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.

Speech at the conference Large Scale Research Infrastructures – Maximising the Potential of Renewed growth in Europe

Published

Stanhope Hotel, Brussels, 16 November 2015

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Dear fellow speakers, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great privilege to be here today to listen and to discuss big-science investments in Europe. But first I would like to reflect on the acts of terror in Paris this Friday.

During the minute of silence earlier today, the whole EU mourned with the people of France – and our thoughts went to the victims and their families.

The dreadful acts of terrorism we have seen in Paris, and in Beirut only a few days earlier, are attacks upon democracy itself and our open society. They must and will be met with resolve. And in these times, the most important thing of all is to stand up for the values that guide us - democracy, freedom and equality between people. Terrorism cannot and will not shake these values.

Terrorism must be opposed. And we also need to tackle the underlying causes of terrorism, by taking a long-term approach. Here we need knowledge, research and international collaboration. Only then can we hope to understand and counteract the complex patterns that attract people to the path of terror.

Knowledge is important – with the right to education, but also increased knowledge of racism and terrorism. The Swedish Government has established an institute to help prevent extremism and terrorism, but also established a research program against racism.

There is also several examples of international collaboration – us being here today, the European Union itself, but also collaboration between member states in projects as the European Spallation Source and MAX IV are examples of.

I very much welcome the initiative taken by the organizers of this event to discuss the important question on how Europe can maximize the societal and economic impact of the investments made in research and specifically in Research Infrastructures.

As the minister for Higher Education and Research in Sweden, I will also take this opportunity to share some more general views and priorities of the Swedish research policy in the coming years.

Today, humanity faces several of its biggest societal challenges ever. Global warming, the rapid extinction of biological diversity, the need to create inclusive societies, ageing societies, public health and pandemics are but a few examples of the grand challenges we need to address.

The way politics, business and society can handle these challenges will strongly affect Europe’s economy and society in the coming years. We cannot expect a single scientific or technical area to solve the problems. We need long-term support and investment in broad areas of research and education. This to provide for a sustainable development, economic growth and increased competitiveness for Europe.

Innovation is crucial for Europe’s future and Research Infrastructures are a driving force behind it. Research Infrastructures are the most advanced tools for new discoveries and scientific breakthroughs and the pillars in the European Research Area (ERA). But they are also platforms for interdisciplinary research and for collaboration between research, education, industry and the society.

Ultimately, the potential of high-quality Research Infrastructures means that they can contribute to the successful realisation of the Europe 2020 strategy. Research Infrastructures will help to stimulate new ideas, new technologies and new talents. Something Europe will need to realise in the ambitious programme of the Innovation Union.

Research Infrastructures can attract human capital and become important nodes for regional, national and international collaboration. But care must be taken to ensure they do not become isolated islands. Both public and private sectors need to collaborate to further increase the potential for societal impact, chain of patents, spin-off companies and industrial contracts.

Different countries and regions each have their own unique possibility to transform scientific results to economic growth. Smart Specialization is a good approach to achieve this. The meeting today has provided valuable input on how priorities and policies can be set to maximize the knowledge-based development and innovation ecosystem of a region.

Long-term stability and financial sustainability for construction and operation are key factors for a successful usage of Research Infrastructures.

We are proud to host two facilities in Sweden – the European Spallation Source (ESS) and MAX IV – which are expected to be world-leading in their respective field. Two facilities that will play an important role to help us tackle our big societal challenges.

Sweden has been committed to these two facilities over a long period of time and taken a big responsibility for their realisation. This has allowed the construction of both facilities to start without delays and for other countries to participate.

The recent start of construction of ESS shows that European countries, even in times of economic hardship, can collaborate and invest in the future and in the next generation of scientists.

Sweden is strongly committed to provide good operating conditions for ESS and MAX IV. In this work the role of the region is also important. A shared responsibility for the investment cost is needed and in Sweden the Region Skåne is co-financing both facilities. Regions are promotors for innovation and growth and are providers of the local infrastructure. Without strong regional support and political engagement there will be no fertile soil for the growing of a Research Infrastructure.

By using the possibilities given within the European Union we can build a stable foundation on which ESS can grow - not just nationally but also among all the member countries.

With the recent decision by the European Commission to grant ERIC status to ESS, a true joint European ownership is firmly established. We are very happy for this decision and for reaching this important milestone in the project. There is a solid governance structure in place allowing ESS Member Countries to contribute and guide the project and take a long-term responsibility.

Since the beginning of the 1980s, there is a tradition in Sweden to issue recurrent Government Bills on Research and Innovation, laying the foundation for the government’s research policy in a 3-4 year period.

The next Government Bill is planned to lay out the strategies for the research policy until 2026, with a special focus on the period 2017-2020. It will mostly address research, but it will also highlight parts of higher education and innovation which is mutually beneficial.

We need a longer perspective to provide a long-term stability for research – and enable a higher risk taking. Therefore, the Swedish government has expressed its will to have a 10-year perspective of the next Government Bill. Some of the most important scientific discoveries come as a result of the unexpected. We must dare to invest in research for which there is a high-risk of failure but where the potential for new discoveries can be ground-breaking.

We need to stimulate the societal impact of research and create competitive environments where scientists, industry and other areas of the society can cooperate in an innovation system. This is an integral part of research policy and higher education and needs to be taken into consideration.

In Sweden, universities constitute an essential first part of the innovation value chain. But they need to have closer links to business and the public sector in order to find practical applications for new scientific discoveries.

The transfer of knowledge is central in an innovation system. In practice, it is often the individual researcher or student who carries key knowledge and competence. Therefore the mobility of students and researches plays an important role, as does the conditions for young scientists in order to make science careers attractive for young people.

The gap between higher education institutions and society needs to be minimised. In this area politics have an important role. We need to increase the incentives for universities to interact with society.

Therefore, we want to make it easier to shift careers and exchange positions between academia and the rest of society. By increasing the number of people with a science background we help to increase knowledge transfer and growth.

Sweden has the world’s first Feminist Government. This affects all policy fields, including research and higher education. I believe that gender equality is essential for Sweden to become a truly prominent research nation. Gender equality is about using all talents and thereby increasing research quality. But it is also a question of democratic rights: that each and every citizen is given the opportunity to follow his or her dreams.

Gender equality needs to improve across the board. That is why I have appointed an Expert group to give advice on gender policy for higher education and research. We are also starting to Gender Integrate all our universities and to set new, ambitious, recruitment goals for gender balance among professors.

We have an ambition to provide more resources to universities. The increased interest from industry in taking advantage of basic research only comes with excellent quality of research. Basic science is as important as the more applied and it is the responsibility of the government to safe-guard this.

To quote the research policy advisor of President Obama: ”Basic research is the seed corn for innovation”.

For a small country like Sweden it is especially important to develop a national strategy for an effective use of ESS and MAX IV. The resources and efforts spent on these facilities are unique in the history of Swedish research policy.

ESS and MAX IV is a high priority for the Swedish Government. The Swedish Research Council has a special role in supporting the work on ESS/MAX IV and will present its first draft of a national strategy for these facilities in 2016.

Research Infrastructures need to support new user communities. The recruitment of new users of the facilities should be a part in the strategic plans for facilities like ESS and MAX IV. There are many research areas which could benefit from using the facilities, such as climate- and energy research and life science, but where the methods offered by the facilities are not the standard tools in their respective areas of research.

The co-location of facilities is another way of attracting new user groups and to further optimize the investments in Research Infrastructures. ESS and MAX IV will complement each other and offer opportunities beyond what each could accomplish alone. Before the end of the next decade researchers visiting Lund and Sweden, will have access to two state-of-the art experimental facilities. Facilitiesthat could be host joint education, summer schools and perhaps a joint access and use of the facilities.

The universities are the strategic centers for securing the necessary competence to use and develop Research Infrastructures. Researchers at the facilities should get the opportunity to teach and perform research at the universities.

In facilities like ESS and MAX IV we are investing in the future. It is therefore important to attract the next generation of scientists which will be the future users of the facilities.

Finally, I would like to encourage you all to take advantage of the great potential facilities like ESS and MAX IV offer. The Swedish government welcomes a continued dialogue with the regions, the Member States and the European Commission how the use of Research Infrastructure can be more effective to tackle the Societal Challenges we face.

Europe’s response to Societal Challenges in the fields of research and innovation is important and I look forward to continue the discussions on these topics in the framework of the Lund Revisited Conference in Sweden on December 4th this year.

Thank you! 

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.