Fast adaptation will shape the way we work post-Covid
As I write this at the beginning of 2021, the pandemic still dominates our everyday lives. Many have been severely impacted. Businesses and organisations throughout society have had to adapt and start working in new ways – including IVA.
From IVA’s perspective, 2020 is in sharp contrast with the previous year when we celebrated the Academy’s 100-year journey as the world’s first academy of engineering sciences. Our Jubilee was celebrated by an explosion of activity, face-to-face meetings of people from all around the country, and visitors from many parts of the world coming to Sweden to participate in our programmes.
We have an exact date for when we had adapt to the new situation for the first time. On 1 April IVA’s Resource Effectiveness and the Circular Economy project was set to be presented and discussed at a seminar in the building of the Riksdag in cooperation with the Swedish Society for Members of Parliament and Researchers (Rifo). Due to restrictions the event had be quickly switched to the Wallenberg Auditorium. It was our first webinar and would be followed by 47 more digital events during the course of the year. We also had to replace the festive gathering that is our Annual General Meeting in City Hall with a livestream from Wallenberg Auditorium.
We were able to quickly adapt thanks to the investments we had made in digital technology at IVA’s Conference Centre in connection with our Jubilee. In 2020 we continued to fine-tune the technology and develop a structure for our video conferencing and streaming. Virtual event participants can now take an active part by asking questions and commenting in the chat functions. It’s not the same as meeting in person – we’re all missing that – but the digital format has actually allowed us to reach three or four times as many participants as at our past in-person events.
As vaccinated gets under way we are seeing glimpses of the new normal. A lot of what we have learnt during the pandemic will be woven into future meetings between people – something that is at the core of what we do at IVA. Many more participants – especially those outside the Stockholm area or from other countries – will be able to take part in our discussions using the effective digital tools at our disposal.
During a pandemic it’s easy to forget the other challenges we’re facing. But the climate crisis and the transition necessary have not taken a break. Last spring we were quick to launch our Sustainable New Start for Sweden project involving strong joint action where, in a limited amount of time, we were able to propose initiatives to quickly get the economy going during the pandemic in a way that is sustainable for the long term.
Also during the year we concluded our Climate Crossroads project and launched a project on the opportunities offered by digitalisation in the social services sector and another on a sustainable water supply. Our long-term projects focusing on Swedish school education and entrepreneurship – made possible thanks generous donations from so many – really picked up speed in 2020. Both themes are highly significant for Sweden’s future as an entrepreneurial and innovative knowledge nation.
IVA’s year ended as it began, with a visit from Matilda Ernkrans, Sweden’s Minister for Higher Education and Research. In January she was in attendance in a full Wallenberg Auditorium talking about her work on the upcoming Research and Innovation Bill. At the end of December she was back, this time on a screen in the Auditorium presenting the final bill which – despite the pandemic – includes an increase in resources for research and innovation-driving activities. A record audience of more than 1,000 people tuned into the live stream.
IVA’s knowledge base is built on the solid expertise in engineering sciences and economics of more than a thousand Academy fellows. To supplement this expertise we have far-reaching networks, not least through the Business Executives Council and Student Council, and all of those working at the Academy offices. I’m proud and delighted that so many have been involved in our activities despite the difficult external circumstances this past year. The strategy that we created together in 2018 has come to life through our committed fellows who shape and take on the responsibility for the content of our projects and programmes.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who have helped IVA fulfil its vital role in society during the pandemic.
Tuula Teeri, President of IVA