A festive celebration at IVA’s Annual Meeting

Saturday 29 October 2016

The celebration of IVA’s 97th Annual Meeting was, as always, one long party. First there were speeches, Gold Medal presentations and commemoration in Stockholm Concert Hall. Then a reception, banquet and dancing in Stockholm City Hall.

Leif Johansson, Chairman of IVA, highlighted the importance of sustainable business models in his speech in the Concert Hall. He looked in the rear-view mirror and remembered when he first became interested in the environment. It was while he was President of Electrolux and the main environmental concern at the time was alarming news about growing holes in the ozone layer.

“At first we were sceptical about whether refrigerators has that much to do with it. We also thought it was technically impossible to find a replacement for the harmful Freon. In the end we realised the strength of the scientific evidence,” says Leif Johansson.

This made a strong impression on him and he realised that environmental issues are of utmost importance. He also remembered that, just over 20 years ago, he was Chairman of the IVA project “Environmentally-driven business development.”

“Working on sustainability in a strategic environment and having an environmental vision give us a competitive edge,” said Leif Johansson.

Björn O. Nilsson, President of IVA, in his annual address on “Progress in Research and Technology,” talked about the Research Bill to be presented in a month’s time. Although not all of the details are known yet, he was able to say that, after seeing the proposed budget, it is clear that the bill “will not start the march towards an increased state research budget in relative terms,” The increases are fairly modest. Despite this sombre news, he stated clearly what he would like to see:

“I hope there will be a clear emphasis on research excellence in the bill and that the funds will not be spread too thinly. If we are going to be competitive internationally, we need to be bold enough to invest in a few excellent research environments.”

Björn O. Nilsson has made it a tradition to surprise the Concert Hall audience by inviting a “secret guest” up onto the stage for a brief conversation. And a more topical choice would be hard to find in Sweden’s research world than Minister for Higher Education and Research, Helene Hellmark Knutsson. Many of those in the packed Concert Hall were clearly hoping that she would break some news about the upcoming bill – a bill that has already been delayed a number of times. But the only thing she could say was that officials in the Government Offices were working hard to get it ready. Despite the Macchiarini affair, reports about research cheating and the KI scandal, she was still happy to see strong support for research among the general public.

“We should be proud of and safeguard that. Strong support for research is not a thing we should take for granted – here or in any country,” she said.

Helene Hellmark Knutsson also believes that research results should be communicated broadly in society and that we should ensure that an interest in research is awakened early in the next generation.

Björn O. Nilsson took the opportunity to test the Minister’s knowledge on stage with four, not-so-simple, picture puzzles. She did quite well – three out of four correct answers. But she had a bit of trouble seeing the difference between a cable for high voltage electricity and a cross section of a birch tree branch. Later, in her speech of thanks in City Hall she asked Björn and IVA for help arranging a field trip for her to ABB to learn more about high voltage direct current.

Author: Lars Nilsson