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Helene Hellmark Knutsson is no longer a government minister, Minister for Higher Education and Research


Speech by Helene Helmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research, at the 2nd China Sweden Health Forum


Beijing, 13 June 2017.

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Excellencies, good morning! Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here at the Second China Sweden Health Forum.

As our societies grow wealthier our populations also live longer and are exposed to new health challenges. Such as increased diabetes, cancer and respiratory diseases. The proportion of people with Non-Communicable Diseases continue to grow.

Therefore, our health care systems must deliver care of high quality, while at the same time being cost efficient. This is a challenge shared by Sweden and China.

I believe that international collaboration and pioneering research are crucial to find the most innovative and best solutions for this.

Working across borders to fight disease and conduct joint research with the aim to solve mutual problems is the way forward.

The 2nd Sweden-China Health Forum will provide an opportunity to discuss how different stakeholders can work together to improve care for people in Sweden and China. This is very promising.

One focus area for our government is health care and life science. And Health care and life science is also a prioritized area for Sweden in China.

Swedish health care companies contribute to the Chinese health care system, with research as well as innovative services and products.
A number of Swedish companies have together with Swedish authorities and academia created a platform in order to coordinate bilateral cooperation and to better understand what opportunities and challenges that exist in China within the life sciences and health care. We call this the Swedish Life Science and Health Care platform in China.

Sweden is doing well as a research and innovation nation, and our aim is to continue to be one of the top countries in the world.

We invest heavily in R&D, devoting around 3.3 percent of our GDP to R&D in 2017.

As Minister for Higher Education and Research in Sweden, one of my goals is to enable excellent research and innovation in the public sector – in close collaboration with the business sector.

Collaboration between universities, industry and the public sector is one of the cornerstones of the Swedish innovation system. Through this collaboration we are able to create mutual learning experiences.

Our research and innovation bill, which recently passed parliament, has a long-term perspective. It will define Sweden's research policy for the upcoming 10 years. It contains an increase of 300 million Euro of government funding to R&D over the next four years.

The name of the bill, Collaboration for knowledge, also underlines the Swedish politics in this area. Collaboration with all relevant players in society is essential for achieving greater societal impact.

Some of the societal challenges pointed out by the Swedish Government – climate, health, sustainable societies and digitalisation – are global. To address these challenges we will all, globally, benefit from strong research collaboration.

International exchange is vital to strengthen the quality of higher education and research, but also to promote understanding between countries. Mobility at all levels should be stimulated as well as exchange of best practice and mutual learning.

Our government has appointed a special commissioner to lead an official government inquiry into how Swedish research and higher education may be further internationalised.

I wish to mention that Sweden and China already have ongoing research collaborations at many levels.

For instance, within the antimicrobial resistance, AMR-area, China and Sweden have joined forces and established a joint research programme funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Natural Science Foundation in China (NSFC).

"Framework grants" in antimicrobial resistance have been awarded at several occasions.

The NSFC and the Swedish Research Council, are also funding Swedish-Chinese collaborative research within natural sciences and medical sciences. This programme has a long term perspective.

I also want to say some words about the Swedish health care system. It is regularly ranked at or near the top of most comparative analyses of international health care systems.

One of the main features of the Swedish health care system is its universal coverage. The system ensures that all residents have equal access to health care services. And it is to a large extent publicly funded.

Now, we must ensure that modern health care can be available not just to us, but to our children and their children in the future. For this, we need more research and new solutions.

So this is just the beginning. It is now imperative to maintain momentum, advance our positions and build capacities in order to meet our commitments.

And to do it together in international collaboration.