We are delighted to welcome our new Initiator member University…
“Welcome to Lund!” Located in a small student city, Lund University, one of Scandinavia’s oldest and largest institutions, is going through a rapid transformation to accelerate its external engagement while building an innovation ecosystem around its unique research facilities. As an opportunity to get to know our newest UIIN Organisational Member, we had the pleasure of speaking with three colleagues from Lund University’s collaboration office: Emily Wise, Researcher and Project Leader, Carin Nilsson, Research Coordinator assisting the External Engagement Council, and Anna-Karin Alm, Project Manager at research centre NanoLund.
While its foundation already dates back to 1666, Lund University has managed to continuously put itself on the map as an innovation leader, repeatedly being ranked among the world’s top 100 universities. With a strong tradition in building multidisciplinary research centres – such as NanoLund, the research centre for nano science – Lund University strives to do world class and world leading research and provide the best possible circumstances to enable its staff to do this. In line with this vision, a large part of the technical and natural sciences is about to move to new physical facilities within ‘Science Village’, an innovative and sustainable city district currently being built between the two world-leading research facilities: The MAX IV Laboratory, a national electron accelerator laboratory for synchrotron radiation research, and the European Spallation Source, a multidisciplinary scientific materials research centre harnessing the world’s most powerful neutron source, which will open in 2023. The Science Village will stimulate research as well as social interaction by housing educational and research facilities, businesses, gyms, restaurants, and cafés, including NanoLund’s new laboratory. In the coming 5-10 years, Lund University will therefore go through some major changes, requiring the institution to prepare and consider its role as a magnet within an emerging innovation ecosystem.
This involves recruitment of new faculty and students as well as companies outside the organisation to collaborate with on the global market. “We are curious about how the knowledge that we create can be a benefit to other organisations and we need to further develop the methods, processes and relations we have in order to collaborate well”, explains Anna-Karin. These days collaboration and entrepreneurial drive is expected, even within the scope of many grants, which requires an entrepreneurial mindset – “something that comes natural to some researchers, but not to all of us”. Enforced by a new funding model since the past spring, announced by the Swedish Research Council, Swedish universities now need to develop their own strategic profiles to apply for funding, with a special focus on external and societal engagement. It was therefore the right time for Lund’s collaboration office to connect with UIIN’s global network of innovative universities, encouraged by Emily: “It is a huge university, and we are trying to move this big ship to expose it to new ways of working and being ahead of the game”.
We are curious about how the knowledge that we create can be a benefit to other organisations and we need to further develop the methods, processes and relations we have in order to collaborate well
In terms of looking forward, continuing the development of an entrepreneurial mindset among researchers and faculty is one focus area of the institution. More specific goals in terms of external engagement however still need to be concretised by the new university management that was installed earlier this year. A university-wide Research Quality Evaluation, done in 2020, resulted in a number of suggestions for development, including strategic partnerships, recruitment, and HR excellence as some of the focus areas. It is therefore now up to the new management to distribute the budget and set its main goals. While this situation poses some challenges in terms of prioritisation of tasks, the collaboration team tries to prepare itself the best way possible for the exciting developments ahead and the increasingly important supportive role for the collaboration department.
One of the key successes of the collaboration team is the creation of a financial instrument to encourage external engagement. In response to the government’s emphasis on societal collaboration, the Lund University External Engagement Council (led by the pro-vice chancellor for external engagement and including deans from all faculties) initiated in 2017 its thematic collaboration initiatives – projects in which cross-disciplinary teams develop new ideas to address societal challenges. Since then, 20 projects have been selected and received funding, and nine of them have already successfully reached the end of their initial three-year period. To assess the success of the initiatives in a transparent way, the office created an approach to evaluate the multidisciplinary external engagement and the societal impact of the thematic collaboration initiatives, including both quantitative and qualitative measurements. An impressive instrument, that allows the University to follow and foster the development of initiatives that have the capacity to grow in new areas where the University did not work in previously, while creating fruitful partnerships with external actors. And the instrument is gaining traction, tells Emily: “Working with external stakeholders like the municipality, I get the impression that they are starting to catch on that Lund University has this instrument and starting to think about how to match up with researchers.”
What is the future role of Lund University in our local ecosystem when it is undergoing huge changes and what role should we take? How do we work to make sure that the breadth of the University is included?
The team is excited to connect and see how other universities in the UIIN community evaluate collaborations and their impact, especially in a qualitative way. Not only to know what questions to ask, but also to consider how to present the results to management to give them a good overview and sound recommendations. Especially with the move to Science Village in mind, the latter will be crucial to help the University prepare for the major changes and define its place in the ecosystem. A discussion the team calls ‘pandora’s box’, that is starting to open questions such as “What is the future role of Lund University in our local ecosystem when it is undergoing huge changes and what role should we take? How do we work to make sure that the breadth of the University is included?”
The collaboration office is thus at the beginning of exciting things to come and looks forward to connecting with businesses and other universities to hear about their experiences and knowledge and share their own. We as well are excited to follow the path to see how Lund University will evolve in the coming years as part of the UIIN community.
f.l.t.r. Emily Wise, Carin Nilsson and Anna-Karin Alm
Want to learn more about the Lund University or share any thoughts?
Get in contact with Lisa Thelin, Departmental Head of the Collaboration Office, by email: [email protected]
Header photo by Kennet Ruona