Published 2020-12-22

This post is also available in Swedish

‘In 2020, our heavy dependence on the surrounding world has become clear to us all’

Suddenly, the sun peeps through a chink in the cloudy sky. Outside my window, it makes the raindrops on the shrub rose glitter. On the year’s darkest day, I’ve been reading through the details of the Research and Innovation Bill just presented by the Government. In spite of everything, both the text and the afternoon sun augur ever brighter, better times to come.

The jetty at Brännö.

As Mistra’s new CEO of Mistra, I’m confident in the knowledge that our research programmes are truly in tune with the times. The politicians have approved green initiatives both in Sweden and at EU level. For them to succeed, society must be able to test new solutions and reassess the tenets of conventional wisdom. Here, Mistra’s role — now and in the future — is vital.

Our mission is to fund strategic environmental research to help our society meet huge challenges and create conditions for a good living environment. Since Mistra started in 1994, our research initiatives have had a major bearing on solving key environmental problems and resulted in a number of new tools, services and products that have come to benefit society.

We’ve come to be known for our long-term investments in strong research environments. Our programmes and centres are based on close collaboration among various scientific disciplines and with society’s stakeholders. The Mistra model has proved highly successful. We’re therefore delighted that both the new Swedish research-policy bill and Horizon Europe, the EU’s upcoming multiannual framework programme for research and innovation, have opted to emphasise ‘Missions’ as a key tool for future research initiatives. Here at Mistra, we have ample experience that we’re glad to share.

For those who are not in daily contact with our research, it’s important to know that Mistra’s research programmes cover a broad range of socially relevant issues. We actively monitor and analyse global trends and events, and work purposefully to stay a step ahead and identify knowledge gaps and research needs. The researchers in our programmes ponder everyday questions, such as what kinds of food we’re putting on our plates, what our homes and clothes are like and how we can shape our lives to enhance quality of life while reducing the impact on our surrounding environment. Innovative methods using ‘living labs’ and ‘co-creation’ are paving the way for new, creative and evidence-based solutions.

The year 2020 has been one that has made clear to us all how dependent we are on the rest of the world. Globally, the climate is changing and so too, with it, is the geopolitical playing field. This needs to be taken into account if we’re in earnest about finding solutions to society’s challenges. Accordingly, several of our programmes take a broad approach to the big questions that face us. One is how the transition to a fossil-free society can be achieved. Another is how to shape complex social and technical systems to safeguard our future energy supply. And a third is what role civil society’s organisations can play in adaptation to climate change.

Today, we at Mistra are once more turning our attention to the current knowledge about the fundamental conditions for our existence: the living environment surrounding us. Clearly, we can’t take biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems for granted. Without basic ecosystem services delivered by forests, meadows, lakes and seas, we’ll face even more daunting challenges in coming years. We therefore plan to invest in this area during 2021, preferably in collaboration with others, and we’ll also continue to develop Mistra Dialogue as an arena where researchers, decision-makers and other stakeholders in society get together to discuss key public issues. We’re convinced that the scientific community has much to contribute to the debate. With new knowledge, we’ll be able to tackle the new, challenging times ahead.

Outside the window, the mist from the sea has now blown in, settling like a damp shroud over the island. It’s time to turn off the computer screen and light a small fire in the stove. With these closing words, we thank you all — partners, associates and all who are interested in research — for your involvement in 2020. And we look forward to seeing you in 2021!

Anna Jöborn, CEO, Mistra

Brännö, 21 December 2020