Teamwork lifts research

Published Nov 27, 2018

Team work, cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary science; these are fundamental pillars in KTH's research, and determiners of its reputation.

“The fact that we attract reputable researchers and international students to KTH is a good credential,” says Annika Stensson Trigell, vice president for research at KTH.

For the last two years, Stensson Trigell has been responsible for external research funding and developing research, as well as creating a relevant and adequately inviting environment for approximately 3,700 teachers, researchers and doctoral students at KTH.

Stensson Trigell was recruited as a professor from Luleå Technical University 18 years ago to lead research in automotive dynamics and education in vehicle technology.

“At that time, most researchers had their own expertise and remained within their disciplines, and KTH was more of a research hotel,” she says. “Today, research environments are larger and have more cross-border operations. Thanks to research centers and the strategic research areas, we have been able to build critical mass in many areas.”

Throughout her career, this has been just the case, with building viable and creative interdisciplinary research coalitions with surrounding societies and business as a red thread.

Contributing to solutions on common issues is stimulating, she says. The time for the lonely research genius achieving great things in competition with other like-minded intellectuals may be over. In a globalized world with great societal challenges for the scientific community and tough competition, the need for and the necessity of exchanging ideas and solutions is increasing. Methods and techniques developed for a particular application can be the solutions to completely different challenges.

"The question today is more often: what problem do we want to solve and who should contribute in order to get the best results. How can it benefit society the most? To be able to see your own knowledge in relation to others will benefit all parties.”

Stensson Trigell has worked as she’s learned and supports a series of collaborations that have gathered relevant players in the same team. She has built networks at both the national and international levels. It has resulted in close cooperation that has been manifested in excellent research centers, such as the Center for ECO2 Vehicle Design with many parties in the transport sector.

During 2009-2011, she built the KTH Transport Platform, which now brings together 850 researchers from different disciplines.

The other platforms at KTH today are Life Science Technology, Material, ICT and Energy.

"KTH's platforms are catalysts – they will facilitate and encourage interdisciplinary cooperation within their respective areas, both within KTH and with other parties.”

She has also built up KTH's strategic collaboration with Scania, which resulted in both a partnership and a great number of research initiatives – such as Integrated Transport Research Lab – focusing on the future transport system.

"Integrated, hands-on work makes us not only more effective, but it’s also a competitive advantage. With strong and clear research environments, it is easier to have good researchers stay and to attract new talent to join.”

She offers some thoughts about the competition among universities for highly-paid international research stars.

“There are excellent researchers all over the world. We would like to attract those who both strengthen our research environments and want to develop research operations. Perhaps, it’s best for us not to have a researcher who lives on old merits and is likely to change the team again. Instead, we strive to attract rising stars that bloom here and create exciting results.”

Stensson Trigell advocates for environments with close links between education and research.

“It's easy to be either or. Close links between education and research increase the quality and relevance of both. KTH's courses are also known among both students and employers for the mix of theory and practice,” she says.

She offers an example to show how the interaction between education and research can look.

"We did an education initiative within a research program called “Gröna Bilen” (Green Car). The courses were built on knowledge from previous research efforts in environmentally-friendly vehicle construction, electrical and hybrid vehicles, fuel cells, batteries and emissions from internal combustion engines. To attract students, we must constantly aim to educate in the most current subjects.”

Four questions for Annika Stensson Trigell

What distinguishes a good researcher?

“To question, find solutions and insistently test the limits of what is possible. Additionally, to communicate so that others understand and, as mentioned, to be able to cooperate with the surrounding community.”

KTH has dropped in the latest THE ranking, what are your thoughts about it?

“That's right, some of our competitors have gone above us. The sensitivity of the measurement system itself means that very little is needed for it to change. Of course, we must work even more to increase our competitiveness. We are therefore working on developing a research evaluation system that will encourage research environments to develop their own strategies. However, we are placed very well in many areas and are among the top 40 technical universities in the world.”

In which areas are KTH distinguished?

“In THE's ranking, we are especially distinguished in mathematics, transport science, regulatory technology and telecommunications. In QS's ranking, architecture, built environment, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, materials technology and construction technology are highlighted.”

And going forward?

"We are now working a lot to become even better in sustainable development, digitization, AI and industrialization to name a few areas where KTH wants to be of great use.”

Jill Klackenberg  

Name: Annika Elisabeth Stensson Trigell

Age: 53 years

Family: Three children and a husband

Favorite location: Norrland – where I charge my batteries.

On the CV: Vice president for Research at KTH. Professor in Vehicle Dynamics. Supervisor of several research centers and KTH Transport Platform. Coordinator for the “Gröna Bilen” education initiative. Member of many research councils, center formations and research initiatives. Over the years, I have been examining and managing approx. 230 dissertations and around 70 bachelor degree dissertations. I have also handled 17 PhD students who have disputed.

Own research: It is about modeling, simulation and experimental characterization of vehicle dynamics, where the interaction between vehicles, drivers and surroundings are important aspects.

Honorary assignments: This year, I will be a promoter when the new doctors are promoted in the City Hall, which is very exciting and honorable. It reminds me about of 18 years ago, when I held my inaugural lecture as a new professor in the Blue Hall about "Chaos in the machinery?"

Best innovation: The safety belt

Best Technical Gadget: My Mac

Dream Project: To research how to change the characteristics of a vehicle while driving, so as to be as energy efficient and as safe as possible – with improved driving satisfaction and comfort. Tinkering with cars has not been my entry as a transport scientist – it's the ability to capture characteristics with equations and be able to use them for better solutions that attracted me.

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