Speech by Matilda Ernkrans, Minister for Higher Education and Research at the Swedish Research Council
Stockholm, November 20, 2019
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I am very happy to be here today at this research policy conference. I am inspired to see all of you here. I want to thank the organizers for all their hard work.
It is of great importance that Sweden continue to be a prominent research nation. It creates jobs from north to south in our country - and it generates wealth and development.
Investments in research and new knowledge lay the foundations for our welfare society, and it enables important scientific breakthroughs and innovations.
It is important to have strong links between higher education, research and innovation. Sweden has its strength because we have invested in the entire chain, from higher education, through research to innovation.
Even though we are a small country in the north, we produce leading research in many fields. Examples are found in such areas as material research, climate research but also in several medical fields. Sweden is also one of the world's most innovative countries, with world-leading universities and colleges, many among the top 100 in the world.
But we must remember that our position cannot be taken for granted. It is something that governments slowly and patiently have built during a very long time. Through political decisions.
By establishing educational institutions throughout the country and by investing in research. This has been good political choices, which have served our country well.
And the work needs to continue, the international competition is strong. Without continued investments in education and research, we put our competitiveness and our ability to innovate at stake.
The Research Bill
The government has under my lead now started the work with the next research policy bill, planned for the autumn 2020.
We have appointed a new advisory body in research policy. It’s an expert group with extensive knowledge of Swedish research and its international competitiveness. They will also give important input to the bill.
Many actors have also sent in their views and recommendations to the government: research funding organizations, universities, government agencies, companies and in other stakeholder organizations.
We have now started to analyze this input, about 300 contributions. Necessary and important.
There is also a need for a good understanding of the concerns people face in their everyday lives, and we must show citizens that it is possible to meet a good part of our challenges with research and new knowledge. In this way, we can create belief in the future and for example handle the climate challenge without being caught in climate anxiety.
The overall focus for the research bill is clear.
Sweden is a leading knowledge nation and that position needs to be defended. Bottom up research must be safeguarded, at the same time as research policy must respond to our global and national societal challenges.
This will strengthen our society, create jobs and give hope of a sustainable future.
Research is a long-term activity that requires long-term conditions. This must be respected. The social challenges mentioned in the previous bill are still applicable, but it remains to be seen how we can deal with them in the best way. The UN Sustainability Goals will be an important basis for the bill.
The greatest challenge of our time is clearly the climate change. We experience this in our everyday lives and new research-based knowledge is needed.
Since the last bill, there has been an accelerated pace of digitization that goes deep throughout all sectors of society, including healthcare, with rapidly emerging fields such as AI. This links to the supply of competence and skills. We need to have strong links between research and education in these new areas.
But we also have important programs for teacher and nursing education where research links must be secured. It is crucial to our welfare.
We also have major health challenges where Sweden, as a country with strong research in life science, can contribute. We see this as a key area that not only generates new knowledge and better health for our citizens, but we also see big economical gains in the form of increased exports, new investments and more jobs.
Cooperation and innovation
A crucial part of research policy is to promote cooperation between universities and society. Such collaborations have built Sweden strong historically and led to important research and innovation breakthroughs.
The Government has initiated new cooperation programs with businesses and academia, and they can connect to the bill. Cooperation is at the heart of the Swedish model and we will strengthen it to increase the potential for innovation.
Conditions for researchers and Gender Equality
I would like to highlight the importance of good conditions for doctoral students and researchers, and increased gender equality. We must handle these issues in the forthcoming bill. Much remains to be done in this area. But it is necessary to create the right conditions for research.
I would like to conclude with reminding us all that we today experience a situation where we have representatives at the top political level that ignores scientific facts.
So, in order to meet our challenges and continue to invest in research, I believe that it is important to make sure that research-based knowledge is spread throughout society.
This is something we must consider when working with the research bill.
To sum it up, we have many things to consider and a lot of work ahead of us. But with the next bill, I believe that we can strengthen Sweden as a knowledge nation. That’s important for a stronger society.