This content was published in the period between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.

Research as co-operation at home and abroad

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University of Tartu, Estonia 29 oktober 2014

Your Royal Highnesses, your Excellences. Teachers and staff, dear students.

First, I would like to take your time and, on behalf of the Swedish government, express our sincere condolences for the tragic school shooting that took place the other day.

I thank my colleague Mr. Ossinovski for his excellent speech. I am grateful for this opportunity to share with you some of my views on the links between education, research, and scientific discovery. I am especially content that one of my first travels as a minister of the newly elected Swedish government has been to Estonia. Already, two of my colleagues in government, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, have visited Estonia. I need not remind you of the extraordinary historical links between our countries. As made evident by these recent visits, those links remain to this day, closer now perhaps than ever.

Today I wish to talk about how we aim to ensure that Sweden stays competitive in a fast-changing, interconnected world. How we can prosper and make life better for our citizens, while at the same time facing up to some of the most pressing challenges of our times. And how this requires a sustained effort involving all parts of society, as well as close co-operation with other countries.

Research and higher education is becoming increasingly internationalised. Student mobility, research collaboration, and co-publishing is now part of everyday life at universities both in Sweden and Estonia. Tartu University alone has entered into bilateral agreements with partners in 26 different countries, including Sweden.

Mobility for students and researchers is something my government is keen to encourage. There are already many great programs in place, both at the EU level, among the Nordic and Baltic states, and bilaterally. These have to be used to their full potential. There is scope for a far greater flow of people between our countries. This would contribute to the quality of research and education. It would also enhance cultural understanding.

When Tartu University was founded in 1632, higher education was a privilege reserved for a select few. Today higher education is a right for all Swedish citizens. Everyone should be given equal opportunity to progress to higher education - regardless of class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. It is essential to combat these disparities in access to education wherever they arise. I will return to this subject in a minute.

As Mr. Ossinovski mentioned in his speech, right now two research infrastructure projects are under way in Lund in the south of Sweden. One is the European Spallation Source, the ESS. When up and running, it will generate neutron beams that will enable scientist to study the structure and function of different materials. The other major project in Lund is the extension of the MAX IV facility. The MAX IV makes possible the study of extremely small details in materials, through the use of intense X-ray. Both structures will be of great value to scientists from all over the EU. Estonian scientists, including some from this very university, have a long history of contributing to research at the MAX IV.

Both structures also represent big financial undertakings which no single European country is capable of in these trying economic times. That is why Sweden greatly appreciates the contributions made by Estonia and other member states in order to make these important projects happen. Pan-European projects such as these, and investments in research and development more generally, will be paramount in ensuring our future competitiveness as well as economic recovery.

Sweden of course has a long and proud history as a nation of innovation. Of great scientists and groundbreaking discoveries. This tradition is perhaps best exemplified by the Nobel Prize. In December each year we celebrate the best minds, those men and women - although mostly men - who, in Alfred Nobel's famous words, "during the preceding year [&] have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind". It is a proud moment for every Swede.

But as you all know, research is always teamwork. In the sense that we as a society make these efforts possible through our commonly funded schools and universities. We put the right infrastructure in place. We create the right environments for research to thrive and generate new knowledge. We educate and encourage our children to become critical, creative, and reflective. And we do this in order for them to reach their own full potential as human beings. But also because such citizens are the single most important resource for a society that is looking to prosper and develop in tomorrow's globalized world.

We provide day-care centers, making it possible to combine family life with being a dedicated researcher. This is especially important in our efforts to make academia more gender equal. My government has set itself the task of increasing the number of female professors at Swedish universities. Though the numbers are moving in the right direction, they are moving much too slow. More women than men take part in undergraduate studies. But only one in four professors in Sweden are women.

This obviously represents a significant loss for the educational institutions. They fail to recruit the best minds to their faculties. But greater equality also requires appropriate support from outside academia. We must take a holistic view of these issues. We need to think about how all of society can be better geared towards encouraging both men and women to take up careers in research on equal terms. Hopefully we can expect many more female Nobel laureates in the future. Both from Estonia and from Sweden.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking part in a seminar at this year's Sustainable Development Forum, hosted by the Stockholm Environment Institute. Estonia has taken the important decision to put issues pertaining to the Baltic Sea front and center, through declaring 2014 the Baltic Sea Year. Work done in for example the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission deserves wider recognition and support.

The seminar covered different aspects of maritime environmental and development issues. Listening to the scientists, officials, and other actors involved, the scope of our challenge became clear. But also the opportunities presented by a joint, focused effort. The Baltic Sea is such a clear example of the necessity, as well as benefits, of scientific co-operation in the environmental field. These challenges know no national borders. Nor can we in our search for solutions.

To close, I would like to sum up some of the main points of what I have touched upon earlier. Small, open countries such as ours have every opportunity to continue to prosper in the world of tomorrow. But we will need to make the right choices. We will have to continue to co-operate. Both bilaterally and through different fora such as the EU and around the Baltic Sea.

We also have to make sure we get the foundations right at home, nationally. By this I mean putting the enabling infrastructure in place. Making sure society as a whole contributes to scientific excellence and the production of new knowledge. Great research environments are about more than just our universities and laboratories. It has to involve all parts of society. And each citizen should be considered a potential scientist.

Thank you for your time.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019 she was Minister for Higher Education and Research.