The UN's global goals for sustainable development are in focus when KTH and Times Higher Education organize a scientific conference in April 2020. (Photo: UN)

Truly inspiring innovation conference

Published Nov 22, 2019

How can you create a successful innovation climate? How can universities around the world steer social development in a sustainable direction? These are some of the questions set to be discussed at a major conference at KTH next year.

Stefan Östlund, Vice President.

The conference, THE Innovation and Impact Summit , initiated by ranking body, Times Higher Education, invites university managements, companies, financiers and experts within innovation and global development.

The aim is to exchange ideas and experiences concerning opportunities for universities to contribute to meeting the global social challenges defined by the 17 UN Global Sustainable Development Goals.

The questions at the conference revolve around the importance of a good innovation culture. How can an eco system for innovations be developed in the best way in order to promote sustainable development: which parties are involved in the innovation process, what do resources and forms of cooperation look like?

Flat organisations

“KTH wants to showcase Swedish innovative forces,” says Stefan Östlund , Vice President for Global Relations.

“What is it that enables Sweden and other countries near us to be so successful in creating innovations with world reputations? Even though we are neither the biggest nor possess the most resources, we are still successful. Perhaps because we are good at nurturing talents and helping them to grow,” he says, and adds:

“We are willing to cooperate with decision-makers, politicians and the enterprise sector – flat, non-hierarchical organisations contribute to a favourable, creative atmosphere.”

Via field trips and lectures, conference delegates will be able to gain an understanding of how big Swedish companies such as Scania, Ericsson, H&M and IKEA address sustainability issues and develop their business together with academia.

Questions concerning social sustainability will be discussed in the light of work being done in the Nordic countries in areas such as equal opportunities, diversity and inclusive societies.

“This can concern how secure you are during the process of developing an innovation. What do the financial conditions look like? If you have too great a sense of security, would you lose your motivation in the face of reverses, and vice versa: would too little security bring the risk of you not being daring enough or even able to focus sufficiently on your innovation.”

Integrate sustainable development

One goal of the conference, that will be held from 22-24 April 2020, is to deepen the discussion on the social impact of universities and inspire more people to develop strategies for new processes and cooperation models. Östlund hopes that new proposals, ideas and good examples of how university research and innovation work can influence social development will emerge.

“How can we become better at integrating sustainable development goals into our research such that they genuinely are implemented and become something that researchers use on an everyday basis? What lessons can we learn from those universities that have succeeded with this?”

Times Higher Education (THE) that is arranging the conference together with KTH, ranks universities via analysis and assessments. THE is most famous for its university rankings. Earlier this year, THE released university impact rankings based on the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals, for the first time. KTH gained a prominent seventh place in the ranking.

The rankings for next year will be published on the opening day of the conference. Östlund is looking forward to a discussion on how the THE measuring method works.

“How can measuring and evaluating be done in the right way and how can a university ensure their sustainability work shows through in the ranking? That is probably something many people would be interested in finding out.”

Text: Christer Gummeson

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Last changed: Nov 22, 2019