technology or technological development is the overriding focus, basic scientific research is continuing within many areas.

It may not garner such big headlines, but a methodical search for knowledge is obviously vital and a platform for future technological achievements. Knowledge that is mapped, tested, questioned, built on and further developed requires a great deal of patience, courage and stubbornness.

Many of today’s technological applications that we take for granted in our everyday lives would not exist without basic research. A few examples include having access to fresh food, headache tablets, electricity for cookers and even computer games. All these everyday products are based on basic research that then became an application, that when launched were only available to the few, but which everyone now has access to, at least in large parts of the world.

Both basic and applied research create benefits for society. Sometimes it is hard to say if certain basic researchfindings will offer any immediate benefits. Maybe the application will appear next year, in ten years or maybe not for another fifty years. Research is also about testing ideas and theories that prove not to hold water. It is important to bear in mind that you do not always get things right the first time – but without mistakes, there will be no progress.

Teachers who reach out

Many people have had one or more teachers who they will never forget: someone who perhaps saw their potential, awakened their thirst for knowledge and opened the door to a new world – at any level of education whatsoever.

This is why it is so deeply worrying that far too few people want to become teachers today when there is such a great need for them – particularly in the natural sciences, which lay the foundations for anyone eventually wanting to apply to KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

This information comes from the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s annual report, (in Swedish) a 222-page document which provides an outline in figures of daily life at university as well as the changes that have taken place over time, including the numbers of applications made for this understaffed profession.

The role of the teacher at university level is naturally highly significant too, and the art of providing educational stimulation to students to enable smart intellectual achievements and critical thinking is a skill to be proud of.

There is a tendency at research universities – which particularly applies to KTH – for research to be more highly valued than teaching. But as I have mentioned previously, I think that researchers at KTH should work as teachers too, and vice versa. A mix of diving deeper into your research and sharing your knowledge in an accessible way is both educational and stimulating for all parties concerned. Encountering inquiring minds that question things and challenge you to explain complicated phenomena in a new way is a fun aspect of being a teacher.

But the skills required for teaching – just like those needed for many other areas – need to be updated continuously and kept alive in order to remain relevant. This is especially true considering how our entire learning environment is being digitised and the platforms used for teaching are constantly being developed and changed, such as courses and seminars available online as MOOCs. Lifelong learning applies especially to teachers at universities.

Remaining at the forefront and developing new methods for learning helps to ensure that the quality of courses and study programmes remains high. There are many committed teachers at KTH who are constantly developing the courses and programmes to ensure that they are relevant and useful.

The fact that fewer students graduated from Swedish universities last year, and that there are still too few who take the opportunity to study abroad during their programme – these are just a couple of the phenomena emerging from all the statistics that reflect the situation Swedish universities currently find themselves in.

It is clear from the figures in the report that having a university education pays when you want to enter the labour market – particularly for those with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in engineering. At the same time, the figures show that it takes a long time to graduate from an engineering programme. Studying on a full-time basis and being committed to your studies increases the likelihood of graduating within the allotted time. Even if it’s tempting to start working before you graduate, the ability to complete what you’ve started is also something that will help you in your career.

The fact that more women continue their studies after upper-secondary school and perform better than men is another current trend that applies in most OECD countries. Among recent graduates, 64 percent were women and 36 percent men, for example.

This provides food for thought for KTH. Gender equality is, as I say, a quality issue.

High grade in internationalisation

“I did it! I got my degree!” It’s always as delightful to see the happy and justifiably proud faces of new graduates at their degree ceremony at the Stockholm City Hall. It’s also really good to know that our students are ready for the increasingly globalised labour market. In a borderless knowledge society, internationalisation is an opportunity and a must for a country such as Sweden.

It’s pleasing to see that working consciously, strategically and with a long-term approach to internationalisation issues (just as KTH Royal Institute of Technology is doing) generates good results. Recently this could be seen in STINT’s (the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education’s) survey of the work of 28 Swedish universities on internationalisation. Along with Chalmers University of Technology and Stockholm School of Economics, KTH once again received top marks: that is, five stars in STINT’s internationalisation index.

You can generate an index by looking at research, students, research students, courses and study programmes, faculty and leadership in terms of internationalisation. International co-publications and the international academic background of staff are two of six key elements that were surveyed, with KTH being among the foremost universities in these areas.

By October 31, the final report of the Internationalisation Commission appointed by the Swedish Government will be published. I blogged about the interim report.

We will then have official guidelines regarding how the collective work is to be structured.

Where KTH is concerned, we welcome an overall approach and new ways of thinking in this area. To further highlight the issue, share different aspects of it and exchange ideas, we are organising an Internationalisation Seminar (and one on the theme of the digitisation of higher education) at Almedalen this summer, asking: “Do Swedish universities dare to step out into the world, and are they permitted and able to do so?”

I hope that opinions will be challenged, truths questioned and new ideas will lead the way on our panel, in which several interesting and well-informed individuals will be participating. I particularly hope for a discussion on issues that currently make it more difficult for Swedish universities and institutes of higher education to be global actors.

Where KTH is concerned, internationalisation is constantly in focus and, as mentioned in an earlier blog post, it is one of our three pillars.

As the poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” I would argue that just over 400 years later, the same thing applies: no researcher or university for that matter – or even nation – is complete in itself, but rather a part of the whole.

Cooperation, exchanges and skills transfer are crucial to creating a healthy academic sphere that makes a positive contribution to social development.

The importance of inspiring role models

Being an international university means maintaining good relationships with other universities around the world. Last week, the Deputy President, the University Director, heads of schools, KTH Senior Advisor International Strategies and I visited Munich.

The purpose of the visit was to strengthen our relationship with the Technical University of Munich (TUM). A lot of collaboration with TUM is already underway in many areas of research, and around 10 students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology go there on short or slightly longer exchanges every year. KTH also hosts several students from TUM.

Global relations involve maintaining close contact and cooperation with our peers, but also being a role model for universities that want to improve as well as interacting more with international universities that serve as role models for KTH.

Today KTH has five international partner universities, and we are currently in discussion with Queen Mary University of London about the possibility of it becoming a sixth such partner to us.

There are numerous European universities in networks such as CESAER  and CLUSTER , so we already have many collaboration contacts in Europe.

But TUM is of particular interest for a number of reasons, not least because it is ranked No. 1 in Germany. TUM has a faculty of medicine that contributes to the university’s high position in international ranking lists.

Otherwise, TUM and KTH are similar in terms of their respective technology domains. But there are also differences, as Germany’s federal states have an independent role and they also strongly support their universities. Our impression is that TUM is a relatively rich university. This is apparent in the way professors are recruited there and then granted access to numerous associated services and laboratories when they take up their positions. That’s hard for KTH to match.

The systematic work being done to ensure worldwide visibility is very interesting. TUM has offices in every part of the world, which are usually staffed by locals. To them, being represented in Brussels is a given. These offices around the world are mainly used to recruit students, but also to help establish research contacts.

TUM has a fully-developed international campus in Singapore .TUM is present there as an independent company, because just as in Sweden, state funding cannot be used outside the home country’s borders. But via this company structure, TUM provides both first cycle and second cycle courses and study programmes. In Singapore, the organisation is funded by tuition fees and by German companies located there.

The students come primarily from Asia, and companies tend to provide resources because of their need for educated staff. The TUM company was established 15 years ago and our impression is that it is doing well. TUM in Singapore is located in the same building as MIT and other international centres of learning. Having a company that operates as an international campus is an interesting set-up, but is not something that Swedish universities like ours are allowed to do – at least not yet. Over the years, various initiatives have been taken at KTH that could be likened to having a campus outside Sweden.

Establishing outposts abroad can be risky and must, of course, provide the university with clear added value. The basic principle that state funding must remain in Sweden is self-evident. And if a different setup is to work at all, it is important that it can be financed locally on-site – where the campus is located.

We also visited TUM’s innovation unit, the Entrepreneurship Center, which is located just outside Munich, in Garching. An impressively large area is set aside there for MakerSpace, where all manner of workshop equipment is available. KTH also has many such workshops. The inspiring thing was discovering that companies (both large and small) can become members by paying a fee, which gives them access to all the equipment. This secures funding for the activities, which of course benefits TUM as a university.

And, as the icing on the cake, KTH organised an alumni event one evening. The Munich Alumni Chapter is celebrating its fifth anniversary this spring. There are approximately 380 KTH alumni in the Munich area, which makes them the largest such group in Germany. It was enjoyable to meet former students who all really value the education they received at KTH. This time, we also invited KTH students who are currently participating in exchange programmes in Munich, as well as German exchange students. This proved to be very popular.

It reminded me of how important our alumni are as ambassadors for KTH. The focused efforts made over the past few years to build this up are beginning to pay dividends. One of the alumni mentioned to me that we are fairly unique in working with this concept in the Nordics, but that universities in our neighbouring countries are starting to turn to KTH to learn more about it.

It is always appreciated if you inform the KTH Alumni Office when you travel abroad to conferences or on exchanges of various kinds. You are always more than welcome to hold a lecture for one of the 20+ alumni associations around the world, for example. Most of these associations hold around 4-6 meetings a year, and a visit by a “KTH-er” is always appreciated.