Strategic partnerships matter

25 March 2024

In previous blog posts, I have discussed the importance of universities in northern Sweden to share experiences and work together in both research and education. And collaboration and external engagement take place in several other essential areas too.

For instance, partnering with regional health authorities, municipalities and the private sector is invaluable when it comes to placements and clinical training for our professional programmes such as teachers, doctors, nurses and other professions. External engagement with other stakeholders contribute to a better understanding of the needs in society – and helps us find solutions to its challenges.

Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor.

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

To avoid individual collaboration initiatives to become too person-dependent and short-range, it is beneficial for us to be engaged in long-term strategic partnerships.

If I am to highlight some of the strategic partnerships that the University has, we collaborate with Umeå municipality, Skellefteå municipality, and Örnsköldsvik municipality. These are three significant partners in our region, especially considering the ongoing societal transformation. Many applicants to our courses and degree programmes come from within these municipal areas, and in return, there is a great need to employ those we have educated. It's a clear symbiotic relationship where we can contribute to strengthening each other. Besides education, these partnerships also open up for opportunities to formulate exciting research questions and contribute with new knowledge based on the ongoing societal transformation.

Within the partnerships with Skellefteå and Umeå municipalities, focus lies on strategic talent acquisition, sustainable urban and societal transformation, and artificial intelligence. The differences depend on the focus and level of detail. Additionally, this year, the University, together with Umeå municipality, will explore how to intensify collaboration in civil protection and security – an especially relevant issue due to Sweden's membership in NATO.

Together with Skellefteå municipality, collaboration involves the possibility of studying the nursing programme remotely from Skellefteå or creating more work-integrated learning placements for teacher students. Exciting research projects are also underway in collaboration with Skellefteå, including areas related to social sustainability, sustainable urban planning, and within organisations.

Similarly, with Umeå municipality, there are similar initiatives regarding work-integrated learning placements and opportunities for students to carry out their independent work with an external partner. Umeå municipality, like us, has an ambitious vision to be climate-neutral by 2040. This makes the ongoing collaboration around the Umeå Eco Industrial Park fascinating, as the DÅVA area is transforming into a world-leading centre for green innovation and production in environmental technology, recycling, and energy.

Another example of how Umeå municipality and university researchers can connect is through the development of the Urban Transition Lab. The idea is to create an arena where participants from Umeå municipality can address current challenges in sustainable urban development. Researchers will also have the opportunity to share current research that may be relevant to Umeå's future development.

In line with other partnerships, access to talent and skills is also a crucial issue in our collaboration with Örnsköldsvik municipality, and work-integrated learning placements play a central role here as well. What sets this partnership apart and is exciting to highlight is Örnsköldsvik's focus on bioeconomy, where we have collaborated in various ways for many years. Particularly within the strategic research area of Bio4Energy, researchers from Umeå University, Luleå University of Technology, the research institute RISE, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences collaborate to develop new methods and tools for sustainable and efficient biorefineries. Over 200 researchers are involved in the project, and also collaborate with other industry networks within the sector.

Collaboration occurs at various levels within Umeå University, where many individual teachers and researchers, departments, and research projects are deeply engaged, creating opportunities in our different strategic partnerships – both in terms of research projects that generate new knowledge and educational matters. Here, fantastic work is ongoing, and I see many examples of how we, as a university, enrich society while society enriches our education and research.

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