Published: 22-05-2014 13:14 | Updated: 27-05-2014 15:52

Strategy 2018: KI must now choose its path

“Internal demonstration of strength and active choices”. It’s a question of opting in and opting out for the Karolinska Institutet over the next five years. On 28 April, the Board pushed through the new strategy document “Strategy 2018”. It will be implemented in September on a broad front in the organisation.

Today Sweden’s only medical university does not reach its full potential. Strategy 2018 points towards a clear desire to raise the level of the two core activities, research and education. Cutting-edge research and attractive degree programmes are important choices to strengthen Karolinska Institutet internationally. To invest additional resources in an already strong research domain, and to consider which degree programmes can achieve a very high quality and strong research basis within prioritised research domains.

This is initially stated in the strategy document, which has been discussed over the course of the last year.

Elias Arnér, professor and faculty representative on the board, who participated in the discussions, says that there has been a clear determination with the strategy and what needs to be focused on. It is based on management's ideas, but has also been checked with several groups at KI as work has progressed.

‘There is a single common thread and that is to invest in quality over quantity,’ says Elias Arnér.

‘We will not just ensure we receive more resources and greater volume, but also a stronger core business. Everyone needs to ask themselves what is really good and what needs to change.’

Viktoria Malas is both a student representative on the board and has participated in a preparatory group with students.

‘I think it is clear in the strategy that it consistently emphasises increased quality in first and third cycle education, that first cycle education must be preparatory for research and have a strong research basis. In this way, the students become an important basis for future recruitment,’ she adds.

Another important part is that the strategy gives prominence to the collaboration with Stockholm County Council, SCC.

That’s the view of Martin Bäckdahl, Head of the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, who participated in the heads’ working group.

‘Given that nearly 60 per cent of research at KI is conducted within or in close proximity to healthcare, so I see the issue concerning a joint SCC strategy to research and education with a common understanding of objectives, organisation, management and funding as very significant: To create a simple and clear collaborative organisation that gives KI a true influence over activities in university medical care.

A well-established approach has been the KI management’s objective according to vice-chancellor Anders Hamsten, which emphasises that it must establish the overall objectives, yet that these must be developed on a detail level within management, operation boards and the departments.

That work remains. Work to implement the strategy will start on a broad front in the organisation in September 2014.

Text: Madeleine Svärd

Special challenges according to the strategy:

  • Changes within healthcare involve major challenges for research and education, for example, for clinical research and the clinical-based education.
  • There is a need for a clearer career system at KI, initial steps have been made, but more is needed.
  • KI's range of programmes is broad yet has an uneven quality, the investigation into the quality of education and research basis is a first step to look into this. At the same time more education places are needed for nurses, doctors and dentists.
  • Society expects research results to lead to practical use, but few project ideas progress further in the current innovation system.
  • Complex organisations in large-scale research environments such as Biomedicum and SciLifeLab need to be professionalised in order to get the desired effect.
  • The internal organisation at KI must be reviewed, not least in order to adapt to the university medical care.

The strategic investments have been grouped into four focus areas: employees, infrastructure, funding and collaboration. Here are some examples established in each area.


The strategy expresses a more selective elite recruitment in international competition. This applies both on a senior as well as junior third cycle level, both students and doctoral students. The number of professors must be fewer in order to provide more resources to a smaller number. There should be incentives on all levels of the organisation that push towards higher quality within education and to breakthroughs in research, in the form of, among other things, increased resources.


The new advanced research laboratories need to be planned, scientific equipment identified and a plan for funding introduced, a targeted fundraising campaign may come into question.

Informatics, that is for example, biobank data, patient records and population data, are currently held on several different systems in research and medical care and these need to be linked together.


Stockholm County Council is one of Karolinska Institutet’s key partners. The objective of collaboration is a common research and education strategy. University medical care must deserve its name, especially with an emphasis on good conditions for clinical research and education to become a reality. KI wants collaboration with SCC to be concentrated to the university medical care organisation in a significantly clearer form than today, which can give KI real influence.

The innovation system is to be redefined and integrated into the core business in order to promote discoveries benefiting society.


At the end of the period that the strategy embraces, new extremely large infrastructure initiatives will be completed in the form of Biomedicum in Solna and the research environment at the Nya Karolinska Solna. Furthermore, investments in new infrastructure must be implemented on campus Huddinge during the same period. KI's new research laboratories and Comparative Medicine will be very costly. These must be funded via existing funds, an increased loan ceiling from the state and donations. Added to this are costs for expensive scientific equipment.