Focus on research and innovation when representatives from 40 Swedish and South African universities meet
Sweden’s ambassador to South Africa, Håkan Juholt, together with Örebro University’s deputy vice-chancellor Anna-Karin Andershed, pro-vice-chancellor for internationalisation Åke Strid and Aleksander Berger, vice-president of the SASUF Student Network.
Strengthening the ties between Sweden and South Africa within research, education and innovation, with a particular focus on the UN sustainability goals. That was the purpose of the Research and Innovation Week in South Africa where Örebro University participated as one of 40 Swedish and South African higher education institutions.
“This is an important part of the university’s internationalisation efforts,” says Åke Strid, pro-vice-chancellor for internationalisation at Örebro University.
The Research and Innovation Week is part of the South Africa Sweden University Forum, SASUF – a collaboration project between universities, authorities and organisations in Sweden and South Africa. Representatives of 26 South African and 14 Swedish higher education institutions gathered for seminars and workshops all across South Africa. Among them were researchers, teaching staff, students and management representatives, but also research funding bodies.
“The Research and Innovation Week plays an important role as a forum for discussing joint solutions to challenges linked to the UN’s global goals and Agenda 2030 in the two countries,” says Åke Strid.
University management representatives also visited the Swedish embassy in Pretoria and the Swedish Ambassador Håkan Juholt, who also participated in the Research and Innovation Week.
Collaboration in emergency medicine and exchange of research and teaching staff
Lisa Kurland, professor of emergency medicine at Örebro University, has for many years had a research collaboration with Willem Stassen, senior lecturer in emergency medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
“The Research and Innovation Week has enabled us to hold a joint workshop for researchers from both our countries on how pre-hospital care can increase accessibility for various groups in the two countries. We have discussed challenges that we share and looked at what we can do to address them – something that may give rise to further projects,” says Lisa Kurland.
Representatives from the regional health authority Region Örebro County, Anja Westman and Daniel Gustafsson, also participated and during the week, discussions have been held about furthering collaboration between Örebro University, Region Örebro County and University of Cape Town. An exchange scheme for researchers and students on the medical programme and for other staff at Örebro University Hospital and the University of Cape Town Private Academic Hospital are among the initiatives that Lisa Kurland and Willem Stassen hope to see realised shortly.
Students believe in continuous dialogue with university management
During the week, representatives of the SASUF Student Network were focusing on three specific goals: increased student inclusion, experience, and long-term relations built on solidarity and trust. Student inclusion in various projects was also one of the issues that the students raised in a meeting with vice-chancellors.
“A lot is about creating sustainable conditions for students to participate,” says Aleksander Berger, vice-president of the SASUF Student Network and student on the Public Administration and Management Programme at Örebro University.
Other matters of importance that were discussed included clear information and communication between students and researchers, and the funding of students’ participation in SASUF.
Together with student representatives from other universities, Aleksander Berger also organised a seminar on the theme of student contributions to internationalisation.
“We believe that a continuous dialogue between students, schools and university management is very important. Students add a further dimension to discussions on internationalisation, one that is of benefit to us all,” he says.
Research and Innovation Week in Sweden 2024
For Örebro University, the SASUF project has resulted in a number of good examples of collaboration with South African universities. These involve for example social work, business administration, informatics, linguistics, pedagogy within engineering programmes, and audiology.
“There is great and committed involvement in both the student network and the collaboration and research projects, such as Lisa Kurland’s collaboration within emergency medicine. We are looking forward to continuing existing collaborations and establishing new ones the next time we meet, which will be at the Research and Innovation Week 2024, in Sweden,” says Åke Strid.
The collaboration project between the two countries runs until 2024. Next year, Sweden will host the Research and Innovation Week.
Text: Jasenka Dobric
Translation: Charlotta Hambre-Knight
Photo: Pia Pia Bro-Nygårdhs och University of the Western Cape