Now cooperation with the U.S. has started to take shape

Published Jun 09, 2011

The delegation with more than 40 people composed of researchers and faculty leaders from the University of Illinois is one of the largest KTH has received so far. The welcoming committee, of more than 100 KTH researchers and administrative staff, is also impressive. This is what the two universities discussed during three intensive days in May.

After an initial day of inspiration, when potential research funding opportunities, existing KTH research and different forms of collaboration between KTH and other universities were presented, it was time for the main event of the visit: a busy day of theme-based discussions in groups around different research areas and opportunities for student exchanges at various levels.

Common themes discussed were, for example, transport research, smart cities, nuclear physics, information and communication technology and chemistry. To name but a few.

The joint presentation of the result of the discussions was packed with ideas. Suggestions for new joint research areas and student exchanges were in abundance, and the entire lecture was characterized by a great deal of optimism.

Among other things, there is a great potential for collaboration on gene research between the University of Illinois and KTH. This is based on the large number of Swedish descendants who live in Illinois, and the fact that they brought family information from various church records when they emigrated to the United States.

“This type of family information is unique to Sweden, and this means that both the University of Illinois and KTH can conduct research on various diseases as well as health problems such as obesity. Which role heredity and environment play are issues that could be examined,” says Steven Leigh, among other things Dean of the institutions of biology and social/behavioural science at the University of Illinois.

Cosmic forces behind the ideas

Mark Rutland, Professor of Surface Chemistry at KTH, represents the theme area chemistry and bio molecular science. He believes that there are different boundaries for what the University of Illinois and KTH consider as chemical science, and that may be a challenge to arrange research funding.

“At the same time, both the University of Illinois and KTH are much decentralized universities. There is no shortage of common areas of research. The fact is that we have already begun to work on an application for research funds related to our theme and hopefully we will be able to present an idea that could lead to a patentable solution,” says Mark Rutland.

Theme colleague Ralph Nuzzo nods in agreement and briefly outlines the discussions that led to the idea. It must have been the influence of cosmic forces since we came up with something concrete so quickly,” he says with a smile.

Daniel Work, an Associate Professor in environmental engineering, is a member of the theme group Transport Engineering and Infrastructure. He says that there are already plans for a consortium within transport systems, which also includes companies such as IBM, Ericsson, Nokia, Intrix and TomTom.

Leif Kari, who is part of the same group, argues that like the U.S. and Sweden to a large extent overlap so too does KTH and the University of Illinois in terms of transport and railway research.

“Sweden and the United States have made different progress when it comes to the transportation of people and goods. We have much to learn from each other,” he says.

KTH and Illinois overlap

The University of Illinois and KTH have different strengths that overlap which is something that almost all twelve theme groups report, both in terms of studies and research. However, opinions are a little more diverse with regard to the levels at which it is useful to send students. Some people think the best idea is to send PhD students, while others argue that the Master’s students deliver the best value for both universities.

In addition to student exchanges and research, entrepreneurship was also discussed within the theme Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer. This is about plans for cooperation between KTH students and students from the University of Illinois and aims to see how the land lies and to find customers in the U.S. for Swedish start-up companies from KTH.

KTH’s Deputy President Eva Malmström Jonsson says that it is important with concrete goals for cooperation between KTH and the University of Illinois. It would also be good if the cooperation would be represented physically on the two campuses in the form of a so-called “Thematic centre of excellence,” she says.

“This centre should have a strong connection to trade and industry. Furthermore, we should take advantage of a triangular cooperation between the University of Illinois, KTH and the National University of Singapore. This is based on the cooperation between the two latter institutions which has already started,” she says.

Eva Malmström Jonsson is impressed with the results from the three days. Now it is important that all involved ensure that the cooperation continues to develop,” she says.

“It is also of great importance that infrastructure and management are in place to support the cooperation. Long-term funding is obviously important as well, but initially there are resources available from the two universities.


Text: Peter Larsson

Thematic areas for KTH and Illinois


These are the common themes for KTH and the University of Illinois, and those responsible at KTH.

- Systems Engineering and Control (Karl-Henrik Johansson)
- Electric Power Engineering (Stefan Östlund)
- Transport Engineering and Infrastructure (Leif Kari)
- Architecture and Urban Planning (Erik Stenberg)
- Media Studies, Communications Research and History of Technology (Leif Dahlberg)
- Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (Mats Jonsson)
- Smart Cities (Per Lundqvist)
- Chemical and Bimolecular Sciences (Mark Rutland)
- Speech and Language Technology (David House)
- Information and Communication Technology (Carl Gustaf Jansson)
- Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer (Lisa Ericsson)
- Institutional Initiatives/Administration (Eva Malmström Jonsson)

Theme USA

In a series of articles, Campi depicts KTH’s cooperation with the United States. The series of articles is primarily about the recently started cooperation with the University of Illinois, campus Urbana-Champaign: which parts the cooperation affects and how it can be of benefit to KTH as a whole, its individual employees, teachers, researchers and administrators.

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