A word from the CEO

30 years with the Knowledge Foundation

In 1994, a number of research foundations were established on the basis of capital from the abolished employee funds. The Knowledge Foundation was one of these.  Since its inception, its mission has been to finance research and skill development at Sweden’s higher education institutions and newer universities in collaboration with the business community. Eva Schelin, CEO, summarizes briefly with some retrospectives and looks ahead.

Our journey has been marked by both big and small challenges, periodically through external pressure for the Knowledge Foundation to change its direction. Nevertheless, the foundation has stayed true to its mission in line with its bylaws, even though this mission has varied over the years. Among the many achievements are the impressive results of the new educational institutions and in the private sector, as well as becoming an esteemed player in the educational sphere. 

Through prudent and sustainable capital management, the Knowledge Foundation has granted SEK 12 Billion in project grants over the years. With the goal of maintaining the capital in perpetuity, current capital levels  are SEK 9 Billion. The foundation grants approximately SEK 500 million annually. 

With this 30th anniversary, we look back at our achievements with pride. These days, higher education and healthy research environments are present across the country. The Foundation has contributed to improving the financing conditions of higher education institutions and helped them to establish new fields of science, to obtain licenses for postgraduate education and, in several cases, to obtain university status. Simultaneously, the Knowledge Foundation’s requirement of private sector participation has strengthened competitiveness and renewed the forms of collaboration between academia and business.

A major change in the Foundation’s activities was its streamlining in the 2010s. Activities were concentrated on funding research at the new higher education institutions, while other activities were toned down, such as investments in creative industries. New forms of support were developed, such as programs for younger researchers, strategic recruitment and more education programs at an advanced level. The Foundation also took on a more proactive role in its contact with higher education institutions. During my time as CEO, the fifth in succession, we have stepped up our efforts to support the development of strong research and education environments at our target group universities. Among other things, we have introduced a new assessment criterion in which our assessors look at how each individual project contributes to the development of the research environments at each university. Meanwhile, we have further strengthened our dialogues with higher education institutions and the surrounding community.

In 2024, a strategy process will be launched to stake out the future of the Knowledge Foundation. The work is based on the major societal challenges and the rapid technological change that face business and society. It kicks off with a university tour where my colleagues and I will meet leaders and research groups at all of our 22 target group universities. During the spring, we will also meet representatives of the business community, other funding bodies and important organizations. Additionally, we will assemble a group of research policy experts who will help us reflect on the role of the Knowledge Foundation in the Swedish funding landscape and compare its activities with similar organizations internationally.

Our rationale for this strategy work is to get a clearer picture of future needs and how the Knowledge Foundation can become even better at strengthening Swedish competitiveness and supporting research and education environments throughout the country, and in particular taking into account the major societal challenges that are taking place. The strategy will be launched in the fall, so I encourage anyone who has input for the strategy to contact us at the Knowledge Foundation.

Congratulations to us and to everyone who has received funding from the Knowledge Foundation to make Sweden a stronger research and education nation!

Eva Schelin, CEO, the Knowledge Foundation