Darja Isaksson: "Innovation is an existential issue"

The short time we have to transform to a sustainable society requires new ways of working of everyone, says Vinnova's director general Darja Isaksson. She tells about the changes that Vinnova is implementing and about her expectations for this year.

This web page has been machine translated. If there are any uncertainties, please refer to the Swedish text.

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What are your expectations for this year as director general of Vinnova?

The pandemic and the effects in its wake have posed great challenges for many, while stimulating enormous creativity and innovative capacity. In a short time, companies, public enterprises and others have changed when conditions have changed and new needs have arisen. This is something we need to take with us and build on. We at Vinnova have also been able to quickly switch to digital working methods and we have supported actors in an exceptional time, at the same time as we have developed our activities.

The pandemic and the effects in its wake have posed great challenges for many, while stimulating enormous creativity and innovative capacity.

My expectations are that 2021 will be the year when Vinnova establishes new ways of working in priority areas, which will be very exciting. This year will also be marked by much of the research and innovation bill that the government presented in December and which the Riksdag will consider in the spring. It gives us a strengthened mandate and assignment to develop important investments such as the strategic innovation programs and investments in life science, digitalisation and test environments with a system perspective. All in all, it gives us the opportunity to both strengthen some of our current investments and to make new investments where we see that there is a need.

This year, Vinnova is establishing new ways of working for systems innovation in areas of special importance to Sweden. What does it mean and what is behind it?

System innovation is a concept for innovation that transforms entire systems. Innovation in the sense of radically improved technologies, products, business models and working methods is about more than competitiveness, it is an existential issue for our generation. The short time we have to convert to a sustainable society requires new ways of working from everyone, also for us as an innovation authority.

Innovation in the sense of radically improved technologies, products, business models and working methods is about more than competitiveness, it is an existential issue for our generation.

As a society, we need to accelerate innovation for change that responds to the great challenges of our time. For this to be possible, the innovation system needs to be developed, which is a main task for Vinnova to contribute to. It requires a clearer direction and sufficiently ambitious and long-term investments in the areas that require technological leaps. There is also a need for mechanisms for the interaction between, on the one hand, innovative solutions and, on the other hand, the infrastructure, regulations and demand required for innovations to make a difference.

To succeed in achieving all this, we are now organizing our work in ten areas that reflect important societal challenges and the innovation capabilities required for the change to become a reality. It is also a way to become more transparent with our strategic priorities and to more systematically involve different actors and a breadth of competencies.

How will Vinnova's new way of working be felt externally?

This will be felt by making it easier for others to understand Vinnova's overall priorities and to contribute to them. But above all, it will in the long run be felt by actors involved and, together with us and other authorities, mobilizing around important objective that drive change.

You have pointed out that Vinnova needs to broaden its role and not just be a public authority that is created to apply for funding. What does it mean? Is not funding research and innovation Vinnova's core task?

Of course, funding of research and innovation is our core business and so it will continue to be. But our mission is also to identify needs and develop the innovation system. funding is funding central in that work and we work with various tools for that. For example, we have tested and developed new ways of mobilizing actors, for a long time through the strategic innovation programs, but in recent years also in pilots linked to sustainable food and mobility, as well as the EU's missions for climate-neutral and smart cities. We have also explored policy labs to address issues of regulations that are important for adaptability and innovative power. Now we want to use our entire range of tools more systematically.

What will happen to Vinnova's various programme and announcements with the opportunity to apply for funding?

When Vinnova develops new programme and initiatives, it is always based on evaluations and experiences. We will continue to do so within the ten priority areas we now work from. At the same time, we have an excellent foundation to stand on in the form of several long-term investments that we continue to nurture and develop in the future. The strategic innovation programs for collaboration in research and innovation are a good example of this. There will also be other initiatives in the future, such as announcements where small and medium-sized companies can apply for funding and investments in open test and demonstration environments in various areas.

Om Vinnovas priority areas

In 2021, Vinnova will establish new ways of working in ten priority areas:

  • Sustainable industry
  • Sustainable community building
  • Sustainable precision health
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Sustainable mobility system
  • Skills supply for adjustment
  • Digital conversion
  • Ecosystems for innovative companies
  • Transformative public sector and civil society
  • Emerging areas of innovation

More information about the new areas and what they include will be published on vinnova.se in the spring.

Last updated 27 January 2021

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