Geopolitics and Sustainable Development

Funding call for research programme

This post is also available in Swedish

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) invites research groups, jointly with other stakeholders, to submit proposals for a new research programme. It will concern the prospects for sustainable development in a changed geopolitical landscape, partly driven by global climate change in interaction with new demographic conditions and migration patterns. Rather than being confined to the risks, threats and challenges entailed by development, the programme will explore opportunities and solutions that can benefit Sweden and Europe in international competition.


Extraction and use of fossil natural resources such as oil, gas and coal boost greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbate soil, air and water pollution. Trends take a variety of forms, such as severe drought in some cases and flooding in others. Thawing of ice, sea-level changes and extreme weather conditions are contributing to the creation of new geopolitical conditions.

Development is watered down by global population growth. Urbanisation, water supply and the struggle for resources are key causes of changed migration patterns. Land areas that have not been attractive for habitation to date may become so and the reverse, too, may occur. At the same time, individual phenomena such as sharp fluctuations in food and raw-material prices can rapidly alter the geopolitical playing field.

The new situation has direct and indirect implications for Sweden as not only a sovereign state but a welfare nation. Social and economic factors, such as demographic patterns and changed labour-market conditions, affect this country’s competitiveness and long-term development. Several public investigations have described and analysed these variables; examples are the reports from the Delegation for Migration Studies (DELMI) and the 2015 Medium Term Survey of the Swedish Economy.

Relationships among geopolitics, demographics, migration and sustainable development are complex. Many debate contributors emphasise threats and increased vulnerability. This research programme is expected to challenge existing perceptions and develop counterbalancing opportunities and solutions for long-term sustainable development.

This call is part of a thematic initiative by Mistra comprising several research programmes, both existing and new, focusing on climate change. Dialogue, sharing of experience and, where relevant, collaboration among these programmes are expected.


Mistra is not defining the precise focus of the programme. Instead, it is allowing proposers to identify research needs on the basis of the overall thematic emphasis. However, it is important for the Swedish dimension to be given ample space in the programme.

Mistra has selected three reports that specify the framework of the research programme. The first, The Global Risks Report 2016 from the World Economic Forum, analyses global risks in five categories: economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological. This report also identifies a number of trends, including an ageing population, that are deemed to be interconnected with the risks. Finally, based on three scenarios, it also pinpoints a number of ‘new ways of building resilience to security threats through public-private collaboration.’

The second report, A New Climate for Peace, was issued by the G7 Group (in 2015). This identifies seven ‘compound climate-fragility risks’ that pose serious threats by fuelling conflicts. One such compound risk is migration. The authors also propose measures that can mitigate global tensions and negative geopolitical trends.

The third report is the recently implemented evaluation of Mistra’s climate research programmes, the Final report from the international expert panel to review Mistra’s Research on Climate Change (2016). This evaluation identifies ‘climate change-related food and water crises, resource conflicts, security issues and migration: risks, impacts and responses’ as key research areas.

Several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are relevant to this call, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has published several reports on the relationship between migration and sustainable development.

Who can apply?

This call is directed towards research groups working at Swedish universities, research institutes and companies, and also representatives from the business and public sectors and civil society. Researchers and organisations active outside Sweden may participate but the principal applicant and planned programme host must be a Swedish institution.

The host organisation and participating organisations are expected to be coordinated in a consortium that submits a joint proposal.

Special conditions

  1. Co-funding, at 15% of the total programme budget, is required. The co-funder’s contribution may be partly in kind, for example in the form of staff involved in the programme. The co-funding requirement is based on experience that commitment and integration in the programme are enhanced when more than one organisation contributes resources. The co-funding expected must be reported in the proposal and substantiated with certificates.
  2. Current rules concerning indirect costs: see Appendix 4.

Application process and review

The programme proposal must be written in English (apart from a summary in Swedish) and its maximum length is 75 pages, including appendices. The CVs for key participants may be up to one page long per person. The proposal must also include certificates from the planned programme host and co-funding organisations.  Content in excess of 75 pages will not be taken into account in the evaluation.

  1. Summary in English and Swedish
  2. Vision, aims and expected impact
  3. Scientific value of the programme
  4. Benefit of the programme to society
  5. Organisation of the programme
  6. Skills and networks
  7. Description of component projects
  8. Deliverables
  9. Communication
  10. Budget.

Note that the programme proposal must clearly specify the (a) preliminary programme title, (b) planned programme host, (c) planned programme manager and (d) contact person for the proposal, with full contact details.

Heading a Mistra programme is normally a full-time commitment and every programme is expected to have a communicator. Read the section on Managing Mistra programmes on Mistra’s website.

The proposal should be sent as a single PDF file, by email to, to reach Mistra by Monday 5 September 2016 at 4:00 pm.

Mistra intends to award research funding to one (1) of the programme proposals submitted. It is not possible to apply for funds for individual projects within the scope of this call.

Evaluation criteria

The proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria, with an emphasis on the potential for solving environmental problems and the expected contribution to sustainable development:

  1. Approach, i.e. how far the programme has a central, coherent idea and an innovative direction, how well its aims are formulated and how well the anticipated impact is reported (including indicators).
  2. Scientific quality, i.e. how well the programme meets the high requirements for skills, theoretical standards and methodology.
  3. Societal benefits, i.e. how well developed the collaboration with end-users is (and is expected to be) and which communicative processes and methods will be used to attain efficient implementation.
  4. Management and organisation, i.e. how the programme will be integrated in the host organisation, governed and structured, and how efficiently it will use resources
  5. Competitiveness, i.e. the ways in which the programme will help promote Sweden’s competitiveness and prosperity in a broad sense.

Time schedule

4 April 2016                     Call opens

5 September 2016           Call closes

October–November         Evaluation of proposals

8 December 2016             Award decisions taken by Mistra’s Board

1 January 2017 (preliminary)   Programme start


Johan Edman

+46 (0)70 732 4073