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Ten postdocs kick off excellence programme for sustainable development

Photo of trees. Annie Spratt-Unsplash.

Three research projects involving a total of 10 postdocs received grants in the first round of Lund University’s research programme for excellence, focusing on Agenda 2030 and sustainable development. A total of 33 applications were submitted, of which 28 were reviewed by an external, international panel.

“This is the first time that Lund University has launched such an extensive excellence programme within research and it has been very interesting to plan and follow it. We didn’t know what the outcome would be, but many very good applications and projects have emerged”, says pro vice-chancellor for research, Per Mickwitz.

In March this year, Lund University announced SEK100 million funding for a research programme for excellence, focusing on Agenda 2030 and sustainable development. The aim of the programme is for Lund University to create internationally leading environments. Collaboration and relevance to sustainable development and specific sustainable development goals were also important components in the criteria of the call for applications.

“We included innovative thinking as an important criterion early in the process. Here, the emphasis was particularly on special new collaborations between several faculties, which is needed in order to develop competitive environments that can attract funding for forthcoming initiatives relating to sustainable development. This applies to national grants from initiatives in the Research Bill, but especially from the EU’s framework programme Horizon Europe”, says Per Mickwitz.

Projects that have now been awarded grants are:

Postgrowth Welfare Systems

The project will focus on how welfare systems in OECD countries can address challenges, such as increasing inequality, demographic changes and environmental crises in the absence of economic growth, which has proven to be difficult to disconnect from greenhouse emissions and ecological footprints. The project will collaborate nationally and internationally with different stakeholders and an international expert panel to develop and evaluate ways of pursuing welfare without economic growth. Three postdocs from the School of Social Work, Faculty of Science and School of Economics and Management will be involved in the project, which will form the basis for setting up a new interdisciplinary research environment.

Principal applicant: Max Koch, School of Social Work.

Nature‐based solutions at the climate‐biodiversity‐health nexus

The project will develop a framework for nature‐based solutions – measures that protect, manage and restore ecosystems. The project examines synergy effects and the balancing of different interests in order to conserve biodiversity, reduce climate change and contribute to public health and people’s wellbeing. The framework will be based on research in biodiversity, ecosystem processes, environmental psychology and epidemiology, and the common connections that can be found across subject boundaries. The research team’s framework will be used in a pilot study with stakeholders and the ultimate aim is to create a new field of research examining multifunctional nature, which encompasses biodiversity, climate, social aspects and health effects. Three postdocs from the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Engineering (LTH) and Faculty of Science will be involved in the project.

Principal applicant: Henrik Smith, Centre for Environmental and Climate Science.

Research to enable a circular building sector

Globally, the construction industry is a major producer of emissions. It uses considerable natural resources and energy and generates large volumes of waste. The industry is in great need of adaptation in order to be sustainable in the long term. Providing support for a circular building sector requires several approaches and the research project is intended to be part of a larger centre of expertise in which experience and knowledge are shared between academia, industry and local communities. The project will cover policies and regulations, responsibilities and agreements, economic models and goals for waste and district heating. Four postdocs from the Faculty of Law, School of Economics and Management, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics and Faculty of Engineering (LTH) will be involved in the project.

Principal applicant: Dennis Johansson, Faculty of Engineering (LTH)

In total, the three projects will receive SEK 23.5 million over a three-year period.

"I would like to extend my congratulations to those who have now been granted funding and thank all those who applied”, says vice-chancellor Erik Renström.

Lund University will conduct a second call for applications within the programme. This will take place once experiences from the first round have been analysed. The aim is for a decision on the next round to be taken in 2022.

“I am convinced that there are several applications among those that did not receive grants this time that have considerable potential to be developed so that they can obtain external funding”, says Per Mickwitz.

Included in the SEK 100 million investment is SEK 41 million allocated to eight new doctoral students at the Agenda 2030 graduate school and there will be a call for applications for these along with the postdoc positions in the excellence programme in August 2021.

The process in brief:

The submitted applications that fulfilled the formal criteria were assessed and ranked by an external panel. Based on this, a working group composed of members from the Research Board and Sustainability Forum then drafted a proposal for the funding decision. On the basis of this, the Research Board has in turn presented a recommendation to the vice-chancellor, who made the final decision on the funding allocation.