The focus of the KTH Global Development Hub is the exchange and cooperation between KTH and various selected partner universities in sub-Saharan countries.
“KTH is – as it should be – an international university, and our students need global skills for the global labor market,” said Sigbritt Karlsson, President of KTH, in her opening remarks for the inauguration of the Global Development Hub this month at OpenLab. “The Global Development Hub is a great opportunity for KTH to get into this as a natural part of its activities.”
Karlsson pointed out that there is a lot to build on, given all KTH has already done in Africa with regard to research and exchange.
In light of the UN Agenda 2030, and efforts to meet global challenges such as access to energy and clean water, with eyes turned toward the expansive continent of Africa, the new model was built by former vice presidents, Margareta Norell-Bergendahl and Ramon Wyss.
“Different solutions are needed for a wide range of problems, and we know that many students want to work with issues that make a difference,” Norell-Bergendahl said. “One of the goals of the Global Development Hub is to create long-term and mutual capacity for innovation that can be useful for global development.”
The idea is that the model can be made scalable, and that the basic methodology is based on design thinking and challenge-driven education, in which students work on solutions towards needs-driven, actual societal problems.
“The challenges in Africa offer opportunities for innovative solutions and creative engineers,” Wyss said.
The standing-room-only crowd at OpenLab also listened to donor Mats Berglund explain why he chose to donate money to work with the Global Development Hub:
“Ensuring that young people create networks and contribute to development provides an amazing force, and KTH as a major university can make an impact with knowledge.”
Two PhD students from Tanzania spoke about the challenges they face in researching ways to improve electricity supply in rural areas using solar power.
A concrete example of challenge-driven work was provided by Charlotte and Per Jakob Lindahl, who spoke about their masters project in Namibia, where they co-developed a threshing machine for millet.
“There was a lot about adapting the solution for the local reality and developing the machine together with the users.”
Also on hand at the inauguration ceremony was Jesper Vasell, project leader for Global Development Hub, which won the contract to build business in the innovation hub in 2017, including finding both relevant projects and partner universities in countries sharing KTH's views on cooperation.
“It feels great and there is much to build on to develop the systematics and greater societal impact of this work,” he said.Vasell also stressed the importance of long range and reciprocal benefits to all parties involved in the KTH Global Development Hub's work.