The past year has been dramatic, with the whole world hit by a global pandemic that impacted health and entire societies. When production, travel and business activities came to a standstill, many plans and familiar working methods had to be changed. RISE quickly responded in order to meet urgent needs in society. We also found new ways to serve our customers as part of our mission to promote sustainable development in society.
RISE’s CEO Pia Sandvik looks back on a year with a focus on crisis management and transformation.
2020 was an unusual and tumultuous year. How was RISE affected?
“In order to adapt to a new situation and become even more relevant to our customers, we made significant changes to our operations to meet new needs and create new business opportunities. The COVID‑19 pandemic quickly resulted in global consequences such as furloughs, layoffs, disrupted value chains and shortages of critical products. But the crisis also provided opportunities to make changes and try out new ideas for creating the sustainable society and industry we need. Due to reduced demand for our services, RISE had sales of SEK 3,396 million and an operating profit of SEK ‑84 million, a decrease compared to the previous year.”
We will further accelerate our efforts to strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness, in accordance with our mission.
How did RISE respond to new needs during the coronavirus crisis?
“We quickly changed our operations in a number of ways. When an urgent need arose for personal protective equip-ment in the healthcare sector, we transformed our opera-tions to carry out fast‑track testing of PPE for the Swedish Work Environment Authority. We quickly started testing visors, face masks, gloves, aprons and other protective equipment, so that it could be distributed to the healthcare system after approval.
To support schools in making the rapid switch to remote learning, we developed – in record time – the digital platform skolahemma.se in collaboration with the Swedish National Agency for Education, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR) and Swedish Edtech Industry.
We also adapted our work processes so that services could be offered digitally when people couldn’t meet in person.
RISE has received additional funding from the Government to develop sustainable bioeconomy solutions. What happens next?
“The Government’s grant of SEK 350 million over two years to intensify work on sustainable solutions in the biorefinery sector will allow us to accelerate the transition already in progress in collaboration with companies in the sector. By modernising and supplementing RISE’s testbeds for bio‑ refineries, we can improve opportunities for the commercialisation of new solutions.
The investment may contribute towards company formations and international investments, as well as a world‑leading centre for a resource‑ efficient, non‑toxic and circular bioeconomy. As a first step, we are building a flexible pilot hall with several different test beds adjacent to RISE’s existing activities in Örnsköldsvik.”
How does RISE work with cybersecurity and AI?
“Over the past year, society has largely had to switch to digitalised operations. This offers fantastic opportunities to increase efficiency and competitiveness, but it also makes us vulnerable. We at RISE have taken several steps forward, including the imminent launch of our Cyber Range test bed for cybersecurity research and our work on cybersecurity certification. This is strongly linked to our investment in a centre for applied AI, as cybersecurity is fundamental in the development of AI services.
To accelerate the positive effects of AI use in Sweden, RISE has gathered together a large number of actors to work on an AI agenda for Sweden. The work, which involves representatives from academia, industry, the public sector and civil society, was presented in early 2021 and is continuing with, among other things, the establishment of the AI centre.”
How do you see the way forward for Sweden’s research institutes?
“We will further accelerate our efforts to strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness and contribute to sustainable development in society, in accordance with our mission. The Government’s research bill for the next four years focuses on major initiatives aimed at societal challenges in areas such as climate change and digitalisation. Those of us involved in industry‑related applied research have an important role to play in this regard.
It is also gratifying that the Government is recognising RISE’s contribution to public sector innovation. Our 2,800 employees, with their high level of expertise and commitment, are the key to success in achieving our mission. I would like to thank our customers and employees for a fantastic collaboration during a challenging and unprecedented year.”
/Pia Sandvik, CEO, RISE