Stockholm University part of SEK multi-billion investment in materials science

01 Feb 2022 | Network Updates | Update from Stockholm University
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

Stockholm University is one of six universities that will share SEK 2.7 billion within the new research program Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is investing a total of just over SEK 3 billion in materials science with a focus on sustainability during the eleven-year period 2022 – 2033. SEK 2.7 billion goes to the new research program named Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability, WISE, and SEK 380 million goes in an expanded grant to the Wallenberg Wood Science Center, WWSC.

The Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability research program focuses on four areas: conversion, storage and distribution of clean energy, circular materials replacing rare, energy-demanding and hazardous materials, mitigation, cleaning and protection of atmosphere, soil and water, and discovery of materials for novel sustainable technologies. Such materials can be used, for example, for recyclable batteries, fuels with a minimal carbon footprint, solar-powered purification of water, air and carbon dioxide, and energy-efficient electronics.

“We aspire to establish Sweden as a leading nation in this research field. The overall aim is to facilitate sustainable technologies and to educate the leaders of tomorrow in society, industry and academia,” explains Peter Wallenberg Jr who is chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

Recruitment of 25 new research groups

Under the program, 25 international research teams will be recruited, and a postgraduate school will be established, offering 180 PhD positions, 30 of them industrial PhD students, along with 180 postdoctoral positions, of which 30 will be industrial postdoctoral positions.

The universities participating in WISE are Uppsala University, Lund University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Stockholm University and Linköping University, which is also hosting the program.

The research arenas under the program have been designed in line with the successful model established under the Wallenberg Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP). In addition to those with WASP, interdisciplinary collaborations are anticipated with other major Wallenberg programs such as Wallenberg Wood Science Center (WWSC), Data-driven Life Science (DDLS), and Wallenberg Centre for Quantum Technology (WACQT).

60 new doctoral students and postdocs to Stockholm University

According to the plans, the allocation of SEK 2.7 billion will be divided quite evenly between the six higher education institutions. For Stockholm University, it also means the opportunity to recruit about 30 new doctoral students and about 30 new postdocs within the framework of the program. Jan-Erling Bäckvall, professor of organic chemistry at Stockholm University, is one of the researchers who initiated the research initiative. According to him, Stockholm University receives about four recruitment positions (assistant professor or associate professor).

The research that will take place within the program at Stockholm University will be in the field of materials chemistry/catalysis. At present, however, it is difficult to state more concretely what it is about, according to Jan Erling Bäckvall. The research will mainly take place at the Department of Organic Chemistry, the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry and the Department of Physics. There will also be some connection to the university’s new center for sustainable chemistry, SUCCeSS. In addition, collaboration will take place with the business community.

“This investment strengthens materials science as an important research area in Sweden. For Stockholm University, the investment is of great importance for the development of research in materials chemistry/catalysis and this investment is within two profile areas at Stockholm University”, says Jan-Erling Bäckvall.

Investment in electron microscopy

An important part is the investment in technology platforms at the six universities. At Stockholm University, the main focus is development of the electron microscopy.
“I hope that the results of the research at Stockholm University will lead to the research area materials chemistry/catalysis being strengthened and expanding and making the university a world leader in this area. Unique smart materials will be developed and produced, such as porous materials, future bioplastics, and new catalysts”, says Jan-Erling Bäckvall.

SEK 380 million for new wood-based materials 

The Wallenberg Wood Science Center, WWSC, is also awarded an increased grant of SEK 380 million for research on renewable materials of forest products within the program “New materials from trees for a sustainable future”. WWSC, was founded in 2009 with the aim of developing new sustainable materials using wood from the Swedish forest. Goals include replacing oil with wood in the manufacturing of plastics, creating stronger, fire-resistant materials, as well as new functional materials.

The expansion of the program, which is conducted at Chalmers University of Technology, KTH and Linköping University, means that six research leaders, 36 doctoral students and as many postdoctoral fellows can be recruited, as well as four guest professors. As a result, the foundation has invested a total of just over SEK 1 billion in research within WWSC.

Read more about The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

This article was first published on 28 January by Stockholm University.

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