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David Nilsson

Profilbild av David Nilsson



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Om mig

I have for the past fifteen years studied the fusing of knowledge, ideology, institutions and technology, and how this links to innovation and socio-technical change. I am fascinated by how large-scale phenomena like globalisation, imperialism and development aid affect local processes. In my research, and in earlier career, I focus on water and environment in urban environments and from 2018 I am Associate Professor in History of Science and Technology at KTH.

Water has been at the centre of my work for 25 years. From February 2017 I am the Director of WaterCentre@KTH, a collaborative platform at KTH together with partners in industry, public authorities and other research institutions. The aim of the Centre is to bring about new collaborations, with recombined knowledge sets, all focussed on addressing specific societal challenges around water. In this work, I find that my varied professional background is useful in bridging different kinds of knowledge and a variety of actors.

My thesis (2011) was on history and long-term change of urban water and sanitation systems in Uganda and Kenya. During 2013-2015 I participated in the VR-funded project "Sweden and the Origins of Natural Resources Colonialism". I initiated an inter-academic media conversation in 2014 known as “The Travelling Scientist”, bearing critique on our currently unsustainable fossil-fuelled mode of global knowledge production. In 2016-2017 Sverker Sörlin and I also took a fresh look at Swedish development research through a historical and forward gaze, commissioned by the Expert Group for Aid Studies.

Currently I’m leading a FORMAS-funded project where we examine the role of local innovation for transformation of technical systems in Africa, and also collaborate with colleagues in Uganda, South Africa, USA and UK in a VR-funded project on Heterogenous Infrastructure in Uganda. From 2018 I have leading roles in two new large collaborative projects through the WaterCentre@KTH. First, through the MISTRA InfraMaint programme we look at how digitalisation can improve infrastructure management together with the Stockholm Water and Waste Company, City of Gothenburg and many other partners from academia, municipalities and industry. Second, under a Formas grant, together with a dozen industry partners we look at how on-property recovery of water and heat can bring about disruptive change at system level, and how that affects sustainability and social justice. 

I have previously worked for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), with postings in Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as in the private sector. I also work as an independent advisor, expert, facilitator, and trainer with focus on sustainable development in Africa (more on: www.hydropolisconsulting.se). I constantly challenge myself to navigate the borderland between different professional communities and geographies. This is not just because its fun. I am convinced that’s where truly new and profoundly meaningful knowledge is made.