13 November 2012

Fundraising to safeguard the Stockholm Resilience Centre

The Stockholm Resilience Centre is taking novel steps to secure its own long-term funding. One aim is to approach partly new funders to allow a transition from Mistra’s investment, which will end in a few years’ time.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) has embarked on work to safeguard funding for its research. Appointing a fundraiser is one step the SRC has taken to date. Common in the USA and UK, fundraisers are a relatively new phenomenon in the Swedish research community.  

‘We get in touch with various conceivable funders, including new ones, especially in the business sector. We tell them what results we already have to show, but also what we want to do in the future,’ says Henrik Pompeius, who has recently joined the SRC.

The SRC, which conducts interdisciplinary research on sustainable development, started five years ago with support mainly from Mistra. Its research has been successful: the Centre has received international acclaim for its results and way of working, and is now in the application phase for a further five-year period.

In 2017 at the latest, Mistra’s funding will be phased out and the SRC will have to stand on its own feet. State funding through faculty appropriations will be available when the Centre becomes part of Stockholm University. But its research is growing faster than these funds permit and creativity is therefore called for.

Staying in touch with donors

This is where Henrik Pompeius comes in. As SRC’s Head of Fundraising, his task is to find new external funders who can ensure the Centre’s continuance, at the same high level and preferably higher.

‘My job includes staying in touch with existing funders, but also looking more widely for new funders, donors and would-be sponsors,’ he says.

This function involves, for example, forging ties with people who can sound out interest in the business sector. Another element is staying in touch with possible donors — a daunting task, since donors frequently want to be anonymous.
His work also involves profiling the SRC as a unit. This means getting different research groups to speak with the same voice in describing what the Centre does and seeks to do. For this reason, Pompeius has to get the SRC researchers’ backing, since despite their keen interest there is no habit of approaching companies. The business sector and the research community occupy different cultures, and he sees himself as a link between them.

‘It’s a matter of creating confidence internally, and getting the researchers to understand my way of working. But I feel they’re showing great curiosity,’ Pompeius says.

Stiffer competition for resources

In the UK and USA, fundraising is common in academia. Competition for funding is also stiff. Henrik Pompeius thinks that Sweden, too, is heading in a similar direction, and a growing number of Swedish higher education institutions have joined the bandwagon. He himself has a background in business economics and administration in the private sector, and has been a fundraiser for Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University.

Guaranteeing the independence of research is important, Pompeius thinks. But this does not prevent donors from coming up with fresh initiatives. He mentions, for example, the Unit for Fashion Studies, which started at Stockholm University a few years ago with funding from the Erling-Persson Family Foundation.

‘That kind of research didn’t exist at all before the Centre was formed,’ Pompeius says.

Text by Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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