Pia Sandvik, how would you summarise 2016?
– As a historic and important year of integration. Three of the largest industrial research institutes, Innventia, SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut and Swedish ICT, merged together to form the new RISE Group. We are now one as RISE, Sweden’s largest industrial research institute with 2,200 employees.
What will this merger mean for customers?
– A united RISE also means that our collected competence increases, and that we will be even better at offering cross-discipline solutions to complex issues. It also means access to over 100 technically advanced laboratories, testbeds and demonstration facilities. In 2016, we also implemented numerous organisational improvements to become an even better partner to our customers.
Could you give an example of one of these improvements?
– For example, we have enhanced the accessibility of our testbeds and demonstration facilities. We have also strengthened our support to small and medium-sized companies, such as by focusing on nodes in the regional innovation system.
How will RISE contribute to sustainable growth?
– Our mission is to elevate research so that the business community and society gain access to new knowledge. The major issues facing society, such as climate change and health, are integral to the challenges and opportunities facing the commercial and industrial sphere. As an innovation partner, we can contribute with solutions that make the best use of these opportunities.
– During the autumn of 2016 we introduced five Business and Innovation Areas to facilitate our development and collection of cross-boundary competence. The Areas are Digitalisation, Energy and Biobased Economy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Life Science and Mobility. These areas reflect five major areas of challenge and opportunity for the business world and society, where we at RISE intend to play a critical role.
Finally, how will 2017 be for RISE?
– Exciting and eventful! In the research bill presented by the Government in November 2016, the proposal has been made to strengthen RISE’s role and to develop our mission. We look forward to making the Swedish institutional sector even stronger and to contributing to the development of the Swedish business community and society.
- The work to improve the accessibility of testbeds and demonstration facilities continued in 2016. During 2017, a Testing and Demonstration Office will be established to coordinate and strengthen the offering to trade and industry and society in general.
- In May RISE releases the Global Outlook Report A Cellulose-Based Society at Stockholm International Fair
- In September the new Swedish Research Laboratory for Printed Electronics was opened in Norrköping, with over a hundred representatives of industry in attendance.
- A new mobile demonstration facility for evaluating the production of MFC (microfibrillated cellulose) became available to the industry for use in conjunction with its concentration on new cellulose-based products.
- The starting pistol fired for a new pilot study aiming to improve awareness of the diversity of cell therapy projects. The aim is to build a national platform and offer access to international expertise.
- Phase 2 of Smart Housing Småland was initiated. The innovation environment creates intelligent housing and a sustainable building environment based on glass and wood.
- he development of the new electronics laboratory AWITAR, Automotive Wireless Test and Research Facility, continued according to plan. The facility will provide a test environment for electronic disruption on the vehicles of the future, ensuring functionality and compliance with impending legal requirements. AstaZero experienced good capacity utilisation during the year and periodically reached maximum capacity in 2016.
- ISE became the notified body for the testing and certification with regard to CE marking of cables.
- During the year, RISE signed a letter of intent for increased cooperation with Lund and Uppsala Universities. We intend to enter into similar agreements with more universities and colleges in 2017. In order to guarantee engagement from trade and industry and provide an additional platform for operators to influence the direction of the Group’s research, RISE has also introduced an external Research Council made up of representatives from trade, industry and society. The Research Council will begin its activities in 2017.
- Together with a cluster of companies and social enterprises from the Värmland region, started the establishment of the LignoCity testbeds for the development of new products from the forestry product lignin.
- In April SICS ICE, Infrastructure and Cloud datacentre test Environment, was inaugurated, a large-scale, national datacentre in Luleå for research and innovation within big data and cloud technology.
- October saw the five collaboration groups for the Government’s national collaboration programme spring into action. RISE is participating in two of these groups, represented by CEO Pia Sandvik in the group for Circular and biobased economy, and Division Manager Leif Ljungqvist in the group for Connected industry and new materials.
- A strategically important venture into the nano-field was granted involving an exchange with the MAX IV laboratory in Lund.
- In autumn the first certification of P-marked district heating was issued to Halmstads Energi och Miljö.
- RISE has, together with the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries and IF Metall, developed a concept to support small and medium-sized enterprises within the field of digitalisation.
- The offering to small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) was strengthened in 2016 through, among other ventures, a focus on nodes to serve the regional innovation system. In December RISE’s first SME office opened in Skellefteå together with LTU Business AB (part of Luleå University of Technology).
- During the fourth quarter, the decision was made to implement five strategic Business and Innovation Areas, in which RISE gathers and enhances cross-boundary competence; Digitalisation, Energy and Biobased Economy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Life Science and Mobility.
- RISE continues to hold a leading position among Swedish organisations within Horizon 2020 (the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation) with a total ofalmost 60 projects in progress. Furthermore, RISE is a participant in four of the five ongoing EIT-KIC programmes (European Institute of Technology – Knowledge and Innovation Communities).
The roots of the Swedish institute sector stretch back to the turn of the previous century, when many research institutes concentrating on specific industrial segments first saw the light of day. Starting in the 1960s and over the next 20 years, the institute sector grew from a handful of actors to just over 30. Companies and organisations from various branches of industry and materials areas owned their institutes, with the majority managed in the form of foundations.
The relatively small institutes slowly diminished in power, as the priorities of research politics gradually shifted Government financing ever more towards academia. From the mid 80s, research policies began to recognise the benefit of strengthening development across the entire sector, one means of which being to introduce more State ownership. This issue was thoroughly investigated in the second half of the 1990s.
Institutes gain a more defined role in the innovation system
In 1997 the KOFI Inquiry presented its final report, Att utveckla industriforskningsinstituten (To develop the industrial research institute (SOU 1997:16), to gether with a criteria list for a well-functioning institute. KOFI recommended the commercialisation of existing institutes to increase transparency and professionalism.
In the same year, the State formed the Knowledge Foundation and the owner company IRECO Holding, to gather together and manage the State’s ownership in industrial research institutes. The company’s first task was to consult with owners and stakeholders and review these institutes’ structures, then, where justified, to convert the foundations into commercial enterprises. This conversion process largely continued until 2002.
IRECO, supported by the holding company’s governance tools, worked to develop the institutes and to implement an allocation system for Government contributions, the strategic competence development funds. IRECO strived to be seen as a strong common voice towards customers and decision-makers, thereby highlighting the strength of a united institute sector. A crucial task throughout these years was to clarify the unique role of the institutes in an efficient innovation system and to establish the relevance of the institutes for a competitive Sweden.
The owner afforded the institutes a greater role in the political research agenda when it became clear how the institutes’ research, development and participation in innovation processes contributed to the development of trade and industry and benefited society. The global challenges imposed new demands on national innovation strategies and the institutes were acknowledged as important actors in the ambition to ensure a sustainable future for forthcoming generations.
A unified institute sector is created
Professor Sverker Sörlin highlighted the need for a unified institute sector in his investigation A new institute sector – an analysis of the conditions applying to industrial research institutes and their future from the perspective of business and innovation policies (2006), which received significant attention and increased the owners’ demands regarding consolidation. An interdepartmental working group used the findings of Sörlin’s investigation and summarised the Government’s ambitions in an Action plan for a new institute sector (DS 2007:39).
In 2007, IRECO Holding became wholly-owned by the State and launched what was known as the Four-leaf clover, whereby institutes in related industries and with complementary operations were collected into four groups. Development on these four groups has continued to the present day. Innventia, SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut, Swedish ICT and Swerea.
One Group – one brand
In 2009, the next step was taken towards a more clearly defined uniform identity through the launch of a shared umbrella branding, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, providing a single brand for use in communication with customers and financial backers, not least internationally.
The owner company IRECO Holding became RISE Holding. In the same year, RISE Holding acquired all of the shares in SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut. The owner company was assigned to work together with the institute to drive a project to coordinate common functions where similar needs were identified. Cross-disciplinary projects within a number of research and innovation areas were also established during these years. RISE raised awareness of the institutes’ role by establishing a clear profile in the innovation system.
The State, through the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, recognised the significant potential of a unified institute. In 2014, work together with the industrial owners of Swedish ICT, Innventia and Swerea, and parts of SP, began to investi gate the circumstances for a merger into one single institutional group.
On 1 April 2016, RISE became the sole owner of Innventia and the companies within Swedish ICT, as well as the majority of companies making up SP. This new research institute has operated since the turn of the year under a shared Group name and brand – RISE*.
* Swerea’s industrial owners elected not to become part of the RISE Group or take part in the brand name change. Swerea operates as an independent associate within the Group under its own name and brand.
Expanded assignment in 2016
In autumn 2016, the Government presented the research bill for the period 2017–2020 “Cooperative knowledge – for the challenges of society and strengthened competitiveness”. The proposed that RISE’s duties and responsibilities should be developed. Among other things, the Swedish institute sector shall become more connected and coherent. The bill also recommends an increased focus on RISE’s role as a developer of testbeds and demonstration facilities and enhanced collaboration with academia, industry and the public sector.
RISE shall also continue to develop cutting-edge expertise within strategically important areas for the transformation of industry and the further development of small and medium-sized enterprises.