President editorial: IVA is an effective network

This is my last editorial. During the just over nine years that I have served as President of IVA I have written quite a few. 69 to be exact.
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I wrote the first one in September 2008. The heading was “Research is meant to do good.” While browsing through my early contributions, I came across the programme description:

The Academy must focus on “significant themes,” specifically: the environment and energy, declining interest in engineering and natural sciences among young people, the importance of Sweden being a more entrepreneur-oriented nation in which innovation is stimulated, and ensuring that research provides concrete benefits and is an engine for growth. I am concerned about the fact that the Government is not investing enough in needs-driven research compared to countries like the USA and Finland.  

Almost a decade and three research bills later, it is appropriate to ask how IVA has contributed to development in Sweden through the focus areas I mentioned above. I think we can be proud of what we’ve achieved.

We have run both large and small projects on the themes of energy and the environment. The Academy has helped advance the sustainability issue from being a challenge to now being regarded as a hygiene factor. Customers and consumers expect sustainable products, companies and organisations. IVA played a vital role in the energy agreements of 2009 and 2016 by providing policy-makers with solid, fact-based information and data, and by driving the debate.

In terms of getting young people interested in engineering, IVA is making a difference through the Academy’s successful initiative called Tekniksprånget. Since the start in 2012 around 3,000 young people have been able to test a career as an engineer with one of the 230 employers involved in this internship programme. In 2016 a spin-off called Jobbsprånget was created to help newcomers to our country with a university degree to get an internship in the private or public sector.  

Innovation and entrepreneurship have always been close to my heart. Before IVA I worked for many years on the practical side with innovation in the biotech sector. IVA as an independent force has maintained a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship through various projects, starting with Innovation for Growth in 2009 and Prince Daniel’s Fellowship from 2013.  

Society’s opinion and image of entrepreneurs has changed radically over the past decade. The entrepreneur is regarded as an engine in the economy – one that transforms ideas into innovations; a Swedish hero and prosperity builder, just like the engineer. That is why I am happy to see the significant interest that schools and universities have shown in welcoming Prince Daniel and his inspiring entrepreneurs, and the great enthusiasm with which pupils and students  greet them as they travel around Sweden.

It has also been important to get the message out beyond our offices at Grev Turegatan about IVA’s focus areas and to present the work we do to an even bigger audience. 2009 was the first year IVA attended Almedal Week. Now it is a tradition for the Academy to participate in this popular forum for public debate.

The Wallenberg Auditorium, our own large arena, was re-opened in 2013 on the date of its 30th anniversary. Fully renovated, light and filled with new technology, it is now a state-of-the-art meeting place.

Three research bills (2008, 2012 and 2016) were presented during my tenure as President. Government investment has increased. Still, public investments are only equivalent to around 1 percent of GDP. Although this is above the EU average of 0.7 percent, the level for Sweden as a small research-dependent country should be 1.5 percent of GDP.  Private sector R&D as a percentage of GDP is shrinking in relative terms, falling slowly from 3 percent of GDP to 2 percent. There are several explanations for this but the trend is a cause for concern.

Sweden must be a country that can attract investors, highly qualified researchers and knowledgeable engineers –now and in the future.  

IVA has achieved a lot during my time as President in the form of reports and results thanks to our members donating their time and energy and to our Business Executives Council and Academy office employees. IVA is an effective network.

While I am sad to leave IVA, I am also excited about increasing my involvement in other contexts. I am confident that IVA will continue to play a key role through its mission “to promote the engineering and economic sciences and the development of industry for the benefit of society.” This mission statement from our statutes is still relevant and an excellent starting point for IVA to contribute to an internationally competitive, sustainable future society. I would like to wish my successor Professor Tuula Teeri good luck in Sweden’s most exciting job in the realm of engineering, science and innovation. Thank you.