Transformative changes in society to achieve challenging climate goals

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 industry and other stakeholders, to submit proposals for a new research programme on how, in just a few decades, Swedish society can be transformed in such a way as to have zero net greenhouse-gas emissions and use fossil fuels only on a very small scale. Fundamental, coordinated changes are needed at many levels. How is a society like Sweden’s to achieve substitution of new technology and new materials for existing fossil-based technology in all sectors, while the country simultaneously develops its industrial base and welfare state?


At the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, the world’s countries adopted a new, global and legally binding climate deal. The Paris Agreement imposes a limit to global warming of well below 2°C and an aim to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5°C. It states that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and thereafter decrease, and that net emissions must be zero during the second part of this century.

Previously, in New York in September 2015, the world’s countries had agreed on 17 global Sustainable Development Goals. One was: ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.’

In 2009 the Swedish Parliament (the Riksdag) had declared its support for the then Government’s vision of Sweden with zero net atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. The Cross Party Committee on Environmental Objectives has proposed defining this Swedish ‘zero net’ vision in more precise terms and bringing it forward, i.e. to be attained by 2045, after which Sweden should be capable of achieving negative emissions (SOU 2016:21). In addition, the aim is that by 2045 emissions from activities within Sweden’s territory, in accordance with the country’s international greenhouse-gas reporting obligation, will be 85% lower than emissions in 1990. To reach this target, under the Committee’s proposals, capture and storage of carbon dioxide of fossil origin, where reasonable alternatives are lacking, count as a remedy.

In its annual policy statement of 2015, the Government announced that Sweden is to become one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare nations.

In 2015, Mistra appointed an international expert panel to evaluate Mistra’s climate research. The panel’s remit included proposing which climate-related research Mistra should henceforward invest in. This call is based on the expert panel’s conclusions and recommendations (Appendix 1). Note that this call includes only a selection of the research areas proposed by the panel.


The starting point for this call is the expert panel’s proposals for research under the heading ‘Transformative changes in society in a future with strong mitigation goals: Sweden 2050’ (page 11), especially the first research area (‘The technological, social and economic transitions for Sweden to create the first fossil fuel free welfare state’). The research areas described under the heading ‘Governance and policy implementation’ (page 12) are also relevant to this call.

The programme should focus, first, on the technical and business prospects and potential for Sweden to move closer to zero emissions of greenhouse gases (decarbonisation) and, second, on how society and its institutions can and should handle the requisite transition. The programme should have a system perspective and a cross-sectoral approach but, at the same time, explore in depth one or more sectors of society where the challenges are particularly large, such as transport, steel, or building and construction. The expert panel’s report also gives examples. A programme proposal submitted should contain an analysis of where the greatest challenges, and possibly the target conflicts, may be found and on which issues, based on this analysis, the programme intends to focus. There should be flexibility in the programme and openness to capture technological breakthroughs and major advances in development.

In the programme, collaboration is anticipated among academic disciplines, the business and public sectors and civil society. Cooperation between academia and industry is expected to be particularly well developed and capable of leading to concrete results.

This call is included in a thematic initiative by Mistra in several research programmes, both existing and new, focusing on climate issues. Dialogue, sharing of experience and, where relevant, collaboration among these programmes are expected. Parallel to this call, Mistra is announcing a research programme on ‘Geopolitics and Sustainable Development’. Ongoing research programmes with a climate focus include programmes on resource efficiency, the Arctic, the urban environment, the financial system and the fashion industry. In the coming year, Mistra intends to issue one or more calls concerning other climate-related issues.

In 2013, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) published its fifth assessment of current knowledge about climate change. This report, Mitigation of Climate Change, is especially relevant to this call.

Who can apply?

This call addresses research groups in all academic disciplines 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 30% 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 sector and other stakeholders. 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. Mistra favours further co-funding over and above the 30% requirement.
  2. Current rules concerning indirect costs: see Appendix 2.

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.

Summary in English and Swedish

  1. Vision, aims and expected impact
  2. Scientific value of the programme
  3. Benefit of the programme to society
  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 director 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.

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. the manner in which 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


Thomas Nilsson
+46 (0)70 629 8812