The so-called peat bubble (torvbubblan), Sweden’s first energy crisis during the years 1900–1925, was a wake-up call for politicians. In 1916 the Swedish Parliament was already discussing a public research institute to examine issues relating to power and fuel. When the Swedish National Board of Trade’s industrial division was asked to looking into this, it concluded that a public institute was not the most appropriate format. It should instead be expanded to incorporate science and technology research and be run by an independent organisation.
Parliament agreed with the National Board of Trade’s recommendation and in 1919 the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences was launched at Grev Turegatan in Stockholm. At the helm was President Axel F. Enström who had served as head of the National Board of Trade’s industrial division. He stayed on as President of IVA for 21 years.
Right from the start one of his duties, according to the statutes, was to provide an annual summary of the progress made in science and technology. His eight successors have continued this tradition every year at the Annual Meeting of the Academy at the end of October, often in the presence of IVA’s patron H.M the King.
At the start the Academy had seven divisions. They correspond to today’s divisions I–VII, although the names have changed over the years.
Later on, divisions VII–XII were added to cover new fields and social phenomena. Division XII Information Technology is one example.
Right from the start, projects were an important element of IVA’s activities. The energy issue also dominated from the beginning and several aspects of it have been explored over almost a century of IVA history. Other topical issues have included research and education, innovation and enterprise, and infrastructure. One aspect that all the projects share is that they combine analysis with policy proposals.
IVA had strong ties to industry and the business community right from the beginning. When the Business Executives Council was formed in 1950, at that time under the name Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences Industrial Council, those ties became even stronger. Today more than 250 companies and public sector organisations are involved in IVA through the Business Executives Council. The Chair of the Business Executives Council is a member of the Academy’s Executive Council.
In 2006 IVA’s Student Council was formed, consisting of students from Swedish universities offering engineering programmes, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Stockholm School of Economics and the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg. Student Council members contribute to an exchange of knowledge between the generations and bring important issues to the debate.
The Academy has an extensive experience of international work. Already in the 1940's IVA began to work as a networking enabling organization with monitoring of global affairs with posted experts. Their job was to monitor technology development in the country and report back to IVA in Sweden. Today these are the Science and Innovations Councellors, focusing on innovation and economic growth.
IVA has initiated a number of programmes that have since been hived off, including:
Svetskommissionen (The Swedish Welding Commission), formed in 1931, and Ytkemiska institutet (Institute for Surface Chemistry), formed in 1963, are examples of IVA initiatives to stimulate collaboration between industry and research in a specific field. The mission of Power Circle, a professional organisation launched in 2008, is to strengthen, support and promote Swedish electricity and electric power technology.
CONNECT Sweden was formed in 1998 after an IVA delegation visited California. The University of California had been running a programme there since 1986 to connect entrepreneurs with capital and talent to support business growth.
Tekniska museet (Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology) was opened in 1924 and IVA was one of its founders. The museum was housed in IVA’s building at Grev Turegatan 14 until it was moved to newly built premises at Gärdet in Stockholm in 1936.
The Sjögren Library is a collection of more than 10,000 books donated by Hjalmar Sjögren’s widow Anna Nobel according to her husband’s wishes. The collection was his private library of books collected throughout his life.
Photo: Tekniska museet