Covid-19 basically brought the world to a standstill. Everything was put on hold and the repercussions quickly escalated. The business sector reacted strongly with layoffs and furloughs. Investments in research and innovation were halted, and the public sector’s lack of preparedness was exposed. Now, as the world prepares for what comes later, an ability to adapt and shift focus based on the circumstances and needs of the world around us will be imperative.
– “It’s natural to feel concern in the face of unexpected situations,” says RISE CEO Pia Sandvik. “Concern about the disease, our loved ones, and what will happen down the line. The same concerns exist in the public sector, amongst our customers. But I know that by communicating, making ourselves available, looking ahead, and having resolute hope in the future here at RISE, we can help our customers regain their optimism.”
Sandvik identifies a few critical building blocks for the future: that investment in research and innovation should never be reduced but must increase instead, and the importance of lifelong learning.
– “When the wheels start turning again, there is a real risk that companies will backpedal on their investments in research and innovation. In this, RISE, as a representative of the state, must show the way. We must shift focus from compensating companies for lost revenue to ensuring that they make the necessary investments. We must get the value chains up and running or replace them if necessary. There are now vast opportunities for transition and development, precisely because a lot of things are running at half speed. We have seen and recognised the need for skills development, digital platforms, and a greater number of climate-smart solutions. This is where we must assist the business sector just as much as civil society in making the right choices with regard to the skills they should focus on and their investments into innovation. It’s the only way we will move forwards.”
This is a challenge we will be able to handle
Adaptability and capacity for swift action crucial
The last quarter has placed heavy requirements on RISE as an organisation. Competitive intelligence and technology monitoring have become even more important, perspectives have broadened and, together with customers, new types of problems have emerged which need to be solved. Sandvik asserts that strategic work has played a crucial role in enabling the organisation to demonstrate the adaptability and capacity for swift action that she believes are prerequisites for fulfilling its function:
– “Our ability to understand needs and abandon old notions of how things are done and who does what has been strengthened through continuous competitive intelligence and by mapping the industries in which we operate. No matter if it’s big research-intensive companies or small enterprises, we have the necessary understanding to help them with their transition and find new solutions to known problems as we are about to enter ‘the new normal’. At the start of the pandemic, the needs related mostly to the here and now, so we shared our knowledge of protective equipment and testing and helped Artex, HAVD Group and Electrolux convert their production to respiratory protection, we developed solutions for remote learning with Skolahemma.se, and we have shown which forms of IT security must be strengthened to cope with this critical situation. In the next stage, however, the work must be carried out at system level.”
Sandvik underscores that this work is urgent. We no longer have the luxury of time in the same way as before the outbreak of the pandemic. To increase the pace, RISE must become even better at interdisciplinary collaboration, at raising competitive intelligence from a microcosm to a macrocosm, and, most of all, at creating new processes for new needs and accelerating processes already underway.
– “The work is endless and we’re improving all the time. Now, as society starts back up again, a wealth of opportunities and potential come to the fore – open to new thinking and needs. However, this comes with enormous expectations for the innovation system in which RISE plays an essential role. But I know without a doubt that this is a challenge we will be able to handle,” concludes Sandvik.
Pia Sandvik on:
The first thing I think of is agility: that the world has never before had such a need for agile structures and processes in order to understand what must be done and what needs exist. Will companies invest in Sweden or will they seek out other countries? And, in the case of the former, what must we be to ensure that they remain and do the things they need to do here? The need for the state digitisation initiative, which was being discussed before the pandemic, has grown in recent months. In addition to the technology- and business-driven aspects, we also need to look towards sustainable societies from a systematic perspective.
Automation and digitisation are steadily creating new skills needs. Society has geared down and this affords us time to build on existing skills. Another important element is carbon-neutral manufacturing processes that require structuring and funding models to cope with the transition. For RISE, this means always being at the forefront in terms of skills related to the development we are seeing. We must always have the requisite skills to meet global needs.
The pandemic has created opportunities for us to transition to a more sustainable world more quickly. At the same time, it has helped us to understand our vulnerabilities. Some elements related to our sense of security were shown to be false when tested in an emergency, yet in this exists the potential for better preparedness and greater security in all aspects of life. It is often easier to adjust and adapt in times of crisis, which usually leads to new ideas as well as new companies and whole markets down the line. Here at RISE we have recognised opportunities to more swiftly develop the incredibly essential role we play in the innovation system. This will allow us to contribute to a faster transition for society and companies and to the new normal, and will allow us to truly prove ourselves.