Freedom creates cutting-edge research

It is academia and the business sector that jointly define areas and research questions that are both of academic interest and highly business relevant. The projects we fund therefore span a wide range of scientific areas and business sectors.

The Knowledge Foundation differs from many other funders of research by not designating particular subject areas for the research and competence development it supports. Instead it is up to the university and the participating companies to choose a focus when applying for funding under one of the Knowledge Foundation’s programmes.

All projects must be co-produced

“All the projects we fund must be run in collaboration with the business sector. We call this co-production. As a result, the projects we fund are rooted in state-of-the-art research in academia and state-of-the-art development via the companies,” says Stefan Östholm, who heads analysis and evaluation at the Knowledge Foundation. The Foundation’s analyses show that when academia and the business sector decide on the focus of the projects, they go for new subject areas at an early stage, often long before any calls for proposals targeting that area even exist. One example of this is research and competence development in AI. Over the past six years, the Foundation has funded projects in this field to the tune of a total SEK 1.2 billion. Of the Knowledge Foundation’s 578 projects funded in total in that period, an impressive 158 have been linked to AI, according to the Foundation’s own statistics. Furthermore, the projects are being run across the whole country, involving twelve universities and many companies. Examples of universities conducting research into AI are Örebro University, the University of Skövde and Halmstad University.

Successful investments

“We’ve supported AI and machine learning in different groupings since 2000, but we’ve never specifically designated AI as an area for funding applications. Nevertheless, we can now see that we have been one of the biggest financiers in Sweden in this field for a long time. When other financiers say that they need strategic programmes geared to new areas, we can say that we’re already there. I call it independent research,” says Stefan Östholm.

“Another example worth highlighting is that some of the universities we have supported in computer science are very advanced and have some of the best researchers in Sweden. Blekinge Institute of Technology, for example, is best in Europe and in the top 10 in the world in software development. The quality of the research and competence development-based investments being made is also high. The Knowledge Foundation regularly evaluates the results of the projects we fund, partly by measuring publications in scientific journals and the degree to which the research is cited, known as bibliometrics. Co-production between universities and the business sector is crucial if the research and competence development being carried out in projects that have been granted funding is also to create benefit for society.”

“The business sector is there from the beginning when research starts to produce results. The most important route to utilisation is the companies’ understanding of how the new knowledge can be applied. Our co-production criterion means that utilisation is in place immediately,” says Stefan Östholm.