The government is warning about electricity shortages. There is a war in the middle of Europe. The pandemic revealed major vulnerabilities in Sweden’s security of supply. At the same time, a huge transition must be undertaken to avoid a full-scale climate catastrophe. Where can solutions be found?
“One thing common to the challenges we now face is that no single operator can solve them all,” says CEO of RISE Pia Sandvik. “Even local climate efforts require cooperation between so many operators that the work becomes unmanageable for those who are not used to working across sectors. At the same time, deep expertise is required to ensure that work we do in one area does not increase the problems in another. RISE’s strength is that we combine deep and applied research with knowledge of interdisciplinary work – we have never worked in any other way.”
Sandvik emphasises that a factor in RISE’s success is that they can act quickly, build up readiness for different situations, and prepare for problems no one has yet predicted. One example is how RISE has carried out production mapping, i.e. obtained an overview of where the industry can change to manufacture products that may be needed in a crisis or when value chains are disrupted. This is part of RISE’s increasing responsibility for Sweden’s national defence. Sandvik also mentions how the institute works with roadmaps and strategies in different areas.
“Unexpected events don’t necessarily have to be major global events. One example we are seeing now is how the semiconductor shortage has significantly affected the green transition, resulting in planned projects needing to be postponed. We have learned a lot from how we worked during the pandemic, as we quickly refocused to be able to certify and support companies that, in turn, quickly adapted their production to meet new needs. In both the short and long terms, we will give Swedish industry and the public sector the best conditions for innovation and for solving societal problems.”
Sandvik notes that many people who start a collaboration with RISE are surprised by how many fields the institute operates in, and how much employees are able to contribute to a collaboration. This is the image that many have of RISE – which is primarily a testing and certification organisation that works with major industries.
“We will be the best partner for the automotive or pharmaceutical industry when they need support to ensure that conditions change quickly. But we must also be a good partner for small companies that need support in their development, and for the public sector. Our collaboration with the City of Malmö in their climate work, or with Atrium Ljungberg and Nacka Municipality in their urban development in Sickla, shows the benefit our breadth of expertise provides.
In both the short and long terms, we will give Swedish industry and the public sector the best conditions for innovation and for solving societal problems
Tearing down barriers
According to Sandvik, the example demonstrates how RISE’s knowledge of energy systems, citizen dialogue, urban development, and safety and security can be linked together and help municipalities to work across their barriers to deliver the best possible public service, while at the same time making the greatest possible social change.
“That’s what's really exciting about RISE, we can work locally and specifically, as well as globally. And Sweden has a lot to contribute. When the UN Global Compact was launched, 900 Swedish companies had been asked about their sustainability work, and two things stood out. One, sustainability has consistently become part of the product itself rather than a side business, and two, companies believe that the work is done today because the market demands it. It also means that this is a change that won’t stop.”
Expertise a success factor
The expertise existing in the institute is the main reason RISE succeeds in its assignments; that researchers and other employees want to work and develop at RISE.
“When we ask our employees why they work here, the most common answer is that they want to contribute to a more sustainable world. That we can practically do this is also a prerequisite for continuing to recruit the best in each field. An interesting thing is that despite our business being technology-heavy in many ways, we are somewhat more attractive as an employer among women than among men. This means we can also often provide a heterogeneous working group when we meet a new partner, which is good when working with development issues, since having different backgrounds allows you to see more perspectives.”
Clearly, the world is not getting any calmer. There will be more to do.
“Common to all the major challenges right now – the climate, safety and security, sustainability, energy – is that they can only be overcome with a combination of deep knowledge and cross-sectoral work. We need to be experts in all the fields we operate in, and we must connect our own expertise in different fields with an array of external operators. It’s not easy, but it’s also what we are best at,” concludes Pia Sandvik.