The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) is actively involved in meeting our society’s major challenges, by investing in environmentally strategic research that promotes sustainable development. The starting point is the Foundation’s Statutes, which after 25 years are more relevant than ever. We invest in research programmes and centres where, in collaboration, researchers from various disciplines and diverse interested parties help to find solutions to key environmental problems. We also use our asset management to influence the business sector and financial markets in a sustainable direction.
For Mistra to be able to contribute to sustainable development, it is fundamental for research findings and ideas to reach society’s stakeholders effectively and for various stakeholders to meet and work together. Their joint efforts need to promote lifelong learning that paves the way for integration, jobs and strong Swedish competitiveness. Since, in environmental policy, many central decisions and strategies are adopted at EU level, there is value in strengthening the dialogue between Mistra’s programmes and European decision makers.
Mistra works to ensure that processes and decisions of great importance for the environment and sustainable development, at EU as well as national level, are based on transdisciplinary collaboration and on fact-based, reflective knowledge.
Purpose of the Foundation
‘The purpose of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (‘Mistra’), is to support research of strategic importance for conditions favourable to life.
Mistra seeks to promote development of strong, world-class research settings of significance for Sweden’s future competitiveness. The research must be relevant to solving key environmental problems and promoting progress towards an environmentally sound society. Opportunities for achieving industrial applications must be taken.’
Solving environmental problems and working for sustainable societal development are complex challenges that require a systemic view, a global perspective, interdisciplinarity and management of goal conflicts. For the current strategy period, ethics at individual and societal level, and also interactions between humankind and the environment, will be other key starting points for Mistra’s activities. Based on society’s challenges and trends, today and in the future, we see that Mistra is set to make vital contributions in areas including the following:
- climate change, especially its implications for geopolitics, including migration and integration
- roadmaps for change towards a circular, resource-efficient and carbon-neutral economy
- facilitation of sustainable infrastructures and of joined-together laws and policy instruments and their application
- sustainable use of biological resources
- strategic environmental perspectives on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data
- health, equality, learning and prosperity within a sustainable development of society
- behaviours and choices that drive sustainable development.
At Mistra’s Secretariat in central Stockholm, about 10 people work in an open-plan setting. The Secretariat’s work is based on the existence of substantial in-house expertise, long-term partners and an extensive external network. Our inclusive work environment is characterised by openness and integrity, and fosters creative discussions and innovative thinking.
Overall aims for 2020–22
- We aim to contribute to a knowledge-based way of making decisions in society, based on environmentally strategic thinking at system level;
- work together and conduct a dialogue to create a greater impact for environmentally strategic research results;
- be perceived as working for the long term and being supportive, accessible and pragmatic;
- have a work environment that is inclusive and creative; and
- be an attractive employer.
Research geared to sustainable development calls for a broad approach, eagerness to understand and openness. Thus, Mistra encourages interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary ways of working. Our research is intended to be based on current and future challenges to society, and be in the nature of a strategic response. This requires active, curious analysis and monitoring of global trends and events, with curiosity and openness to the unexpected. It also requires clear positions on which research is environmentally strategic and can help bring about solutions to priority environmental problems.
Mistra encourages unconventional research approaches, and the research results are intended to offer ample scope for innovation and upscaling. The Foundation’s ambition is to attract the best researchers by issuing challenging, attractive calls for research proposals in order to generate world-class research findings. A key requirement is a well-functioning research organisation that has partners committed to the same goals.
During the current strategy period, we will invest SEK 750 million in research.
Mistra’s main forms of funding are research programmes and research centres. Mistra has a perspective of eight to ten years for these initiatives, and this long-termism has become a distinct and much appreciated feature of our work. In assessing the precise length of the funding period, Mistra takes into account the normal duration of PhD studies. There may be special, supplementary initiatives in specific areas, in the form of programmes or projects that are relatively short-lived or on a smaller scale, when an acute need is identified.
The Mistra Fellows funding scheme builds collaborations and boosts the exchange of knowledge between Mistra’s research programmes and organisations in other countries. This programme allows exchange of project staff in both directions: Mistra’s researchers get the chance to be hosted by an organisation in another country, while researchers and experts from foreign organisations get the opportunity to stay in Sweden and work in Mistra’s research programmes.
To increase the usefulness of our research, Mistra cooperates with other research funders both in and outside Sweden. The basis for this cooperation is the gearing-up of joint contributions, giving clear added value to society, that it enables.
Aims for 2020–22
- We aim to be ground-breaking and prioritise innovative areas that have as their starting point Mistra’s long experience and cutting-edge skills in strategic environmental research;
- be flexible and able to adapt calls for proposals and also the work of drawing up documentation to generate meaningful and applicable results;
- ensure that our research is interdisciplinary, has a systemic view and involves stakeholders;
- carry out active, curious global monitoring and analysis, while remaining open to the unexpected;
- cooperate with other research funders in Sweden and Europe when this can confer clear added value for society;
- create, through our research, scope for innovations that enable changes in our way of life and impact on the environment; and
- continuously revise our procedure and requirements for the programmes, with a focus on clear, efficient processes.
Mistra’s assets are intended to provide a good return at limited risk and simultaneously promote sustainable development of society. This is to be done both through funding of initiatives in environmentally strategic research and by investing in activities that contribute to worldwide development in which environmental, social and ethical values, and thus the United Nations’ global Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, are taken into consideration. Mistra’s asset management is governed by our Asset Management Policy.
Trust and transparency are key words for Mistra as an asset owner. Continuous dialogue with asset managers ensures a common foundation of values, cooperation and shared expertise. Through openness and active interest in dialogue and meetings, Mistra also aims to be able to inspire others in the financial sector to help bring about sustainable development.
Since Mistra funds environmentally strategic research for sustainable development of society, we as an asset owner have a unique potential for connecting directly with researchers and research, both in finance and in other relevant areas. The effect of these connections can be scaled up through direct cooperation with various stakeholders and groups who are working to make the financial sector conducive to society’s sustainable development. Mistra can also work as a catalyst by facilitating meetings among relevant stakeholders, such as researchers and asset managers.
Aims for 2020–22
- We aim to safeguard existing commitments, and make new, environmentally strategic research initiatives possible, through a good financial return in the long term;
- influence the financial sector so that new and existing knowledge is used for asset management geared to sustainable development;
- encourage, through our investments, activities carried out in compliance with the Paris Agreement, and promote progress towards the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
- be transparent and openly present our portfolio and its development, and our criteria for asset management that promotes sustainable development;
- take part in and actively support initiatives that contribute to asset management geared to sustainable development; and
- actively follow legislative developments at EU level for a sustainable financial system.
Mistra aims to actively influence the development of society by engaging in dialogue and conveying knowledge. Our assertions must be based on our own or others’ research, but may also build on experience from our asset management. Greater integration among Mistra’s research funding, asset management and idea dissemination enhances our potential for outreach and our capacity to generate commitment and obtain inspiration for a clearer impact.
After more than 25 years in existence, thanks to our research programmes, Mistra has accumulated knowledge and skills in numerous areas. Our ambition is, during the current three-year period, to make these available to more stakeholders and interested parties, and to achieve further breakthroughs for the research in society through increased cooperation among Mistra’s research programmes, but also with other stakeholders in society.
During the strategy period, we are developing Mistra Dialogue further by enabling the programmes to contribute systematically to knowledge-based decision-making in Sweden and the EU. Ideas, knowledge and results from Mistra-funded programmes will be emphasised, refined and adapted to reach target groups and decision makers in policy and the business and public sectors. Mistra Dialogue, as a concept, gives the programmes an opportunity for extended networks, perhaps above all when it comes to decision-making at EU level and internationally.
In the years ahead, decisions will be made on several major, important directives and legislative frameworks in EU environmental, energy and industrial policy. In European negotiations, Sweden often presses for more far-reaching drafts and proposals in the areas of the environment and climate. Knowledge and results from Mistra’s programmes can strengthen the Swedish position. Sweden has a high degree of integration in climate and environmental issues, since we often have a consensus that unites the public sector with the business sector and the research community. Based on this consensus, we should be able to adopt a more prominent stance and gain greater research-based influence in these areas, in particular.
With user benefit in focus, Mistra will develop scope for our outreach to new target groups and boost the impact of our research results, using new formats and communication channels.
Aims for 2020–22
- We aim to develop Mistra’s role of conveying knowledge;
- help to act as a catalyst for and boost the impact of research in society generally, and that of Mistra-funded research in particular;
- develop our contacts and exchanges with relevant EU and international stakeholders;
- support collaboration among research programmes, and between them and other stakeholders in society; and
- focus on user benefit through target-group adaptation.