Source: Government of Sweden
The Government’s Research and Innovation Bill outlines the direction of Sweden’s research policy over the next four years. The resources will increase considerably already next year to tackle major societal challenges and safeguard freedom of research. The aim is for Sweden to be one of the world’s foremost research and innovation countries and a prominent knowledge nation. The appropriation will increase by SEK 3.4 billion in 2021. The estimated investments in 2022, 2023 and 2024 are around SEK 3.2. billion, SEK 3.3 billion and SEK 3.75 billion respectively. Research and innovation are needed to restart the economy and build skills, competitiveness and welfare.
Freedom of research reinforced and safeguarded throughout the country
The Government is presenting initiatives to safeguard freedom of research. This includes funds to universities and higher education institutions for research and third-cycle programmes. The aim is to enable institutions to prioritise strategically and take responsibility for high standards in their activities, including issues such as gender equality and secure employment conditions. Through reinforcements that will be scaled up to SEK 900 million in 2024, the Government wants to strengthen research at universities and higher education institutions in parallel with a historical expansion of higher education throughout the country. Further investments in freedom of research will be made via additional funding to the Swedish Research Council. The Government also proposes that the Higher Education Act be amended to safeguard academic freedom.
Research and innovation will tackle major societal challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of research and knowledge in tackling crises and societal challenges. Such challenges will be tackled by investing in high-quality strategic research and innovation initiatives. The Research and Innovation Bill focuses on five major societal challenges: climate and the environment, health and welfare, digital development, skills supply and working life, and a democratic and strong society. The research investment will give rise to new ten-year national research programmes (in the areas of oceans and water, viruses and pandemics, mental health, digital development, crime, and segregation) and reinforce existing programmes (in the areas of climate, sustainable community development, food, antimicrobial resistance, and working life). In addition, there will be a number of special research initiatives, many related to handling the consequences of the pandemic.
The investments will be made at graduate schools with a focus on higher education teachers in health care and teacher training programmes, where they will make an important contribution to enhancing the quality of these programmes. The national research programme on working life, which is receiving additional funding, includes issues related to the skills supply challenges in working life. The Government has announced that education programmes for regulated professions should be steered based on the number of graduates and with a view to the major need for trained teachers and nurses in the welfare system.
Amendments to the Higher Education Act
The Government proposes a range of amendments to the Higher Education Act (1992:1434) both to reinforce and clarify higher education’s responsibility for collaboration, internationalisation and lifelong learning, and to promote and safeguard academic freedom. It is proposed that the legislative amendments enter into force on 1 July 2021.
Gender equality and secure conditions
The governance of higher education institutions will be developed so as to more clearly promote gender-equal higher education institutions with good working conditions. Among other things, the Government intends to prioritise institution-specific goals for the proportion of women among new professorial recruits. The Government also intends to issue an agency mandate to review the incidence of successions of fixed-term employment contracts.
Research infrastructure reinforced
Various types of research infrastructure, such as large research facilities, are needed to contribute new knowledge to tackle global challenges facing society. For internationally competitive research to be possible, Sweden’s research infrastructure needs to be reinforced. The Swedish Research Council will receive a considerable increase in funding for research infrastructure. Vinnova (the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) will receive increased funding for research infrastructure of particular value to the business sector. There will be a specific investment in the world-leading research facility SciLifeLab. The European Spallation Source (ESS) and MAX IV in Lund will also be allocated funding.
Investments in the innovation system
The innovation system will be strengthened through investments in strategic innovation programmes, research institutes, test and demonstration environments, lower thresholds for uptake and commercialisation, etc. These investments will contribute to tackling societal challenges, uptake of research findings and strengthening Sweden as a knowledge nation.
As part of the continued development of strategic research policy and to strengthen Sweden as a leading research and innovation country, the Government intends to establish a new university in Mälardalen. Mälardalens högskola will become Mälardalens universitet in 2022, and SEK 130 million will be allocated to give the institution possibilities to develop into a university. The Government will verify that the institution has consolidated its quality assurance work before the decision on university status is taken.