Smart Materials for 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 on smart materials and how these can promote sustainable development and help solve significant environmental problems. The programme should not be limited to technical challenges but should also explore statutory regulation of new materials. It is important — and in line with Mistra’s Statutes — for the research to yield opportunities and solutions that can benefit Sweden and that strengthen our international competitiveness.


The concept of smart materials is not new, but its definition is constantly evolving. What is regarded as the norm today, such as semiconductors or photoelectric cells, may have recently been ground-breaking. Materials science is included in several of Mistras current initiatives such as Mistra environmental Nanosafety, STEPS (Sustainable Plastics and Transition Pathways) and to a lesser extent, Mistra Innovation and Mistra Closing the Loop. Mistra’s Board have identified smart materials as the potential subject of research spanning whole systems, and one that may also include research components of higher risk but great transformative potential.

In autumn 2015, Mistra appointed an international expert panel and tasked it with drafting a background report ahead of a decision to call for research proposals on smart materials (Appendix 1). This background report is based partly on questions and suggestions that emerged at a workshop held by Mistra, attended both by the expert panel and by representatives of higher education institutions (HEIs), research institutes and industry.

The background report identifies a few areas where smart materials can contribute to development, especially in high-tech sectors. Since smart materials display properties that change or adapt to external influence, their potential for use in the interface between two or more physical or biological systems is evident. Research on smart materials may cover everything from studies of properties at the molecular level to macroscopic properties of relatively large structures. The potential for using smart materials as tools in solving environmental problems is judged to be substantial, while these materials can also help improve quality of life and boost competitiveness.


The specific details and research approach, based on an overarching thematic focus on how smart materials can contribute to solving key environmental problems and to sustainable development, are to be decided by the applicants.

The proposal should be based on studies of several different materials and applications, divided into distinct organisational ‘work packages’, combined to give a cohesive programme. It is important for the programme to develop a comprehensive grasp of the materials studied, requiring interdisciplinarity and industrial collaboration. The programme is expected to be highly innovative, which may entail greater risk-taking than normal. Mistra is highly aware of the implications of both taking and managing risks, and therefore encourages applicants to include clear ‘stop or go’ decision points in the programme plan.

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. Co-funding is expected primarily from the business and public sectors. Co-funders should provide a letter of intent in support of the proposal. Mistra favours further co-funding over and above the 15% requirement.
  2. Current rules concerning indirect costs: see Appendix 2.

Application process and review

The proposal must include the following parts:

Summary in English and Swedish

  1. Vision, aims and expected impact
  2. Scientific value of the programme
  3. Societal benefit of the programme
  4. Organisation of the programme
  5. Skills and networks
  6. Description of component projects
  7. Deliverables
  8. Communication
  9. Budget.

Note that the 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 programmesexternal link on Mistra’s website www.mistra.orgexternal link.

The proposal should be sent as a single PDF file, by email to, to reach Mistra by Thursday 1 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 are 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. the manner in which the programme will be integrated in the host organisation, how it will be governed and organised, and how well it will make efficient use of 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

1 September 2016                        Call closes

September–November                Evaluation of applications

8 December 2016                         Award decisions taken by Mistra’s Board of directors

1 January 2017 (preliminary)       Programme start


Christopher Folkeson Welch
+46 (0)70 732 3074