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Congratulations Bo Normark

New honorary doctor at KTH

Published Aug 24, 2021

A legend in power grid technology, and a pioneer in smart electricity grids and battery systems. KTH Royal Institute of Technology's new honorary doctor, Bo Normark, is a visionary and an initiator who has made a huge contribution to creating the foundations for the major international investment that has played a significant part in KTH's excellence and its leading international role in both education and research

Nominated by professor at EECS

This nomination was written by Lina Bertling Tjernberg , Professor in Power Grid Technology, who tells us about Bo Normark:

"I got to know Bo when I was Research Director at Svenska kraftnät in 2008, after that I participated as a committee member of the Government assignment on smart electricity grids, for which he was a driving force, and in a project within IVA Vägval energi, of which he was chair."

"Bo has been a leader in EIT InnoEnergy, with headquarters in Stockholm, and where KTH and EECS have been leaders in several different programs and educations. This has given us access to international expertise, innovative training and much more."

"He has always been generous in sharing his knowledge and experience, and he is a much-appreciated advisor and speaker. He is an initiator and a leader with a central role in driving future technological development in power grids and electrification."

Congratulations on your appointment as an Honorary Doctor! What does it mean to you to become an honorary doctor at KTH?

"I am, of course, honoured and flattered by it. But from my perspective, what I think is most exciting is that a lot of the motivation is based on my work over the last ten years. And thinking about a professional life is, of course, interesting. I think it's a good point to say that I've been involved in the most interesting things over the last ten years. To return to this curiosity: I have worked very hard to try to understand what the future holds, what technologies lie ahead, what can be used and how, and how to do business from it all and/or create a business."

The nomination reads, among other things: "Through an early insight, largely ahead of his time, he advocated energy storage and electrification as the next step in energy system evolution". Can you tell us something about how you came to be so early with this insight?

"There I owe a debt of gratitude to Gunnar Asplund - former honorary doctor at KTH (2005). We worked together in the early 1990s when he created a vision of a Europe with one hundred per cent renewable energy, which was tremendously spectacular at the time. It was so spectacular that ABB didn't even want it to be used it externally. We used this to create a strategy and motivation. This is because you need a vision to be able to know what direction to take, as well as which technologies can be winners and losers in the future. I've carried this with me to other fields. I became interested in the increasing amount technology development, and I am constantly trying to understand: what drives the development of new technologies? What are the influencing factors, and how do you get better at identifying the winners?"

You are also described as having an almost magical ability to create motivation and build relationships with other people. Do you possess a magical social instinct, or do you work actively to build relationships?

"My mother was a politician, and early on I recognised the value of being able to influence people, but didn't want to go into politics myself. But the ability to cooperate is important; you can't just be a team of engineers. You have to be able to understand the complex interplay between technology, politics, and the financial world. You have to be able to talk to everyone. InnoEnergy was based on creating a better connection between academia and entrepreneurship. And that's exactly what I've been doing, linking the political system in Brussels with both industrialisation and academia."

"To able to work out where we are going, what is pretence and what is reality, also requires a network. One asset I have is a large network, and one where I've also had the privilege to maintain contacts with younger people."

You sound very optimistic that we will find solutions to the climate problems, and that the energy issue is an important piece of the puzzle.

"Many people describe me as too optimistic, to which I say that out of all of the global challenges, the energy issue is the one most likely to be solved. And once we have achieved that, we will have the key to solving many of the others. For example, how do you produce clean water? If you have clean and cheap energy, you can produce clean water, etcetera."

"In the short term, the energy issue is also the one with the absolute greatest climate impact. There is nothing as effective as replacing carbon-based electricity production with renewable energy production. It is the most effective of all the environmental measures we can take."

"I'm even more optimistic now than I was a few years ago, because purely commercial interests are driving many of these changes. We have crossed the turning point in such a way that companies perceive this as an opportunity and not a threat. And the only ones under threat are those who fail to realise that this will happen, who believe they can keep to the old ways."

How will you celebrate the appointment?

"I'm looking forward to the ceremony together with my wife, who has always been my support, and to have the chance to speak before young people at KTH and in other contexts. My biggest reward has always been when young people come up with good questions, and patiently sit and listen and then ask their questions. What do you think will happen? What do you think about that? It is my biggest inspiration!"

Honorary doctors at KTH