research FOR A BETTER WORLD â€œWith increasingly complex societal challenges to be overcome, there is a growing need for research.â€?
A magazine from Mid Sweden University about research for society, trade and industry
Research to find the key to quicker integration
Stronger, more moisture-resistant paper can replace plastic page
Effective methods for cutting sickness absence could save millions page
3D technology on the way to revolutionising industry page
About Mid Sweden University Mid Sweden University is situated the centre of Sweden, with campuses in the cities of Sundsvall and Östersund. With first class education and research of very high standards, we aim to be a part of the solution.
Our researchers endeavour to do good, which is why most of our research is conducted in cooperation with the surrounding society. At our university, there is a natural link between education and research. This
Campus Sundsvall. Photo: Tina Stafrén
not only benefits the students based here, it also helps develop us and the region in which we operate. • 13,000 students • 420 courses • 46 Bachelor’s programmes
• 36 Master’s programmes • 1,000 employees • 80 professors • Turnover SEK 890 Millions (2015) www.miun.se/en
Campus Östersund. Photo: Casper Hedberg
Research for societal development CONTRIBUTING TO MEETING the major challenges of society is a central driving force for Mid Sweden University’s research centres. This means producing research findings which are relevant to societal development and will ultimately be of benefit, conducted in collaboration with public sector organisations, trade and industry and voluntary organisations around the world. The examples of the university’s research featured here are a clear case in point, including studies performed at our outstanding, dedicated research centres as well as broader, successful, subject-orientated research. Spanning a broad spectrum of subjects, the university’s research is carried out in
partnership with leading regional, national and international partners. Our partners make a vital contribution to the success of our research by dedicating time and resources towards solving important issues of the future. Therefore, our commitment to strong partnerships with the society around us is a key part of our success. MID SWEDEN UNIVERSITY celebrated its 10th birthday in 2015, with the institution’s research activities developing strongly over this period. We have doubled the number of professors, attracted more external research funding and increased publication of scientific articles by 50%, all of which indicates the extent of the research carried out here. Moreover,
A magazine from Mid Sweden University Questions regarding content are referred to: Anders Mossing Communications Officer email@example.com +46 (0)10-142 88 29
evaluations performed by international experts underline the high quality of our research. As societal challenges grow increasingly complex, the need for research and collaborative analysis increases. As this publication demonstrates, research performed by Mid Sweden University is both successful and important, and we aim to continue being a force to be reckoned with when the future is formed. We hope you enjoy reading it! Vice-Chancellor
Editor: Graphic design: Cover: Repro: Print:
Mats Hellström Annika Magnusson Björn Arnemo Frida Klang Danagård Litho
Crossmedia Communications, Kristallen B, 754 50 Uppsala www.crossmediagroup.se
photo: tina stafrén
Eight centres providing world class research Much of Mid Sweden University’s excellence in research is performed within the framework of the university’s eight research centres, which also operate as arenas for collaboration with financiers and other stakeholders. These are: CER: CENTRE FOR RESEARCH ON ECONOMIC RELATIONS CER conducts research on economic relations among companies and individuals, bringing together trainees, researchers and students. The centre is primarily focused on the banking, property, insurance, pension and auditing sectors, as well as suppliers and customers thereof. Page 12, 21 www.miun.se/en/cer
DEMICOM: CENTRE FOR STUDIES OF DEMOCRACY AND COMMUNICATION Demicom’s research in the field of media and communication sciences is united by a focus on the relationship between democracy and communication, and its conditions in a rapidly changing society. Pages 14, 24 www.miun.se/en/demicom
ETOUR: THE EUROPEAN TOURISM RESEARCH INSTITUTE ETOUR develops and communicates knowledge on tourism and travel, conducting research in dialogue and close collaboration with participants in society and the tourist sector. Its four focus areas cover nature-based tourism, e-tourism, destination development and the financial, political and spatial dynamics of tourism. Page 6 www.miun.se/en/etour
FSCN: FIBRE SCIENCE AND COMMUNICATION NETWORK
RCR: RISK AND CRISIS RESEARCH CENTRE
FSCN develops research that improve forest industries profitability and create new applications and business opportunities based on sustainable bio-materials from cellulose and fibre materials. Our research is developed in close collaboration with the forestry sector and business companies in Sweden. Our aim is to increase profitability by improving energy efficiency and support the development of new products and businesses. Resource management, environmental issues and new technologies are the focus of the research. The research contributes to the development of the industrial ecosystems. Pages 8, 14, 26 www.miun.se/en/fscn
RCR gathers researchers studying risks and crises in society. RCR’s activities provide a unique opportunity to access research on the ways in which risk is perceived, how organisations manage crises and which factors affect the vulnerability of society. Pages 10, 14, 16 www.miun.se/en/rcr
SWSRC: THE SWEDISH WINTER SPORTS RESEARCH CENTRE SWSRC is a multidisciplinary sports science research centre with extensive international research partnerships that collaborates closely with leading companies in the sports and outdoor sectors. Its primary areas of research include sports performance, physical activity and health. One objective of SWSRC is to utilise knowledge from elite sport in the sphere of health. Page 4 www.miun.se/en/swsrc
STC: SENSIBLE THINGS THAT COMMUNICATE STC develops sensor-based systems and services within electronics and computer technology with a focus on industrial IT, mobile services and environmental monitoring. Enterprises large and small consult the centre with specific requests or problems which need to be solved. Pages 11, 14 www.miun.se/en/stc
SPORTS TECH RESEARCH CENTRE Sports Tech Research Centre is a multidisciplinary research centre engaged in research relating to innovative development and verification of products, materials, technology and methods for sports, recreational and outdoor activities, including rehabilitation support, medical applications and equipment for the impaired. Pages 10, 22 www.miun.se/en/sportstech
The digital sports arena Training apps, heart rate monitors and competition suits fitted with sensors are just a selection of the glut of technological innovations to have swept across the world of sport in the past few years. The Swedish Winter Sport Research Centre at Mid Sweden University is now launching the Digital Arena research initiative, which seeks to develop new technical solutions for elite athletes and coaches as well as spectators and the media. TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN, ULF PALM
INTERNET OF SPORTS is a multi-faceted project based at the Swedish Winter Sport Research Centre (SWSRC) spanning a wide range of sub-divisions in which sport is fused with technology, the internet, physiology and biomechanics. “Digital Arena” is one of the project’s most recent initiatives. The idea was conceived when researchers at NVC observed that there was a demand for new technical devices during major sporting events. “You could say the digital arena comprises three groups in which technical devices can stimulate development: athletes and their
coaches, spectators and the media,” explains H-C Holmberg, Professor of Health Sciences at SWSRC and project manager for the Digital Arena initiative. In major sporting contests, competitors are naturally seeking to exploit any means of attaining their maximum physical performance, while spectators want as much entertainment as possible, and sports journalists need easy ways of obtaining advanced information and statistics. All this can be achieved with the help of different technical innovations, argues Holmberg. He explains how SWSRC, which collabo-
rated with universities in Norway, Slovenia and Austria, started its research at the 2015 World Ski Championships in Falun. “We installed a special system consisting of a number of antennas positioned throughout the skiing arena, and then placed tags on the competitors so we could measure their speed and location. With the data obtained, coaches were then able to give feedback on their athletes’ skiing performance.” GIANT SCREEN IN THE CENTRE For spectators and the media, the aim is
photo: martin machnow
The link between academia and trade and industry
Researchers at Mid Sweden University tested a new positioning system at the World Ski Championships in Falun. The contestants were fitted with small tags which were scanned in real-time, transmitting performance data to coaches who could then operate more effectively.
to provide a better overview, more information and a wider range of options. For example, at skiing competitions, the giant screen is placed at the centre. Previously, there was only one screen situated at the finish area, where most of the spectators were gathered. Screens are now also located along the track, to ensure the action can be followed by as many people as possible. “Previously, you could only see the skiers as they passed the area where you were standing, but now, there is a range of other options,” adds Holmberg. Another aspect h-c holmberg of the digital arena being investigated by the researchers at SWSRC is the use of smartphones and tablets. Specially developed applications will enable spectators themselves to select the information of most interest to them.
“It could be finding out which skier has the best pace down a particular descent, or comparing the best contestants across certain sections of terrain.” WEARABLES PROVING POPULAR However, the biggest segment in sports technology solutions is to be found among recreational exercisers, as opposed to elite performers. Such “wearables” – apps, watches, armbands and heart rate monitors which measure training data – have proved a big hit. H-C Holmberg refers to an “explosive market” which is overwhelmingly positive, even if the actual benefits of the technology on training performance are rarely scientifically verified. “More research is required in this field. That said, it does appear that technical devices stimulate reinforcement mechanisms for those exercising. More and more of us are exercising, which is of course very positive, with or without scientific evidence,” he adds.
Peak Innovation, a Vinnova initiative, plays an important role in the partnership between the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre and trade and industry. “We function as a link between the researchers and trade and industry,” explains Anna Ottosson Blixth, Project Area Director of the Peak Innovations sport section. PEAK INNOVATION’S overarching objective is to develop the region Jämtland Härjedalen into a “leading international centre for research and business development within tourism, sport and open-air recreation.” According to Ottosson Blixth, when it comes to sports research, there is great potential for fruitful partnerships between academia and trade and industry. “For example, we were asked by the Swedish Ski Federation to develop a new way of ‘tracking’ biathletes. This involved trying to connect SWSRC with IT firms which work with these types of solutions,” she adds. HOWEVER, NOT ALL companies wish to commit to long research projects. “Companies may need to quickly verify their business ideas, but still be interested in the university’s expertise. With the help of Vinnova, we can then finance the project and meet companies’ requirements more quickly,” adds Ottosson Blixth.
Better going alone? Tourists in search of hiking experiences have been coming to the Swedish mountains for over 100 years. New research from Mid Sweden University shows that many people enjoy hiking alone, taking a break from social media while in the mountains.
Experiencing the mountain landscape The Swedish mountains are popular destinations for tourists, and the mountain region is attractive to many other industries and stakeholders. But how can these interests be reconciled with the current environmental objectives and the needs of the local population? Researchers based at ETOUR, Mid Sweden University’s centre for tourism research, are seeking answers by means of three different projects. TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN PICTURE: ISTOCK, TINA STAFRÉN
THE THREE PROJECTS form part of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s A Magnificent Mountain Landscape initiative, which supports the environmental objective of the same name. The activities involve a further nine projects, engaging around 40 researchers at six Swedish universities. Two projects, The New Mountain Experience and Beyond Conflicts in the Mountains, were completed last winter. In the first initiative, researchers studied changes and trends in mountain tourism and how they have affected environmental aims. The mountain ranges of Jämtland and Norrbotten and Fulufjället, in Dalarna, were chosen as case study areas. Visitor surveys had been conducted previously in all three areas, giving the researchers the opportunity to follow up results over time.
“Gaining access to and analysing this type of data is unique within tourism research, even from an international perspective,” explains ETOUR researcher Sandra Wall-Reinius. So what changes have taken place? According to Wall-Reinius, The New Mountain Experience project revealed a growing number of sporting activities and other major events in mountain environments, including everything from mountain marathons and ski contests to peak ascents and mountain bike races. “We call this ‘sportification’; that is, a process in which recreation and tourism move towards sport. We’ve tried to highlight and analyse the concept to find out what people think, whether they’ve taken part in events themselves and what their attitude is to this development.”
TIME OUT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA Through analysis of Swedish people’s mountain trips over time, researchers have also noted that downhill skiing and mountain hiking remain very popular. In addition, outside the ski resorts, visitors tend not to use social media as often to share their experiences, either during or after their visit. “This differs from other types of trips, where people generally use social media fairly regularly. When people visit the mountains, they want to escape everyday life, disconnect and be at one with nature,” adds Wall-Reinius. However, while seeking a genuine outdoor experience, tourists also put a premium on good service. “Yes, it’s a slight contradiction. We see that more and more people want to experience the mountain landscape alone
in peace and quiet, while also seeking close proximity to cabins and the option of helicopter trips and restaurant dining.” Besides tourism, power stations, motorised activities and nature conservation regulations are potentially unwelcome elements of the mountain environment. The conflicts between different interests and stakeholders, such as business development, state agencies and local people, were studied in the project Beyond Conflicts in the Mountains. “Take national parks for instance. What activities are actually permitted? From the Sami people’s perspective, it may be uncertain whether they can continue reindeer herding or protective hunting in an area designated to be a national park, while others wonder whether fishing, hunting and snowmobiling is permitted in regulated areas. This is where doubts can arise, and cause controversy.” The most striking result of the study is that the aim of a national park is perceived to be unclear. “Are they intended to protect animals and nature, restrict further exploitation or attract more tourists?” More tourism means greater financial gains for the tourism sector, but it also disturbs the reindeers’ grazing and thereby
poses greater problems for the Sami people, argues Wall-Reinius. During planning, the interests of all parties must be considered. “The Swedish authorities must have a more open, flexible way of looking at national parks and what they actually mean to various stakeholders,” she says.
“The Swedish authorities must have a more open, flexible way of looking at national parks and what they actually mean to various stakeholders.” sandra wall-reinius
MOUNTAIN TRAIL PROJECT Earlier this spring, The Negotiating Pathways to Multifunctional Mountain Landscapes pilot project was launched as part of the A Magnificent Mountain Landscape initiative. Building on the aforementioned projects, this research focuses on mountain trails and their function in the landscape. “There are several different types of trails, from marked tourist trails to culturally historical routes and reindeer herding routes. Marked trails are very effective at guiding visitors to specific areas, and most mountain hikers choose to follow them. In the project, our main objective is to examine the role of trails for all who use them. For example, trails can be drawn directly across important reindeer grazing land. Can they be redirected, and if so, who is responsible? These are some of the issues we’re looking at,” says Wall-Reinius.
Paper replacing plastic A unique manufacturing method for reinforcing paper packaging could mean new opportunities for the forestry industry. Researchers at Mid Sweden University’s FSCN research centre have succeeded in devising a stronger, more moistureresistant paper, with reduced energy consumption as an added bonus. It is now hoped that this paper can soon replace plastic in several areas. TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN PICTURE: DAVID SCHREINER, STORA ENSO
THE DECREASE IN readers of newspapers in paper form has led to a drop in demand for virgin newsprint. As a result, the forestry industry has begun to look at new applications for so-called mechanical pulp, from which newsprint is made. However, since mechanical pulp fibres have the same chemical composition (lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose) as the highly rigid fibres of trees, forming a dense, strong packaging material from this type of pulp has proved difficult up to now. Therefore, to make the paper strong enough, it has been necessary to use a chemical pulp manufacturing process whereby the lignin – the wood fibre’s most rigid component – is dissolved together with a large volume of chemical cellulose and used as biofuel. The drawback of this method is that half of the wood – the raw material – remains in the finished chemical pulp. In other words, the process involves
extensive loss of material. Conversely, in the mechanical pulp, at least 90 percent of the wood remains. “Almost double the amount of paper bags can be produced from the same volume of wood if mechanical pulp is used,” says Gunilla Pettersson, Project gunilla pettersson Manager at Mid Sweden University’s Fibre Science and Communication Network (FSCN) research centre. Working with the other researchers at FSCN, she has now managed to turn the properties of lignin into something positive. By substantially raising the temperature when the pulp is pressed into sheets and dried, the lignin becomes sticky, functioning as an adhesive in order to stabilise the paper rather than making it brittle. “This is the first time this method has
“We complement one another” Forestry group Stora Enso has been working with Mid Sweden University since the late 1990s. Frank Peng, Project Manager and Senior Specialist at the company, explains why academic expertise is so important for their business. What are the benefits of collaborating with universities? “There are many advantages. We gain access to new expertise, while universities gain an insight into industrial processes and broader applicability for their researchers’ ideas. It’s a win-win situation, and we complement one another.”
Researchers have discovered a new method of press drying mechanical paper pulp which, according to laboratory tests, provides a stronger, more moisture-resistant product.
been used. All the paper bags you find in the shops are made of chemical pulp. We’re now trying to make the same robust products using mechanical pulp,” adds Pettersson. MOISTURE-RESISTANT PAPER BAGS The method was discovered somewhat by chance during another research project, also dealing with mechanical pulp. “We tried to make the central cardboard layer as bulky and rigid as possible, and then noticed that if we tried to achieve high density instead, pressing the sheets together at a high temperature, we could also attain good strength and durability. We then proceeded in the same way.” Manufacturing large volumes of paper bags using energy-efficient mechanical pulp would also bring environmental benefits. If paper bags were to replace their plastic equivalents, we could more easily meet the EU directive which stipulates an 80 percent reduction in the use of plastic bags among EU nations up to 2025. However, in order for such a shift to be possible, the paper must first become more moisture-resistant. “One advantage of plastic bags and other
plastic packaging is moisture-resistance. The majority of paper packaging cannot be used when moisture levels are high, but this paper is different. We think it can replace plastic in several areas in future,” adds Pettersson. COLLABORATION WITH INDUSTRY Before long, researchers at FSCN hope to be able to test the method on a large scale in factory conditions. The Knowledge Foundation, the Swedish Energy Agency, the ÅForsk Foundation and the Nils and Dorthi Troëdsson Foundation research fund have contributed financing, while from trade and industry, SCA, Stora Enso and Holmen, among others, are working with FSCN. “All three companies have declining newsprint sales, and are interested in new products. They’ve been a real help. Partnerships make our research group stronger, and support from industry means we can achieve even better results. We also got much support from MoRe Research in Örnsköldsvik, where we borrowed the pilotplant for laboratory tests,” Pettersson says.
What do you want to get out of the strong paper project? “What is unique about the ‘Strong Packaging Material’ project is that we are looking to develop materials which meet stringent requirements on strength, which is fundamental for many of our packaging materials.” What kind of test results are required in order to start up large-scale production of the new packaging? “The tests we’ve performed on a lab and pilot basis have been excellent, so if forthcoming trials under factory conditions verify these results, we’ll begin to look at the implementation process.”
Wind tunnel provides perfect testing conditions The Sports Tech Research Centre’s new wind tunnel was unveiled in March 2015. Featuring one of the world’s largest treadmills, enormous fans and an adjustable rain and temperature simulation system, new jackets, tents, wheelchairs and much more are now being tested there to see if they make the grade. TEXT: MATS HELLSTRÖM PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN
THE ABILITY TO test new materials and finished prototypes in the same conditions as in the ones in which they will be used is a vital aspect of product development. However, measuring the durability
of a rucksack in an outdoor environment in inclement weather, over a long period, is difficult. Not only does it require a lot of equipment, the weather may suddenly vary, with conditions no longer those
expected. The Sports Tech Research Centre’s wind tunnel at Mid Sweden University enables every parameter to be adjusted and controlled, making it easy to compare various products and materials with each other. One of the few facilities of its like worldwide, the tunnel was designed and built in support of product development and research within sports technology, the outdoors, and products for those with functional impairment. “The majority of similar facilities were constructed for the automotive or aviation sectors, or with marine research in mind,
Online tool simulates crises in border areas Crisis situations in society always pose organisational challenges. Such scenarios on the border between two countries are even more complex, and simulations are difficult to carry out. Researchers are currently working on an IT solution for a crisis simulation which brings reality as close as possible. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS PICTURE: ISTOCK
The border between Norway and Sweden presents a challenge for those who plan the infrastructure and are responsible for societal security. Differences in proce-
dure, methods, language and legislation make it difficult to collaborate when accidents and crises occur in border zones, despite the fact that effective communication is
vital. Researchers engaged in the “Gaining Security Symbiosis 2” project are seeking to resolve these issues. “It’s a case of sharing resources, and this means
but our centre is primarily intended for research by Mid Sweden University as well as interested companies,” explains Mikael Bäckström, Professor and Head of the Sports Tech Research Centre.
Joining forces to form the new sustainable city
IN ADDITION TO testing clothing, footwear, sporting equipment and, for example, skiing aerodynamics, the wind tunnel is also of great benefit in the development of new products for those with impairment. There
TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN PICTURE: CHRISTINE GRAFSTRÖM
“We are planning to introduce a virtual reality system.” mikael bäckström
are plans for a partnership between the Sports Tech Research Centre and the Paralympic movement, with the aim of making competitions as fair as possible, through, for example, analysis of equipment. Over the next few years, the wind tunnel will undergo a number of modifications to enable enhanced experiences, and more reliable test results. “We are planning to install a system for 3D motion measurement, extend the climate function and introduce a virtual reality system which enables, for example, visualisation of forthcoming World Championship or Olympic cross country skiing or biathlon courses,” adds Bäckström.
performing exercises, which is timeconsuming. This is why we’ve developed lena-maria öberg an online interface where exercises can be carried out and evaluated in a simple way,” explains Lena-Maria Öberg, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Computer and
Sundsvall will be Sweden’s new smart city, thanks to a unique partnership between Mid Sweden University and Sundsvall Municipality. A series of new online products are to be produced and a testing network is being developed in the city, with the aim of streamlining various societal functions.
MID SWEDEN UNIVERSITY has joined forces with Sundsvall Municipality to perform a number of preliminary studies in which researchers address the actual needs of municipal organisations. One such study involved measuring the city’s air quality more extensively, and in a more costefficient way. There are currently only two wired measurement stations in Sundsvall, and reinforcing these with wireless sensor systems will enable more accurate, up-to-date information about the city’s air quality. “It could be possible to measure air quality across the city’s entire road network, with sensors providing feedback to motorists who can then avoid streets with poor air quality,” explains Mattias O´Nils, Head of STC research centre. IN ORDER TO connect digital units securely and energy-efficiently, a brand new wireless testing network in Sundsvall is currently in the pipeline. “According to the preliminary studies, the testing network may enable technical solutions not yet seen in Sweden. It will be capable of processing many different types of data, which means that, in addition to air quality, digital tracking of water consumption and oil in stormwater drain can also be carried out,” claims O´Nils. Moving forward, the idea is for enterprises and authorities to freely develop
System Science (DSV) at Mid Sweden University. She belongs to the Risk and Crisis Research Centre (RCR), which is currently developing a crisis lab in Östersund. The RCR lab will be a physical and virtual centre for collaboration, learning and research in the field of crisis management. The successful online interface project will be developed further as well as tested under new conditions in the lab.
Sundsvall’s “smart city” concept includes the use of sensors located in stormwater drain in order to measure contamination. Pictured above is such a gully, which was fitted with the wireless sensor technology and included in the preliminary study by Mid Sweden University and Sundsvall Municipality.
technology and solutions which harness the network’s capacity. “This is part of the reason we made the network so open; we want it to inspire development. We’re already seeing how technology can pave the way for a range of exciting solutions,” O´Nils adds. The testing network is scheduled to be ready for companies and organisations to use during spring 2017.
THE RCR CRISIS LAB The overall objective of the crisis lab is to contribute to a safe, secure and sustainable society, and regional growth in central Norrland, by building a physical environment for exercises and development in crisis management. The aim is to generate world-leading research and crisis simulation with focus on management, collaboration and communication, in association with regional companies and organisations. The most remarkable part of the lab is an exercise area where both physical and virtual drills can be carried out.
Unique study lays foundation for reduced sickness absence Like many other municipalities, Sundsvall Municipality has grappled with the challenge of rising rates of sickness among staff. A unique work environment survey, focused on sustainability, highlights the problem from a broader perspective, and is now set to help the municipality to discern the trend and work out how to change it. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN
SICKNESS ABSENCE CURRENTLY costs the municipality around 300 millon swedish kronor annually, and has an impact on many aspects of its activities. Under the cooperation agreement between Sundsvall Municipality and Mid Sweden University, a preliminary study has been carried out, based on an online work environment questionnaire. Developed and piloted in three of the municipality’s business sectors, the survey addresses a broader range of issues than those usually
featured in similar surveys, and includes questions on business administration as well as political governance. With just over 400 respondents, the survey seeks to shift the focus of the problem from individuals to the organisation itself, as well as work environmental structures. “The survey provides an outline of operations from both a staff and management perspective, and enables comparisons between different units,” explains Edith Andresen, Project Manager and Senior
Lecturer in Business Administration at the Department of Business, Economics and Law and the Centre for Research on Economic Relations (CER). DEVELOPING NEW METHODS The interdisciplinary project involves collaboration between researchers at CER, the Forum for Gender Studies (FGV) and the Risk and Crisis Research Centre (RCR). “This enables us to pool different perspectives and create a sound platform from which to study and analyse areas we would not look at otherwise,” explains Malin Bolin, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Department of Social Sciences (SHV) and FGV. “Our idea is to take a new approach, which can be perceived as both complex and far-reaching. It’s a difficult survey to complete, with several questions, but the results
Managers must be more proactive It is claimed management development makes companies more effective, but according to fresh research from Mid Sweden University, few of the methods currently used make the grade. Organisational measures can often be adopted to combat sickness absence, and researchers are now laying the foundation for targeted steps in the workplace.
reveal a great deal about the organisation regarding both management and employeeship,” explains Andresen. Among other things, the analysis of the survey indicates these work environmental factors which are more beneficial to health than others. The results, which suggest that it is possible to cut sickness absence by means of organisational measures, will form the basis for further studies and development of effective methods for targeted measures in workplaces. A further study, “Communication for sustainable organisations”, by Professor Catrin Johansson and Doctoral Student Christina Grandien at the Department of Media and Communication Science (MKV), and the Demicom research centre, is already under way. It aims to establish a range of communication factors which influence the extent of an organisation’s sustainability. “The research is fresh, unique, and will lead to proposals for implementing practical improvements in many organisations,” claims Catrin Johansson.
“The results reveal a great deal about the organisation in terms of both management and employeeship.” edith andresen
TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN
“SIMPLY LEAN” is the name of a three-year research project currently in progress at Mid Sweden University in which researchers are analysing Swedish manufacturing firms’ approach to management development. “We’ve discovered there is a really strong awareness among almost all management in relation to good leadership, but the conditions to achieve it are often lacking,” explains Associate Professor Kristen Snyder. According to Snyder, so-called “event-driven leadership” is the norm at the three companies taking part in the study. This is far from ideal. To ensure greater productivity, leadership must be based on visions, strategies and goals which are underpinned by carefully researched values. “This can be realised with the help of coaching and more proactive leadership,” says Kristen Snyder. ACCORDING TO SNYDER, one of the reasons event-driven leadership occurs is that many middle-managers are recruited internally, direct from the production phase. “They are thrown into a management role, making it difficult for them to forge a clear identity among those colleagues with whom they have recently worked shoulder to shoulder. The transitional phase is a challenge for many, and could be made easier through more active coaching.”
Supercapacitors are made from graphite mixed with aqueous solution and nano-cellulose, and coated on paper. They are intended to store energy in electric vehicles, achieving a high level of environmental performance at a low cost.
Greener, more efficient technology for e-vehicles Technology has advanced considerably over the last few years in the field of consumer electronics, e-vehicles and solar cells, but there is still much progress to be made. Researchers at Mid Sweden University are now testing supercapacitors and energy converters designed to be more efficient and environmentally friendly than those on the market today. TEXT: MATS HELLSTRÖM
PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN
A SUPERCAPACITOR can consist of different materials, and is tasked with quickly receiving, storing and providing energy. Researchers at the FSCN (Fibre Science and Communications Network) research centre have been working in this area for several years, and are currently involved in constructing prototypes which will hopefully be more efficient and durable than existing products. There are several challenges involved, such as handling high voltage and increasing the capacitance, that is, the storage capacity, within the supercapacitor. To tackle the latter, researchers use nano-cellulose (a product from the forest) and various types of coal to create a composite material in order to increase capacitance in comparison with conven-
“Regular batteries can only handle voltage variation of around plus/minus 20 percent before their performance drops substantially.” kent bertilsson
tional techniques. This composite material is more environmentally friendly and durable, which means it lasts longer out on the road. “Plastic, fluorinated polymers and solvents are usually used in this case, but
we only use aqueous solution, coal and paper,” explains Sven Forsberg, a researcher at the FSCN research centre. One objective of the research, which is finansven forsberg cially supported by the Knowledge Foundation, Västernorrland Country Council and the Swedish Energy Agency, is to identify commercially viable solutions. “Supercapacitors are already around, just like batteries, so we have to compare the performances of our different configurations to find out if they work as well, or better, than those currently on the market, while also being lower-priced and more environmentally friendly.”
Smart sensors streamlining industry IF THE PROJECT is successful, a multi-billion market awaits. But in order to reach this goal, a further problem must be solved. In order for supercapacitors to function effectively, energy converters capable of handling large variations in voltage are required. With such converters not currently available, researchers are also focusing on this area. Kent Bertilsson heads up research into super-efficient energy converters at the STC (Sensible Things that Communicate) research centre. “Regular batteries kent bertilsson can only handle voltage variation of around plus/minus 20 percent before their performance drops substantially. Harnessing the high capacitance of a supercapacitor requires a converter capable of handling substantially greater variations in voltage than this,” he says. THE CONVERTER under development at STC is similar to those currently on the market, however, the researchers have made modifications to the circuits which enable the product to handle greater variations in voltage while retaining the same efficiency. In addition to supercapacitors, there are a range of other possible applications for the technology. “Mobile and computer chargers are one example, that is, there would be no need to have different chargers in different parts of the world. Voltage also fluctuates strongly in solar cells, depending on how the sun shines. Adjusting the voltage throughout the day would enable more effective energy recovery,” explains Bertilsson. Practically all electronic devices require voltage converters, from dishwashers to video games consoles, and this technology would help manufacturers to construct increasingly compact electronics. The range of applications is practically endless, but at present, Mid Sweden University’s researchers are most interested in supercapacitors for the automotive sector. “This alone represents a massive market,” adds Bertilsson.
Smart wireless sensors may soon take over from wired maintenance measurements for industrial applications. This would lead to gains in efficiency, but first, the technology’s teething problems must be overcome. TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN PICTURE: ABB
UNSCHEDULED breakdowns in factory machinery often mean production stoppages, resulting in extensive financial loss. With this in mind, gauging the health of a machine, and knowing when it needs to be replaced in good time, is vital for most manufacturing companies. Today, such checks are most effectively performed using “smart sensors”, which harness detection technology, whereby small sensors are affixed to machines and transfer data wirelessly, without delays, to a communications centre. However, the technique is relatively new and has been afflicted by teething problems. “A major challenge is that there is often interference during data transfer, particularly in a factory environment. Machines, motors mikael gidlund and mobile objects such as passing trucks can affect the sensor’s wireless communication, while Wi-Fi or Bluetooth networks may use the same frequency. Such issues must be overcome. The communication must be as reliable as that of a wired network in order for companies to be interested,” claims Mikael Gidlund, Professor at the STC research centre, which develops sensor-based systems and services. Together with six other researchers at the research project ASIS (Autonomous Sensors for Industrial Wireless Sensor
Networks), he is working on identifying and addressing the sensors’ defects. Besides stabilising the communication, the team is also attempting to extend the sensors’ battery time. “The end-customer may need the battery in a sensor to last 10 years, a major challenge if it transmits data regularly. We are therefore looking at a technique known as “energy harvesting”, that is, how energy can be garnered from the surroundings. This could be through solar energy, strong fluctuations in temperature or vibrations from the machines on which the sensors are placed.” ENORMOUS BENEFITS The replacement of wired networks by wireless sensors would lead to enormous financial gains in industry. “Laying one metre of wire on an oil rig, for example, currently costs around 1,000 dollars.” A further benefit of the wireless technology is the capacity to obtain data from inaccessible locations. “Previously, it was impossible to perform measurements in areas where wire couldn’t be installed, such as rotating machines and axles,” says Gidlund. The ASIS project is financed by the Knowledge Foundation, together with the partner companies ABB Corporate Research, Bosch Rexroth and Shortlink AB.
A wireless sensor has been attached to one of ABB’s motors to measure parameters such as vibration and temperature. Utilising the data issued by the sensor, the maintenance of the motor can be planned in the most efficient manner.
Minna Lundgren is a researcher of the Innanförskapsakademin (Inclusion Academy) project, and supervisor to trainee Manar Halwani.
Helping newly arrived migrants to find work faster Finding ways of improving inclusion for newly arrived migrants and harnessing their professional skills is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities society currently faces. At Mid Sweden University, a number of players are involved in projects expected to make a difference for employers and jobseekers alike. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN, JENS LJUNGDAHL
ALWAYS A TOPICAL POLITICAL ISSUE, integration has assumed even greater significance in modern times. During 2015, over 160,000 asylum seekers made their way to Sweden, sparking a debate about how Sweden can improve integration as well as shorten the period from asylum application to employment. Despite the situation, those directly involved are rarely consulted – that is, the people who have moved to Sweden and are adapting to society in order to work, live and enter
into the social framework. The “From Migration to Employment” project is targeted towards this very group. The scheme aims to help those born overseas to enter the labour market more quickly, and pinpoint the factors which would make them want to remain in Västernorrland. One of the researchers who run the project is Associate Professor Gustav Lidén at the Department of Social Sciences and Risk and Crisis Research Centre at Mid Sweden University. “We’ve performed nearly 30 interviews
“Few choose to remain in our region. We want to know what we can do to make them stay.” gustav lidén
with people of foreign origin who have relocated to Västernorrland. Some have just arrived, others have been here some time,” he says. The interviews were conducted openly and focused on a range of issues, from what the interviewees thought about how they were received when they arrived to their views on their accommodation. Other areas analysed included working life, education and contact with public services, the employment service and healthcare providers. “The social side is also important, such as how people adapt to the community and form networks. At the same time, we know that those who are already established on the labour market find it easier to adapt,” says Lidén. Carried out by the Risk and Crisis Research Centre (RCR) and the Forum for Gender Studies (FGV) at Mid Sweden University, the study is financed by the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and the County Administrative Board. A report is now set to be compiled which pinpoints the areas of improvement the county ought to focus on. “There are several municipalities receiving large volumes of refugees, yet few remain in our region. We want to know what we can do to make them stay here,” adds Lidén. FUSING THEORY AND PRACTICE One way of helping people who have just arrived adapt to society is to arrange work placements, which is the subject of the Innanförskapsakademin (Inclusion Academy) project. It was launched by Östersundshem, a municipal housing company based in Östersund. The programme’s participants – newly arrived migrants and unemployed youths, are introduced to the labour market through a combination of theory and practice in the form of training and other activities. The aim is to provide them with the tools, experience, inspiration and networks which will improve their chances on the labour market, either through employment or in a self-employed capacity. Around 15 people are currently involved in a pilot project, a collaboration between Östersundshem, the Swedish Public Employment Service, the Migration Agency and Mid Sweden University, which is also observed by RCR and FVG. “The participants are offered a three-month work placement. On completion, the Employment Service conducts a review, with individual planning for each participant, with the supervisors at the workplace,” explains Minna Lundgren, RCR, a Doctoral student and observer of the project. The project has had positive side effects – for example, more university divisions have taken in trainees. One of them is Manar Halwani, who came to Sweden from Aleppo, Syria, two years ago. Forced to interrupt her doctoral studies in linguistics in order to flee, she is now seeking to enter the Swedish higher education system. “My placement helps me gain an insight into how things work here, and my supervisors do their best to assist me,” says Halwani, who hopes to be able to complete her doctoral studies in Sweden. However, she still doesn’t know if that will be possible.
Thesis to aid integration of unaccompanied youth refugees What role can social work play in the integration of unaccompanied youth refugees? Doctoral student Caroline Östman is to write a thesis on the topic, which she hopes will be of great benefit to the work of the authorities and accommodation staff. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS PICTURE: ISTOCK
MIGRATION HAS ALWAYS been a feature of human history, and unaccompanied minors have formed part of these movements. Previously, children were temporarily evacuated in groups, organised by private volunteers and aid organisations, however, over the last few decades, the authorities have noted that children and youths have travelled alone in order to seek asylum. There was a gradual increase during the 2000s, followed by a steep rise in 2015 when 35,369 unaccompanied minors and youths came to Sweden (compared with 7,049 the previous year). Naturally, this increase brought the integration process sharply into focus. “In my thesis, I’ll be highlighting the reasons behind the growing rates of migration among unaccompanied minors and youths, and assessing their chances of integrating in Sweden. Why are people forced to leave their countries, and why does the majority come here? The aim is to examine living conditions for minors and youths here in Sweden,” explains Caroline Östman, who seeks to
establish a link between inclusion and integration. “How can those of us engaged in social work improve the caroline östman integration process? I’m currently interviewing unaccompanied minors and youths (boys and girls) as well as the social services and accommodation staff working directly with such groups.” HER HOPE IS that the study will gain new insights into the migration process for these individuals and their chances of integrating successfully, as well as counteracting inequality and improving living standards. “There is a need for more research into the social effects of migration in the field of social work. My aim is to uncover tangible findings that both the authorities and accommodation staff can make use of,” adds Östman.
Our cultural heritage is based on artefacts, buildings, stories, traditions and intangible values created by previous generations, and the ways in which we currently perceive, interpret and preserve them. Accurately defining what does and does not constitute cultural heritage is a complex task.
“Digitalisation does not necessarily equate to more democracy and openness” So what does cultural heritage actually mean? Who is entitled to define it, and how can it be preserved? These are currently burning issues in a society where a fierce debate is under way about how the reality in which we live was actually created. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS
PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN
WE ARE often told that digitalisation creates new, unique opportunities, but what does this mean in practice? Professor Katarina Lindblad Gidlund at the Department of Information and Communication Systems and Lecturer Sara Nyhlén at the Department of Social Sciences decided to examine the issue. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, they conducted an analysis of sara nyhlén a cultural heritage project being run in the region, in which cultural heritage institutions and residents themselves were asked to upload images of what they perceived to be their cultural heritage. “The point of departure was a critical perspective of cultural heritage. We
wanted to discuss the following: if digitalisation can help shed light on the concept, it is interesting to find out who is defining what is, and will become, cultural heritage,” explains Nyhlén.
“We digitalise and create platforms for material to be uploaded, but we don’t know who we’re reaching, which means old habits can easily be repeated.” sara nyhlén
The researchers conducted interviews with those who had worked with the digital portal and gathered them for a
workshop in which participants were asked to outline what constitutes, and does not constitute cultural heritage, as well as discussing who creates it. “We used notes with descriptive words and put them up on a board. Then the participants were asked to remove those which they considered to describe cultural heritage. When the process was completed, they were allowed to look at the remaining words and those they accordingly didn’t consider to describe cultural heritage in current terms. It was quite a surprise to them.” THE WORKSHOP WAS an eye-opener for those involved, who had never previously considered what actually happens when attempting to define cultural heritage. “We concluded that there were also issues with the digital projects. We digitalise and create platforms for material to be uploaded, but we don’t know who we’re reaching, which means old habits can easily be repeated. Digitalisation does not necessarily equate to more democracy and openness.”
Research-orientated education boosts quality Whatever the subject, research is always about seeking new knowledge and pathways which can ultimately lead to a better society. However, if research is not to be wasted, it must be effectively channelled to where it has the greatest impact, which is something Mid Sweden University has focused on when devising its basic educational programmes. TEXT: MATS HELLSTRÖM PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN
THE IDEA that students should learn to seek and evaluate knowledge on a scientific basis is enshrined in the Swedish Higher Education Act. Undergoing research-orientated basic education is important in many ways, not least in order to raise awareness for research and ultimately recruit the number of researchers required. According to Ove Hellzén, subject representative for professional training within Nursing Sciences, this boosts the quality of education and may also ensure that students who complete degrees find it easier to make their way into the labour market. “Students learn that work is not a static entity, but subject to change. Our nurses are also gaining parity with doctors, with their own research-based specialist expertise, which means different professional groups can exchange experiences in a more rewarding way.” That said, Hellzén says there’s no guarantee the value of research will be recognised on the labour market. “There is a gulf between the academic and operational spheres. Experience of research is not always requested, and my wish is that operational managers in healthcare would see the importance of keeping up with scientific developments and new methods. Studies underline that higher levels of education among employees lead to better rates of survival for patients in care. Without research, we’d be unable to learn more.” MID SWEDEN UNIVERSITY’S basic nursing programmes provide the scope to utilise new, external research as well as that carried out at the university itself. This also applies to teacher training, in which Mid Sweden University conducts leading research across a number of fields, including learning environments in preschool education and after-school activity, digital devices for literacy proficiency
and special-needs education and teachers’ perceptions of pupils’ behavioural issues. In the latter case, researchers’ work included analysis of the way teachers form their own perceptions of pupils, not least boys, whose average performance is lower than girls’. Evaluation research within special-needs education has not only led
“There is a gulf between the academic and operational spheres.” ove hellzén
to new insights for the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools, and its own students, but has also formed the basis for new legislative proposals, explains Lena Boström, Vice Dean for Professional Education. “We channel research from all our
disciplines back into our teacher training programmes, both in the courses themselves and essay writing at higher levels. This has resulted in an extremely strong teacher training programme, and our research is accessible both domestically and internationally.” ACCORDING TO BOSTRÖM, there is a strong demand for more expertise in the field of pre-school education, provision of after-school activity and special-needs education, and the work performed by Mid Sweden University will be of genuine practical benefit. “This new didactic programme will generate hands-on skills and greater awareness of the ways in which these pupils learn, as well as how to tailor teaching accordingly. This helps employees feel more settled in their roles, while it’s also more enjoyable to work when you see the fruits of your efforts.”
Swedish equality has admirers worldwide Swedish fathers are becoming increasingly committed to family life. This is something of a new development, because previously, mainly the behaviour of mothers has changed. This trend has led to greater equality, attracting considerable interest from observers overseas. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS
PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN
SWEDEN IS UNIQUE in a number of ways, one of which is the proportion of men and women actively engaged in professional and family life. Sweden’s steady, substantial growth in equality is matched by few other countries, and fresh findings serve to reinforce the nation’s status as a world leader in this area. While previous research has indicated that changes in the behaviour of women and mothers were primarily responsible for equality, new findings show that men and fathers have begun to alter their ways.
This recently culminated in a major milestone: Swedish fathers now work less than they did before having children. “Fathers have generally always mikael nordenmark worked more than they did before having children, but they’ve now started to work less, which is a major shift. This is partly due to the continual rise in the proportion
of those taking parental leave, which has now skyrocketed. This figure was at 10 percent at the end of the 1990s, but has now risen to 25 percent,” explains Mikael Nordenmark, Professor of Rehabilitation Science at Mid Sweden University’s Department of Health Sciences. Nordenmark is involved in a pan-Nordic project focusing on the role of fathers. “From an international perspective these figures are stunning, and people wonder how we manage it.” EDUCATION IS KEY In his book, “Fatherhood in the Nordic Welfare States”, published by the University of Bristol, Nordenmark examines the attitude of fathers to find out if there are any specific factors which shed light on the differences between the Nordics and southern Europe. Levels of education emerged as a key factor – if it were possible to raise
Shopkeepers happy to continue with cash Card or cash? The opinions of customers are regularly aired, but those of the traders often go under the radar. A new study reflects the views of shopkeepers on the issue. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS PICTURE: ISTOCK
PARENTHOOD IN SWEDEN AND SOUTHERN EUROPE By utilising data from the European Social Survey, an academic questionnaire carried out in Europe every other year to gauge people’s attitudes, perceptions and patterns of behaviour, Mikael Nordenmark has recorded interesting results on the nature of equality in the home in the Nordics compared with homes in southern Europe. Here are some of the numbers: The proportion of household work carried out by fathers in relation to their partners. Southern Europe: 24% do more than one-quarter. Nordic region: 63% do more than one-quarter.
The proportion of fathers who believe women and men should take equal responsibility for childcare and the home. Southern Europe: 22% Nordic region: 33%
levels of education among southern European mothers, these discrepancies would disappear. In Sweden, domestic equality has not only improved because fathers are choosing to stay at home; mothers are also working more and spending less time at home. And as things stand, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. “Many people are concerned the tide will turn, but there is currently hardly anything to indicate this will be the case. However, to ensure we continue to achieve greater equality, we must keep pushing hard to make it happen. You sometimes wonder if we’ll only reach a certain point, but for now, there is nothing to suggest this,” Nordenmark adds.
photo: carina vallin
The proportion of fathers claiming to regularly look after their children. Southern Europe: 36% Nordic region: 50%
CARD PAYMENTS are increasing in most countries, at the expense of cash transactions. According to a report by the Swedish Bankers’ Association, in 2012, Swedes not only used their cards most frequently, but Sweden was the only country in the world to record a fall in cash transactions in absolute terms. In spite of the fees associated with card payments, this shift is considered profitable and beneficial for the retail sector. However, those looking to find out what the shopkeepers themselves think have found studies and information hard to come by. Until now. CER, the Centre for Research on Economic Relations at Mid Sweden University, recently published a report of a study which focuses on this very topic. Comprising two sections, initially the study focused on the circumstances at the cash desk of the store tills at the moment of payment, and the way in which customers are informed about different payment options. “We then conducted interviews with shopkeepers to collect their opinions. Inheléne lundberg terestingly, the majority were happy with the ratio between card and cash transactions,” reports Heléne Lundberg, Associate Professor in Business Administration, who performed the study alongside Professor Peter Öhman and Senior Lecturer Ulrika Sjödin.
SHOPKEEPERS acknowledged the benefits of card payments, such as reducing the risk of theft, but reasoned that cash is still necessary because some customers, particularly the elderly ones, want to pay that way. They also reported an unwillingness to encourage customers to pay by one way or another, afraid of causing discontent among some. “It was also interesting to note that the majority were poorly informed as to the actual costs associated with the various options. A general perception was that both methods were expensive; however, it was only when costs were considered prohibitive, for example, where exclusive credit cards were used, that traders protested,” says Heléne Lundberg. The environmental benefits of increased card payments, such as reduced transportation and production of notes and coins, appeared not to be of concern to traders when considering payment options. The study reached the conclusion that, even though we often hear that a cashless society is on the horizon, the retailers themselves will not be pushing the issue.
It was thought fusion energy would revolutionise the entire energy sector, but this lies a few years ahead. However, Mid Sweden University’s world-leading research into additive manufacturing can help to speed up the process.
Technology which could unlock the power of fusion energy Additive manufacturing is about to revolutionise the industry. The technique enables advanced components, which were previously complex and costly to produce, to be made in a fraction of the time. Sports Tech Research Centre is engaged in world-leading research into additive manufacturing of metal, and its progress could play a vital role in the development of fusion energy, among other advances. TEXT: MATS HELLSTRÖM
PICTURE: LARS-ERIK RÄNNAR, ISTOCK
IN ORDER TO produce advanced components, for example, for the engineering industry or healthcare applications, it has previously been necessary to make simple sub-components which are subsequently joined together. This is a costly process, involving multiple phases, while it is difficult to achieve the perfect result. Additive manufacturing involves programming a machine to lay thin layers of material based on a 3D drawing, enabling creation of the entire advanced component in a single unit. This method can both save time and provide better results. The technology is already utilised throughout the industry. “The market is currently growing by
around 30 percent a year, and in some sectors, such as aviation and healthcare, the technology has already proved revolutionary. The technique has been mainly used for plastics up to now, but what makes us unique is that we’re working with metal,” explains Lars-Erik Rännar, a researcher at Mid Sweden University’s Sports Tech Research Centre. USED IN THE AVIATION INDUSTRY There are two predominant methods for additive manufacturing in metal: laser and electron beam melting. The Sports Tech Research Centre is a world leader when it comes to the latter technique, working in close quarters with a number of companies
within the region and beyond. At present, around 10 different types of metal can be handled. “This is a clear limitation, since there are tens of thousands of metallic materials which could potentially be of interest. We work primarily with titanium and grade 316 stainless steel, which is common in the industry, yet over the last couple of years we’ve also been considering developing new metals specifically customised to different applications,” explains Rännar. The new metals could work extremely well in their specific fields, but prove worthless for most other applications. “I think it will only be when we begin using many more, increasingly specialised materials that we’ll see a genuine revolution in additive manufacturing of metal. However, the technique is already used by firms such as Boeing and Airbus in the production of critical components. Some Swedish companies are also using the technology. Siemens, in Finspång, uses additive methods in order to repair parts for its compressors, while VBN Components has produced tools which last twice as long as conventional equivalents.” UNIQUE RESEARCH In southern France, as many as 35 nations are joining forces on the construction of a device which contains one of the most advanced, powerful and expensive machines ever built. Called ITER, the project’s rationale is to be the first to test fusion energy on a large scale. Extraction of fusion energy generates heat of up to 150 million degrees. Many large, advanced and extremely durable components are required to handle this, and the challenge is to devise a costeffective manufacturing process for this purpose. Stefan Wikman is Project Manager at Fusion for Energy, which coordinates the EU funding for the ITER project. “Up to now, additive manufacturing has been concerned with small components, such as implants. Ours are substantially larger – measuring up to one metre – and may require as many as 15 different manufacturing phases at present. This is costly,” he explains. Yet by learning lessons from the additive processes devised for smaller components, researchers have made some progress. According to Stefan Wikman, Swedish research into additive manufacturing – with Sports Tech Research Centre at Mid Sweden University playing a prominent role – is unique. “The collaboration between multiple universities and institutes in Sweden is unique,
Additive manufacturing enables seamless production of advanced components.
which is why our attention was drawn to them. We’ve now contributed funds to a project which is focused on manufacturing large, complex components.” 160 BILLION The cost of building ITER is estimated at SEK 160 billion, which is why it is vital that no mistakes are made. Wikman believes the Swedish companies which produce machinery for additive manufacturing acknowledge that there is now a demand for new, larger machines which can be used to make larger components, such as those required for ITER. Fusion energy remains a relatively distant prospect though, and in the coming years, other areas of the energy sector are set to be more appealing from a commercial perspective, argues Wikman. “It is possible for existing industry sectors to cut their costs as well as to reduce the number of machines and manufacturing phases used. Those companies who make this work will become more competitive.”
“The market is currently growing by around 30 percent a year, and in some sectors, the technology has already proved revolutionary.” lars-erik rännar
Examining media coverage of terror In Sweden, we normally receive information about what is happening in society through the media. Consequently, this puts considerable pressure on news reporting when a major event occurs. Lars Nord, Professor of Political Communication and Journalism at Mid Sweden University, is to study the way in which the media reports the threat of terror in Europe. TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS
WHEN THE TERRORIST attacks took place in Copenhagen, in spring 2015, in Paris, in autumn 2015 and in Brussels, in spring 2016, the events were reported in an instant across social media as well as through the major established news websites. The news was, and is, of importance to society, but it is not until later that the actual nature of reporting can be analysed and assessed. “It’s hard to carry out comprehensive journalism at times like this, and it’s important to consider the diversity involved in reporting and the number of lars nord facts which are accurate,” argues Lars Nord. Nord is Head of Demicom, a research centre which examines democracy and communication in the digital era. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this research encompasses groups and projects which integrate and address journalism, crisis communication and media development as well as organisational and political communication. Following the most recent terror attack that took place in proximity to Sweden, Demicom is starting up a research project in association with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. It aims to compare the ways in which the major news sites reported the terror attacks in Copenhagen and Paris in 2015, and in Brussels in 2016. Issues to be scrutinised in more detail include media coverage of the terror threat to Sweden, the nation’s preparedness in the event of similar attacks and the ramifications for its foreign, defence and migration policies. RECALLING THE EVENTS OF 2001 These three terrorist attacks were selected
Studies indicate that we live in an era in which our opinions are strongly influenced by the media. With this in mind, research into the media coverage of terrorist threats is of interest from a democratic perspective.
because they originated from threats which also encompass the Swedish society. While the incident in Copenhagen was less severe than the other two, it occurred closer to Sweden. The study will revisit the reporting of the New York terror attacks of September 2001, when it was commissioned by the Board of Psychological Defence to study the way the media reported threats to Sweden and democracy. “It is an attempt to compare and draw inspiration from former studies. However, there are big differences if you compare now and then. Back then, we looked at newspapers, while now we’re only analysing websites,” explains Nord, pointing out that this type of research is crucial when it comes to forming public opinion. “It may not be obvious, but several studies indicate that we live in an ideal-
ised era in which the perceptions we form through the media influence our opinions. This makes it important to observe how our biggest media outlets operate during major events.” OTHER OPINIONS RULED OUT According to Lars Nord, all this is connected. The role of major news media outlets is also affected by comments posted via social media. We absorb opinions which mirror our individual mental compasses, while dismissing others. “It’s become easier for us to reject opinions we don’t agree with, which suggests we’re now even more certain about our existing views. This is the polar opposite to the concept of a major daily newspaper or public service. These days, everything is two clicks away.”
The vaccine that treats trauma A “vaccine” which helps counteract occurrence of involuntary recollections may sound far-fetched, but it could soon be reality. Researchers are currently working on a solution which could offer relief to those exposed to war and disaster.
Focusing on something completely different immediately after a traumatic incident can help by reducing the number of unpleasant recollections.
TEXT: JOHANNA STENIUS PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN
ALL OF US are afflicted by thoughts we can’t shake off. Part of our everyday lives, they enter our mind totally of their own accord. This is no problem for the most part, however, for those who have experienced trauma, such thoughts are very difficult to fend off. This is the area of research of Fara Tabrizi and Billy Jansson, both researchers at Mid Sweden University’s Department of Psychology. “We came into contact with research into involuntary memories and the ‘cognitive vaccine’ concept through Emily Holmes, a Cambridge professor. I was really intrigued,” explains Tabrizi. In simple terms, the “vaccine” functions by interrupting a person’s processing of an incident through thoughts relating to something entirely different, which takes place straight afterwards. The method has proven to be highly effective in dealing with subsequent involuntary visual recollections of the event. Fara Tabrizi and Billy Jansson decided to further develop this research.
“The method could be used by ambulance crews, with victims of accidents taken care of and given something else on which to focus during the rescue effort.” fara tabrizi
“Emily and her colleagues let 70 different people watch a 10-minute film containing amputations, deadly traffic accidents and other awful events,” says Tabrizi.
Half of the group were allowed to play Tetris (a well-known, basic, visual video game) for 10 minutes straight after the film, while another group were asked to do nothing but stare at the wall for 10 minutes. All participants were given a journal in which they were asked to record each time they thought about the film during the subsequent week. It emerged that those who had played the game had substantially fewer involuntary recollections of the film. “The game functioned as a cognitive vaccine, by interfering with the information to which the subjects had been exposed before it could be processed and established.” CONSIDERABLE POTENTIAL However, the vaccine does not help combat all types of involuntary recollection. Using a visual game, such as Tetris, can help eliminate visual memories, but not all memories are visual – some recollections are triggered by sound. “For those who have experienced war, a sound from a building site or a burst car tyre can awaken memories of explosions or gunfire. We decided to expose the subjects to an audio recording containing war
scenes, various types of assault and a traffic accident,” Tabrizi explains. They were then asked to complete both visual and verbal tasks, such as counting out loud, whereupon it was established that those asked to perform the verbal tasks experienced fewer recollections of the distressing audio recording. Fara Tabrizi thinks the discovery has enormous fara tabrizi potential, and has ideas on how it could be used, for example, by ambulance crews whereby the victims of accidents could be taken care of and given something else on which to focus during the rescue effort – with swifter psychological recovery as a potential benefit. “This research has the potential to help many people. Take a look around the world today and there are large groups of people escaping traumatic situations. We need to find effective ways of alleviating their suffering. We’re currently assessing how the method can be applied to established memories, and I have to say, the initial results indicate we’re on something sensational here.”
Sinke Henshaw Osong at work in the Foric research school laboratory. He recently defended his thesis in the field of chemical engineering.
Research school creates value from the forest A quest for new markets for forestry products is currently under way at Foric, the newly established research school. The doctoral students based here are tasked with developing new products and production processes which will create value in the forestry sector over the long term. TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN PICTURE: TINA STAFRÉN, DAVID SCHREINER
FORIC, AN ABBREVIATION OF “Forest as a Resource Industrial Research College”, was started by Mid Sweden University in 2015. Thirteen doctoral students are currently affiliated to the institution, which aims to develop new products and processes for the forestry sector as well as related enterprises, such as waste, energy and IT companies. “We want to devise products which can be produced in tandem with current dominant processes: paper, paper pulp and sawn timber. For paper mills, this could mean utilising poor quality fibre, which is gasified and converted into vehicle fuel,” explains Olof Björkqvist, coordinator for the FSCN research school. This will enable the forestry sector
to benefit in two totally new ways: by streamlining their main processes, and consuming less energy, and by developing operations through earnings related to the new products. To ensure these new phases of production move forward, it is often necessary for external players to join forces olof björkqvist with the forestry enterprises, argues Björkqvist. “In addition to traditional forestry and pulp technology, management of these business networks is a key part of the school’s role,” he says. The research school creates unique opportunities to develop
operations, with the different doctoral students pooling their expertise and sharing experiences throughout their doctoral studies. NETWORKS CREATE OPPORTUNITIES All of the doctoral students at the institution are in some way affiliated to different enterprises. Some study full-time, while others divide their time between the university and their regular workplaces. These companies are not only to be found in the forestry sector. “There is a mix of traditional forestry firms, such as SCA, as well as enterprises with no link whatsoever to the sector, such as small IT outfits,” adds Björkqvist. One new market Björkqvist considers
The value of raw materials in the Norrland woodland rose substantially at the end of the 1800s. A log driving crew in Kråkån, Ångermanland, in 1897.
New perspectives on old forest practices The perception that forestry companies tricked farmers out of their forest holdings in the second half of the 1800s is inaccurate. In fact, according to historians at Mid Sweden University in a new study, their neighbours were the real culprits. TEXT: OLLE SJÖGREN
FORIC RESEARCH SCHOOL The research school is financially supported by the Knowledge Foundation and participating companies. It is run as a strategic activity within Mid Sweden University’s KK environment, Transformative Technologies. Transformative Technologies is guided by the vision to contribute towards changes in industrial eco-systems, in which the research school plays a vital role.
to be of interest is biosludge, a by-product from paper mills primarily comprising lignin and nutrients. “As things stand, biosludge is either burned or composted. No one wants it. However, the recycling firm Ragn-Sells, has now placed a doctoral student with us who is working on finding new areas of application. Soil improvement could be one such application.” There’s a lot of interest in Foric’s activities, with growing numbers of people involved, adds Björkqvist. “The plan is to recruit 17 new doctoral students, who will start working as early as next year.”
PICTURE: MARIE ZETTERLUND, SCA
TODAY’S ADVANCED forestry sector in central Norrland partially stems from a process of industrialisation and modernisation which spans more than 160 years. In a research project entitled “Forestry entrepreneurs – industrialisation and modernisation in Norrland’s inland area 1850–1910”, Mid Sweden University historians Stefan Dalin, Svenbjörn Kilander and Erik Nydahl are now seeking to answer questions relating to how it began, how the process manifested itself locally and how the local and regional debate about this process of change played out. “From the middle of the 1800s and thereafter, trading in forest land and holdings in Norrland’s inland region began to rocket. The project shines a light on this process, stefan dalin its socio-economic impact on the local community and its significance for the modernisation of the inland region,” explains Stefan Dalin. FINANCED by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, the research project started in 2014 and will continue throughout most of 2018. A selection of sales contracts, title deeds and other historical documents have been analysed, yet according to Dalin, at this stage, it is
too early to determine any definitive results. That said, a trend can be discerned among the source material. “Previous research indicates that the prohibition against the purchase of long-term felling rights, adopted by the parliament in 1899, was fundamental to the decision by forestry companies to move from purchasing felling rights to acquiring entire holdings. According to our analysis of the sources, it was more the escalating competition for forest products which made them change strategy.” THIS WAS THE source of the so-called “Norrland question”, which became the subject of intense debate around the turn of the last century, and a contributory factor to the enactment of the förbudslagen (Prohibition Act) in 1906. It was claimed the forestry companies tricked farmers into selling their holdings at too low a price. However, the project’s researchers reject this perception. “We can confirm that the forestry companies were rarely the first to acquire felling rights and forest holdings. It was local entrepreneurs – often other farmers – who were among the first to identify the financial opportunities associated with trading in forest resources. There were quite a few changes in ownership before the forest ended up in the hands of the companies,” Dalin explains.
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