Benefits of neighbours coming together

1 April 2022

The Arctic Five partnership offers collaboration between universities in the northernmost part of Europe – and Umeå University is one. Together, we are striving towards finding research-based solutions to the problems the northern regions are faced with. I find it promising that the latest initiatives of the partnership to support transboundary research has aroused huge interest.

Internationalisation is important to ensure high quality research and education. But who is best to collaborate with? Although there are many potential answers to that question, collaborating with your neighbours seems like a good choice.

Dieter Müller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

That's why Umeå University has formed the Arctic Five partnership together with UiT – the Arctic University of Norway, University of Lapland, University of Oulu and Luleå University of Technology. Studying topics linked to one geographical location helps unite researchers from the member universities regardless of their research domains.

Still, our universities are sufficiently different from one another to create interesting meetings and innovative collaborations, and the five universities can also benefit from each other's infrastructure. All in all, the Arctic Five collaborations are aimed at supporting researchers in their ambition to achieve excellent research. The Vice-Chancellors convene twice per year to discuss how collaborations between universities in the northernmost parts of Europe can be intensified.

At one such get-together, it was decided that a Chairs & Fellows programme was to be established to support common research initiatives bottom up, so to speak. The main objective of the initiative is to find research-based solutions on the shared problems that northern communities are faced with.

Each Chair must be an established researcher at an Arctic Five partner university, with ongoing collaborations in research or education with other universities within the partnership, or with aspirations to establish such collaborations. By offering financial support, this initiative will make it possible for groups to intensify their collaborations and enable meetings, or to develop and implement joint projects.

The Arctic Five Chairs call was very welcome and appreciated. In total, 36 applications were submitted from a wide range of fields, and most of them contained representatives of all five universities. After assessment, 15 of the applications are now being granted support and four of those are led by researchers from Umeå University.

For several reasons, I was pleased and excited about the big interest in the initiative and hope that it will have ripple effects and involve more individuals than those listed in the applications in the end. Arctic Five will now put in a higher gear to mobilise the universities' shared resources for research funding to help Chairs with applications for further funding. Plans to establish groups that can develop models for collaborating in education have also been made. Furthermore, preparations are underway to implement a fellowship programme for young researchers in the upcoming years. In two years, a new call for Chairs will also be announced.

I hope the Arctic Five flagship Chairs & Fellows will strengthen Umeå University's position as an Arctic university. The initiative enables us to emphasise the Arctic expertise that our universities possess. By acting together, we highlight certain shared topics and problems, not least on the European research arena. This could be important in future Horizon Europe calls by identifying the universities as self-evident leaders of such applications or, at least, as indispensable collaborative partners.

We are also attempting to influence European research and regional policy-making by adopting a common approach to Arctic topics. For example, we have managed to raise awareness of the important role university collaborations have when it comes to the new programme Interreg Aurora, which provides Arctic Five with good opportunities for funding.

Currently, Arctic Five is probably Umeå University's most systematic international collaboration between universities. Another positive is that Arctic Five has no time limit, which means planning can be long term. The collaboration comprises both research and education, and we aim to also increase contacts in the administrative supporting systems.

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