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Prominent international researchers enhance Swedish research environments

The research environments that received funding under the Swedish Research Council’s ten-year investment in strong research environments have reached their midterm point. A successful initiative that fulfils the goals in the opinion of an international panel that followed up the terms and conditions, and how research in the 19 environments has developed to date.

In 2013 and 2014, the Swedish Research Council issued a call for an entirely new type of grant that made it possible for some Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs) to recruit internationally prominent researchers in all subject areas. The grant was part of an excellence initiative, aimed at creating strong research environments around prominent researchers, and to give HEIs the opportunity to strengthen their strategically important research environments in the long term. A total of 19 research environments were to share almost 2 billion SEK over a ten-year period.

During 2019 and 2020, an international panel followed up the implementation of the grant, and how the research in the 19 environments has developed to date.

“We are very grateful for the committed and highly qualified work that the panel has put into this evaluation. Both the Swedish Research Council and the higher education institutions involved have received important recommendations about the activities of the research environments evaluated, but also about how Sweden can better utilise international recruitment to strengthen Swedish research in the long term,” says Sven Stafström, Director General of the Swedish Research Council.

HEIs receive praise and recommendations for the continued work

The panel considers that the initiative has been successful, and that the overall goal of the grant form has been fulfilled: enabling internationally prominent researchers to move their research to Sweden, thereby creating strong, long-term research environments.
In several cases, an entirely new research field has been built up at the HEI, and in other cases existing research fields have been strengthened. Some research environments that the panel considered had succeeded exceptionally well, and can serve as good examples, were found at the following HEIs:

  • University of Gothenburg: Shalom Lappin, Ellen Lust and Patrik Rorsman
  • Karolinska Institutet: Cynthia Bulik, Sten Eirik W. Jacobsen and Patrick Sullivan
  • Linköping University: Markus Heilig
  • Stockholm University: Katherine Freese, Anders Nilsson, John Wettlaufer and Frank Wilczek
  • Uppsala University: Elisabetta Dejana and Don Kulick

The panel provided recommendations for each HEI on how the initiative can continue successfully. An overriding view, which applies to practically all the environments, is that it needs to be made clearer how the HEIs will continue to support the research environments after the end of the grant period.

The quality of the research published by the research environments has not been the focus of the evaluation. On the other hand, the conclusions of the midterm evaluation may contribute to further strengthening research, and to safeguarding the long-term benefit of the investment. The evaluation also provides good documentation for future strategic initiatives, from the perspectives of both research funding bodies and higher education institutions.

More about the investment

In March 2013, the Swedish Research Council was tasked by the Government to issue calls for funding of leading researchers under three different initiatives. The initiatives resulted in three grant forms: grant for international recruitment of prominent researchers, grant to prominent junior researchers, and the distinguished professor programme.

Together, they constitute an investment in excellence, aimed at creating research environments around some of the most prominent researchers and stimulating more long-term goals for research.

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