The 2030 Agenda with 17 global goals is the most ambitious agenda for sustainable development ever adopted by the countries of the world. To achieve these goals, the world will have to find solutions to a long list of challenges, at local, national, regional and international level. Many of the solutions are found through new knowledge, research and innovation.
The Swedish Research Council funds research in all scientific fields. Within each field, there are examples of research that in various ways can contribute to solving the challenges.
Research that contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
We have carried out a mapping of how the research we fund links to the different goals within Agenda 2030. The mapping is limited to projects that were awarded an undirected project grant or a starting grant during 2016–2020. Out of a total of 3 500 projects, 532 are of direct relevance to one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals. These projects were awarded 2.1 billion SEK in total. Many of the other projects may, of course, be relevant indirectly and/or in the longer term.
Number of projects funded of direct relevance to each goal (relates to approved project grants and starting grants 2016–2020).
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Development research has sustainability as the main focus
Development research is interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary and covers research in all scientific fields. The research we fund shall be relevant to the fight against poverty and for sustainable development in low income countries. One of the conditions for receiving funding is that the research shall be relevant to the overall goals of Swedish international development aid, and the Government’s policy goals for global development.
Development research also focuses on how the different goals within Agenda 2030 can be achieved, and how to measure goal achievement. Research into synergies and conflict areas between the global goals is important to enable the 2030 Agenda to be implemented.
Of the projects awarded project grants or starting grants in development research during 2016–2020, 119 were relevant for the Sustainable Development Goals. All goals are covered within this field, but most projects are aimed at Goal No 2: Zero Hunger (20 projects), Goal No 3: Good Health and Well-being (31 projects), and Goal No 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (16 projects).
Medicine and health
In this field, we fund research into areas such as understanding and finding cures for diseases, projects relating to public health, antibiotic resistance, healthcare on equal terms, and clinical studies.
Of the projects awarded project grants or starting grants in medicine and health during 2016–2020, 73 were relevant for the Sustainable Development Goals. Most of these are aimed at Goal No 3: Good Health and Well-being (69 projects).
Clinical therapy research
Here we fund clinical studies into biomedical or health-related issues. These can, for example, relate to the development of medicines, treatment methods, or medical devices.
Two of the projects awarded project grants or starting grant in clinical therapy research during 2016–2020 are aimed at Goal No 3: Good Health and Well-being.
Humanities and social sciences
Here we fund projects within peace and conflict studies, sustainable societies, policy issues, environmental engagement, societal effects of climate change, and research that can contribute to increased equality and gender equality.
Of the projects awarded project grants or starting grants in humanities and social sciences during 2016–2020, 122 were relevant for the Sustainable Development Goals. All goals are covered within this field, but most projects are aimed at Goal No 10: Reduced Inequality (17 projects), Goal No 13: Climate Action (14 projects), and Goal No 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (34 projects).
Natural and engineering sciences
Here we fund research into areas such as sustainable energy, cleaner materials, climate change impact on species and ecosystems, and also climate modelling.
Of the projects awarded project grants or starting grants in natural and engineering sciences during 2016–2020, 180 were relevant for the Sustainable Development Goals. Most of the projects are aimed at Goal No 7: Affordable and Clean Energy (63 projects), Goal No 13: Climate Action (35 projects), and Goal No 15: Life On Land (27 projects).
In this field we fund areas such as research linked to good education for all, and the role of school and education for social inclusion, participation in societal development and sustainable development.
Of the projects awarded project grants or starting grants in educational sciences during 2016–2020, 34 were relevant for the Sustainable Development Goals. Most of the projects are aimed at Goal No 4: Quality Education (31 projects).
Here we fund areas such as tools for visualising the effects of climate change and research into forms of expressing transition to sustainable development.
Two of the projects awarded project grants or starting grants in artistic research during 2016–2020 were relevant for the Sustainable Development Goals. They were aimed at Goal No 15: Life On Land, and Goal No 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions respectively.
Researchers may need advanced tools, known as research infrastructure, to conduct their research. The Swedish Research Council funds research infrastructure, both within Sweden and internationally, that enables large-scale research into important issues in areas such as society, environment and health. We also provide support to the major facilities ESS and MAX IV, which contribute tools for research in areas such as medicine, materials and energy – areas that are crucial for solving several of the challenges.
Collaboration with others
The global goals concern us all, and require collaboration between different actors and across national borders. Below are some examples of collaborations that the Swedish Research Council are part of.
GD-forum is a platform for collaboration between Swedish public agencies in the work with the 2030 Agenda goals. The public agencies have drawn up a joint declaration of intent and a sustainability barometer, which each agency can use to map its sustainability work.
Belmont Forum and Norface
We participate in calls within Belmont Forum, which is an international collaboration for funding research into global environmental change.
The legislation covering the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, states that the programme shall contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. The Swedish Research Council has appointed several experts on Horizon Europe’s programme committees, who take part in and contribute to the work of monitoring the links between the goals in the various work programme calls.
Other joint call collaborations
The Swedish Research Council issues specific calls together with SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), Formas (Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development) and Forte (Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare), which are largely motivated by the joint challenges in the 2030 Agenda. The theme for the calls is sustainability and development, and more specifically how low income countries can address environmental and climate changes. There are currently 25 research projects in progress funded under these calls.
The Swedish Research Council has a coordinator for 2030 Agenda issues
Our 2030 Agenda coordinator works on mapping, clarifying and communicating how the Swedish Research Council’s work contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The work also includes identifying any need for specific activities and initiatives linked to the global goals.
Contact: Lisa Westholm, Lisa.Westholm@vr.se