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New head of department wants to invest more in EU funding

Daniel Söderberg is the new Head of Department at the Department of Fiber and Polymer Technology.
Daniel Söderberg is the new Head of Department at the Department of Fiber and Polymer Technology.
Published Apr 11, 2023

From 1 April, Daniel Söderberg is the new Head of Department at the Department of Fiber and Polymer Technology:

“I look forward to a dynamic period and have high expectations for the new management of KTH.”

For the next four years, Daniel Söderberg will lead the Department of Fiber and Polymer Technology, which consists of 130 employees and seven departments.

The assignment as Head of Department cannot be applied for. After a process in which teachers at the department were given their views on various candidates, the head of school made the formal decision.

Daniel is Professor and Head of the Department for Fiber Processes. He is also Director of Treesearch, the Swedish platform for collaboration on research on materials from the forest.

“One of our strengths is that we still carry out engineering research. It is research where we link basic understanding to technical utility, which can provide wider use. We know how things really work!” says Daniel.

The work as head of department is half-time and involves responsibility for the operations at the department. It is the second time Daniel Söderberg has taken on a task as head of department. Between the years 2016-2018, he was head of department at the Department of Mechanics. Daniel compares the role of head of department to being the manager of a company.

“Students at all levels are our most important product. Therefore, we must have good teachers and high-quality courses, but we have limited resources and time, which must be enough to do a lot. Today, teachers spend far too much time on tasks that have nothing to do with education or research. It is a balancing act to get enough resources.”

Collaborate with others

What is the first thing you will do as head of department?

“I will continuously have a discussion with the departments about their needs. What support do they want from me? What can they contribute themselves?”

Do you have a particular issue you want to highlight?

“We can get better at applying for EU funds. We need to collaborate with others, both at the department and broadly within KTH, says Daniel. This could be an opportunity to strengthen our research environment and ensure that we have access to modern characterization methods and a well-functioning and well-equipped instrument park.”

Other issues that engage the Head of Department are the research infrastructure and the use of premises, an issue that is in focus throughout KTH.

Daniel recalls the special relationship that the researchers themselves finance their research. KTH accounts for 40 percent of the researchers' salaries, the remaining 60 percent comes from external financiers.

“All universities are in a bind. Everything is underfunded and we need to raise funds that enable us to finance ancillary services and infrastructure.”

Employee pulse important

What will be the biggest challenge?

“To succeed in creating an environment where everyone feels at home and has the opportunity to conduct their research. As a researcher and teacher, there are no regulated working hours. Many work considerably more than between 8-17, which is okay if you feel that you yourself can influence the balance. If you lose that control, it's not okay.”

Daniel emphasizes that it is important that everyone responds to the Employee Pulse.

“We need to increase the response rate. The survey works if we do it regularly and can follow developments. Everyone needs to respond, both those who are satisfied with how everything works and those who want to see a change.”

Text: Leena Höijer

Read more about Daniel Söderberg's research