Published: 16-11-2023 14:14 | Updated: 16-11-2023 14:26

KI's input to the research and innovation bill

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Illustration of precision medicine and genomics. Photo: Getty Images.

In October, KI submitted suggestions to the government for its research and innovation policy bill, which will be presented at the end of 2024. KI stresses the importance of basic research and free competition on research funding as well as educational investment in the form of increased compensation per student and more university places. KI also suggests a national research programme for life science centred on research and technical development.

Personer KI:s universitetsledning
Photo: Liza Simonsson.

In the government’s invitation to higher education institutions, Minister for Education Mats Persson writes that the focus of the bill will be on excellence, internationalisation and innovation. This is all in line with the policy declaration announced by the government in 2022, in which Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson emphasised the point that quality education and research is crucial to national prosperity in Sweden. 

“If I interpret the government correctly, we share the view that Sweden has the potential to further consolidate its position as a world-leading research nation, particularly in medicine, health and life science,” says KI president Annika Östman Wernerson.

“One success factor has been, and still is, the reliable competitive procedures that have been established for research funding by the research funding agencies, which guarantees scientific quality now and, hopefully, in the future.”

KI draws particular attention to basic research in its suggestions as a prerequisite of scientific breakthroughs, an investment that at a later stage can help to meet social challenges and make valuable contributions to society. One example of basic research that brought great benefits to humanity is mRNA research, which accelerated the production of a COVID-19 vaccine and which was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. 

Life science, the interface between medical research, novel technologies and healthcare, is taking great strides forward. KI also therefore raises the need for the nation to pull together to introduce new medical techniques for tailoring personalised therapies into the healthcare sector. Research, development and implementation are under rapid development in areas such as precision medicine, ATMP, AI, data-driven research, quantum sensing and quantum information.

“We believe that a concerted national effort on research and technique development is necessary if Sweden is to remain a strong player in a rapidly growing field, able to compete internationally on research funding, talent and opportunities for creating more equal and personalised healthcare,” says Professor Östman Wernerson.

On the topic of international financing, KI points out that the ability of universities to take part in EU framework programme should be strengthened, as should the incentive among researchers to apply for EU grants. The government could, for example, create a bonus system whereby approved EU applications receive an allowance to cover indirect costs and other expenses. KI also proposes a national coordination solution for knowledge support and guidance on how higher education institutions are to deal with sensitive security matters when it comes to international collaborations and receiving international students and researchers. 

“We were disappointed with the government’s decision last summer to end the Swedish Research Council’s funding of development research as financed through the aid budget,” says Professor Östman Wernerson. “Researchers in the sector have publicly protested and I too am critical as to how this has been done.”

KI proposes that the government makes a fresh start with new funding and a renewed remit for the Swedish Research Council to issue open, broad-based calls without the framework conditions imposed by previous aid funding programmes.