The innovation councils at Örebro University form a new and unique concept in Sweden. External key persons with large networks are tied to the councils for a new approach to the university's external relations. The innovation councils also have an external chair person.
- Innovation is, for me, to concretise visions and provide new angles, says Ebba Fischer, the new president of the innovation council at the School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Science in Grythyttan. She is also the president of Crafoordska stiftelsen in Lund, an organisation that promotes scientific education and research.
Ebba Fischer comes from a tradition of business managers and innovators and has close connections to Lund University. Her grandfather, Holger Crafoord, was a part-owner of (and helped to develop) the packaging company Åkerlund & Rausing and later Tetra-Pak. He was also the founder of the kidney dialysis company Gambro. At Lund University Ebba Fischer studied business administration, physiotherapy and she was active in the student union.
What do you think of the innovation council?
- I think it is a very good concept. It is completely new to me, just as it is for most people. From personal experience, I know that it is very wise of a university to have many contacts in society. It is important to be able to get help to realise theory into practical ideas.
The concepts innovation and external relations sometimes seem a bit fuzzy, even though most people seem to agree on their importance. How can you concretise there concepts?
The word innovation is very popular, but what does it really mean?
- Our innovation council in Grythyttan aims at concretising ideas and visions. How do we want our external relations to be and what can we do to achieve it? The word innovation is to me about finding new angles. The innovation council will make sure that we do not become fixed in ideas of what we want and can do.
What made you accept to become president?
- I was asked by Mischa Billing at the School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Science. She is also the vice president of the innovation council. She wanted to create an innovation council together with people outside the university, who also have experience from other higher education institutions. I might add that I enjoy food and wine too. Grythyttan is strongly associated with food and drink, although there are lots of other things here too.
Innovation and the conversion of theory into practice sometimes signify commercialisation, which is also a popular concept. Do you find that commercialisation can be controversial in the university world?
- Commercialisation can be very controversial. It is hard to balance. On the one hand, the universities and research must hold on to their academic freedom. On the other hand, we cannot get endless funding from the Government. So it is a balancing act, but I believe that academic freedom and commercialisation of research results complement each other in a good way.
What goals do you envision for yourself as president?
- I do not really feel as a president. It is more like group work. Hopefully I can contribute in helping the School of Hospitality, Culinary arts and Meal Science along with ideas that they already have. It is all about offering support and new angles.
You have a long relationship with Lund University. What does a young university like Örebro have that Lund lacks?
- Physically and geographically Örebro University is concentrated in a fantastic way in the same field, on one campus. Örebro University is small and therefore it is easier to work across borders here than in Lund, which is more spread out and has established tighter borders during a very long time. I think that a smaller university is probably more open to change, new visions and wilder ideas. In Lund they tend to move on in the same old rut.