research for a better world
A magazine from Mid Sweden University on research for society and industry
From the highest heights to the deepest depths
Expeditions from the bottom of the sea to the top of Mount Everest give Mid Sweden University researchers unique knowledge about the capabilities of the human body.
World-leading forestry research will halve the forestry industry’s electrical energy needs.
Are you a crisis manager?
Storms, avalanches, acts of terror and accidents – risks are all around us. But are we able to help when needed?
Leadership – a tricky business
Everyone wants to improve efficiency and quality but many fail. Researchers know why.
What is a “KK environment”? The role of the Knowledge Foundation (KK-stiftelsen) is to make Sweden more competitive by financing research at Sweden’s higher education institutions and “new” universities. The research must be profiled and conducted together with trade and industry. In most of the projects, the companies finance half of the research. The KK environment is a long-term venture to profile Mid Sweden University’s research areas.Two of the areas have been granted support for 10 years. Research is conducted in several unique research settings. You can read about some of these research projects in this magazine:
Sensible Things that Communicate (STC) Microsensors add precision to measurements p. 21 Research that attracts international students p. 20 Hidden solutions helps protect the environment p. 31 Fiber Science and Communication Network (FSCN) FSCN will halve our electricity usage p. 26 New research eliminates heavy metals from water p. 24 New angle cuts costs p. 30-31 Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre (SWSRC) World-class sports research p. 28 Why do muscles get tired? p. 29 ETOUR Vampire films inspire us to travel p. 6-7 Seeking out the ultimate experience p. 16 Ones and zeros are turned into valuable insight p. 17
You will find more information about KK here: www.kks.se
Research – Making the World a Better Place Photo: Tina Stafrén
The University is located in the scenic forest and mountain region of northern Sweden. Our roots run deep here and this is where we find inspiration; where the resources are. When describing our research it is easy to get side tracked by our surroundings and not see the wood for the trees. The forest is our resource yet, on the whole, our research has advanced much further than exploring the wilderness with the wind swirling through the treetops and the earthy smell of pine cones in the air. We are a new university with new ideas and aspirations. Despite our geographical location, we feel we have our finger on the pulse. We collaborate across the board with leading researchers and corporate businesses in Sweden and internationally. We want our research to make a difference; to help make the world a little better, a little safer and much more energy efficient. This newsletter provides an insight into some of our research projects ranging from broad topical research which is integrated into our basic education programmes, to examples of our applied research. The unifying element is that although we work in different ways, together with the labour market, we aim to contribute to improving society. The applied research is conducted through collaboration with regionally based leading in-
ternational knowledge environment organizations. The results are often beneficial to the environment while also improving business efficiency. Our research includes areas as diverse as reducing electricity consumption in the forest industry to purifying water contaminated by heavy metals. Other areas of applied research are focused on improving the quality of life while also contributing to company development. Examples include how GPS-data can enhance the experience of mobile devices or evaluating whether Lean production actually does lead to increased efficiency. So this is proof that our research addresses topics more far reaching than nature adventures – while we still maintain contact with our roots. Just recently we received confirmation that we are on the right track. The Swedish Knowledge Foundation, (KK-stiftelsen), one of the country’s leading research financiers, approved our longterm research strategies and our quality assurance system. Our creativity is stimulated through cooperation with other partners and we are gratified to know that the world is a better place because of our scientific achievements. Anders Söderholm Vice Chancellor Mid Sweden University
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Professors involved in shaping government policy
DEMICOM DEMICOM conducts research on media and communication science at Mid Sweden University and covers a number of areas. The research is conducted in research teams operating in three areas: media development, communication within organizations (CORE) and political communication. www.miun.se/demicom
University teachers are often expected to share their knowledge with the world outside the university. Three prominent media researchers at Mid Sweden University are now taking part in extensive studies commissioned by the government. Text: Gustaf Blomberg Photo: Jakob Dahlström
In addition to being professors specializing in media, Lars Nord, Jesper Strömbäck and Ingela Wadbring have another thing in common: they are currently taking part in different nationwide studies. Lars Nord, professor of political communication, is a member of the public service committee, which is tasked with developing a proposal for how the assignments, development and financing of public service companies should be structured in the future. “The entire issue is a political minefield and quite sensitive. We need to find smart solutions but at the same time we need to find solutions that are politically possible to implement. Otherwise, all of our work would be pointless,” says Lars Nord. He enjoys being able to meet other people with the same interests and trying to find solutions to practical problems. He feels this sparks suggestions for a wealth of research ideas, an opinion he shares with Ingela Wadbring, professor of media development and a member of the parliamentary commission on the future of press support. “You find exciting gaps to fill when you delve deeper into the various topics. For example, little has been written on support in relation to media consumption. So I’ve started writing an article about it,” she says.
FILLING KNOWELDGE GAPS. Lars Nord, Jesper Strömbäck and Ingela Wadbring are all members of government commissions that may have great significance as regards the development of the media society.
Ingela Wadbring feels it is exciting to be part of things and influence a media society that is undergoing rapid change. “But I put my personal opinions aside and contribute my expertise. It is the politicians who make the decisions.” Jesper Strömbäck, professor of political communication, also puts his personal opinions aside in his position as secretary general of the government’s Commission on the Future (Framtidskommissionen). “My role is not to have an opinion,
but to analyse Swedish social development from a factual and scientific perspective in order to identify the societal challenges of the future. But the conclusions of the commission can affect the political agenda.” In his current role, Jesper Strömbäck puts the skills he picked up as a researcher – being able to handle and analyse large amounts of information – to good use. In exchange, he gains new insights into Swedish politics (from the inside) and the opportunity to create a broader network.
I put my personal opinions aside and contribute my expertise.
Space tests will give a boost to the solar cell industry Solar energy is one of the most important energy sources of the future. But renewable energy often faces the challenge of balancing technology against high costs. By conducting tests at the ISS space station, an international research team will now try to solve this problem. Professor Torbjörn Carlberg of Mid Sweden University is one of the people responsible for the project. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: NASA
Silicon is one of the most important materials in both the electronics industry and the solar cell industry. To work well in electronics, it must be extremely pure, but purifying silicon is a costly process. Together with limited access to silicon, this makes silicon solar cells relatively expensive. But the silicon does not have to be totally pure for solar cells to function well. This is the conclusion of a group of 25 researchers from different countries after a great research project in which silicon was installed on the international space station ISS. One of the researchers is Torbjörn Carlberg, who is a professor of material technology at Mid Sweden University and has worked with both silicon and weightlessness in earlier research. “Anything that reduces costs or increases efficiency makes solar cells more attractive in the marketplace. It hasn’t penetrated the Swedish market yet, but solar energy is becoming a significant source of energy further south Torbjörn Carlberg in Europe,” he says.
The researchers’ solution to making solar energy more competitive is to cut the cost of producing the silicon used to catch the sun’s rays. The pure silicon needed for the electronics industry is produced using hydro-
chloric acid at extremely high temperature to release the silicon, which is very expensive to do. The new technique, which was developed into a process in Canada, instead involves mixing silicon with aluminium. Since silicon hardens at a higher temperature than aluminium, it is easy to separate out at the same time as most of the other substances, in particular phosphorous and boron, remain in the aluminium.
Anything that reduces costs or increases efficiency makes solar cells more attractive on the market. This thus eliminates other undesired substances. Unfortunately, there is a downside to the method since some of the aluminium remains between the layers of silicon. “This is where the space tests come in,” explains Torbjörn Carlberg. Weightlessness makes it possible to add electromagnetic forces and see exactly how they affect the movement and growth of the silicon layers. On earth, it is much more difficult to understand the effects of electromagnetism as there are other forces creating movements at the same time. It is practically impossible to know which forces are affecting what.
In space, the electromagnetic effect can be increased in different stages, making it easier to understand the changes when they occur on earth. Scientists can then develop models that distinguish the different forces and make it possible to find more efficient ways to separate the various elements.
There is already a Canadian company selling solar cells made by this technique, even though the development is far from complete. “Many researchers stand firmly behind this method of purifying silicon through aluminium. It has the potential to dominate the market,” says Torbjörn Carlberg. No space launch is scheduled as yet, but Torbjörn Carlberg is hopeful. “We have submitted an application to ESA and other people have already conducted experiments with aluminium smelts. Hopefully, this gives us a good chance of getting a green light soon. It is harder to get a go-ahead for material that has not been tested.” When it is time for the launch, Torbjörn Carlberg’s project is first in line. “ESA apparently sees potential in my project and is trying to find as many flight opportunities as possible. However, the decision on financing is taken at government level. The financial crisis has probably led the government to hold on to its money a little more tightly, which is making things take longer. But we are ready to go.”
About solar cell technology Solar cells can be made from several different metals that capture energy. Some of the cheapest alternatives are steel and copper, which can generate an efficiency of about 10%. Silicon solar cells currently make up about 80% of the solar cell market and have an efficiency of about 20%. Since some materials can only absorb a limited spectrum of wavelengths, there is an absolute maximum efficiency limit. For silicon cells, this is 28%. Combining materials such as gallium arsenide and nitrite makes it possible to increase efficiency to almost 50%. However, there is a risk that the technique will be too expensive for commercial use.
READY FOR SPACE. Professor Torbjรถrn Carlberg has conducted tests on the ISS previously. He is now once again waiting for the green light for a launch where silicon and aluminium will be examined more closely. A successful test could be an important step forward for the solar cell industry.
Vampire films inspire u Around the world, devoted Twilight fans are following the tracks of the story. A research project is under way to investigate how pop culture causes people to travel to new places. Text: Johanna Stenius Photo: Summit Entertainment
Lord of the Rings trips to New Zealand. Harry Potter trips to London. Detective Wallander trips to Ystad in Sweden. Travelling in the tracks of pop culture is becoming increasingly common. The PopCulTour project at ETOUR, Mid Sweden University’s tourism research institute, has taken this concept to heart. The researchers have chosen to focus on tourist destinations linked to Twilight and
the hundreds of thousands of fans who travel the world to see and experience what they saw and read about in the movies and books, which told the love story between teenager Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen. The PopCulTour study distinguishes between the locations where the movies were made and the locations where the events take place. It is the latter that fans usually find more interesting. “The destinations are often totally surprised by the number of tourists who suddenly show up,” explains Christine Lundberg, one of the researchers in the project. Forks in Washington state in the USA is one example. So far, over 250,000 fans have travelled to Forks for a Twilight experience. “The town, which was on the verge of extinction, has really embraced this. The residents saw it as the town’s salvation,” explains
ETOUR The European Tourism Research Institute (ETOUR) at Mid Sweden University develops and communicates scientific knowledge about tourism and travel. ETOUR works closely with entrepreneurs and industry, NGOs, and governmental entities to inform tourism development and management. www.miun.se/etour
Maria Lexhagen, another researcher in the project. The team chose to study the Twilight phenomenon because there are so many destinations linked to the series and there is a huge fan culture with various events and meet-ups. Those who travel to the Twilight destinations want to socialize with other Twilighters, find an outlet for their emotions, and perhaps simply see some new places. “If we had chosen the Swedish detective Wallander tourism, for example, the project would have focused on only one destination,” says Christine Lundberg, who goes on to say that the research team has visited all the Twilight destinations. This research is a hot topic in Sweden right now because of the Millennium films. Places like Segersta in Hälsingland are eagerly awaiting an inrush of tourists who
The destinations are often totally surprised by the number of tourists who suddenly show up.
e us to travel want to cross the same bridge as Lisbeth Salander. The PopCulTour team is more than happy to aid them in this by sharing their own experiences. “The difference between the Swedish locations and many other destinations is that they are proactive; they are preparing for this flood of tourists,” says Christine Lundberg. 10,000 tourists a year already visit Stockholm to follow in the footsteps of the Millennium characters. Thousands of German tourists already flock to southern Sweden to visit locations linked to their favourite detective Wallander and to the German soap opera Inga Lindström. “You could compare Mariefred to Forks in the USA. Thousands of Germans suddenly flooded the small Swedish town for an Inga Lindström experience before the town had a chance to prepare itself,” explains Christine Lundberg.
School inspection – a trend around the world Inspection is in fashion. Over the past 20 years, quality assurance has been a global trend spreading through every organization and business. Mid Sweden University is now conducting an international study on school inspection. Text: Johanna stenius Photo: Bildarkivet.se Portrait: Åke Johansson
TWICATION. Tourism researchers Christine Lundberg, Maria Lexhagen and Sigrid Mattsson recently published their first book to discuss the phenomenon of tourism that follows in the tracks of pop culture films and books.
Democracy and politics. These are the foundations of the intrend method of running an organization through inspections and checks. The Swedish Schools Inspectorate opened its doors in 2008. Since then, the topic of inspections has become even more popular in the school world, not just in Sweden. A research project is currently in progress to study how inspections affect how primary schools are run in three different school systems: Sweden, England and Scotland. “It is interesting to compare schools from a national point of view. There are many areas over which the national government has no control, but educational politics is certainly not one of these areas. Investigating and organizing inspection is one way to exercise political power,” says professor Christina Segerholm of the Department of Education. Christina Segerholm
Investigating and organizing inspection is one way to exercise political power. Everything indicates that the inspection trend will continue. But one conclusion of the study is that there are limitations. “England has had an extremely expansive, costly and obtrusive inspection system that has faced strong criticism. Now, they have begun downscaling things,” says Christina Segerholm.
The Project The project “Governing by Inspection: School Inspection and Education Governance in Sweden, England and Scotland” (Inspektion som styrning. Skolinspektion och utbildningsstyrning i Sverige, England och Skottland. Ett internationellt forskningsprojekt) has research participants from Mid Sweden University, Umeå University, Oxford University, University of Edinburgh and The Open University Milton Keynes. The project is financed by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).
Sense of equality more important than statistics Sweden may be the land of gender equality by 2020 – at least on paper. That is the conclusion of Mikael Nordenmark at the Department of Health Sciences. The question is whether it will give us a better sense of well-being. Text: Johanna Stenius Portrait: Sandra pettersson Photo: iStockphoto
Mikael Nordenmark has researched the balancing act of life and health for many years. It was when he started analysing the latest statistics on working hours and parental leave that he saw that the curves could be interpreted an entirely different way. If development were to continue at the same pace as at present, men and women in Sweden Mikael Nordenmark would enjoy equality in ten years’ time – an interpretation that is both uplifting and rather provocative. By equality, he means that within ten years both men and women will work an average of five hours a day, including weekends, and spend about three hours each day doing chores in the home. In
addition, men will take about 40% of parental leave time in the 2020s if development continues at the same pace as today. “There is a divided view of gender equality today. Much is the same – how we divide our time at home, positions of power, etc. On the other hand, we have come incredibly far in an international perspective. Compared to Southern and Central Europe, Sweden has already achieved gender equality,” he says. But, progress in equality does not mean that everything is good. Increased equality does not automatically mean that femaledominated professions are given greater value. The structural pay differences are still in place. Another problem is that equality in the home has not received anywhere near as much focus in social debate. “This is because working life is
politically charged. Furthermore, the home is charged with our own relationships while work life is more objective. Women work more than before, about 75%, but still do the lion’s share of the work in the home,” says Mikael Nordenmark. Thus, you can be equal on paper, but still not feel like there is equality in real life. An important issue in Mikael Nordenmark’s research is the relationships between work life, family life, gender and wellbeing. A core issue for him right now is whether equality is good for human well-being. “There are very few studies that have actually tried to investigate this. Preliminary analyses indicate that the actual work distribution in couples has a marginal impact on well-being. Instead, it is how men and women perceive this distribution that plays the greatest role,” says Mikael Nordenmark.
Preliminary analyses indicate that the actual work distribution in couples has a marginal impact on well-being.
Hello ... ... Eva Söderberg, lecturer in comparative literature and one of the founders of FlickForsk!, a network of social science and humanities researchers conducting research on girls and young women – and how these terms create meaning. Text: johanna stenius Photo: Åke Johansson
What is happening right now? “Individual researchers in the network are working with various types of projects, such as the anthology project Flicktion, which focuses on the perspective of the girl in fiction. We are also starting a collaboration with TantForsk!, a research network that focuses on women. The projects and collaborations will help put a spotlight on girl culture research in both the academic world and society in general. In the network, our ambition is to expand the Nordic collaboration. For many years, we have had members from Norway and Finland. More recently, some Icelandic researchers have come onboard.” Why is girl culture research important? “It is one part of gender research. It problematises gender as a category and shows how different power rankings are involved in our gender actions. The girl has long been underrepresented in research. It is important to give her more space as an area of research. Thanks to our interdisciplinary approach, we can see how historic studies shine a light on contemporary phenomena.” What makes the term “girl” so interesting? “We started with this focus because the girl had been made invisible. Previously, people felt that the girl was part of pedagogy because the topic involved children. But, FlickForsk!
started a change in that way of thinking. There are common denominators in the childhood and youth of girls and boys, but there are also aspects that are gender specific. With FlickForsk!, there are researchers who focus on specific youth cultures, such as stable girls and girls who skateboard. This increased knowledge can then be used as the basis for political decisions and resource allocation. We want to show that there is something deeper than what is depicted in media. ‘Girlhood’ can take on many different appearances.” You have spent some time looking at the character Fanny and the other girls in the Ingmar Bergman film Fanny and Alexander. Why is Fanny so interesting? “It is interesting how she is used technically to tell the story, how her facial expression is used in the films and the differences there are in the manuscript. An old man can tell the story from a young girl´s perspective. ” What is happening in the network in the future? “2013 will be an important publication year, including publication of Flicktion. A perspective on girls in fiction. It is particularly exciting that two researchers in the network will be guest editors of an issue of the international publication Girlhood Studies, which will present Nordic girl culture research. We are also planning a Nordic researcher meet-up.”
Girls in the litterature. Eva Söderberg in the children’s section at Sambiblioteket.
Major Swedish companies in communication study Clear and communicative leadership makes a company more profitable. That is the starting point for a research project intended to draw up new recommendations on how a workplace can increase satisfaction, increase commitment and improve results. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: sandra pettersson
In recent years, the five major Swedish companies Saab, Sandvik, Norrmejerier, Spendrups and Volvo have invested resources in improving leadership and strengthening communication in their operations. They are now participating in a research project run by the research groups CORE and Quality Technology (Kvalitetsteknik) at Mid Sweden University. The researchers will analyse leadership at the companies to determine what works well and what does not work well. “We interviewed a number of managers and employees and gathered many examples of good and bad leadership. A typical example of bad leadership is when the manager does not provide any feedback to his employees, which cre- Catrin Johansson ates a sense of insecurity. An example of good leadership is when a manager at the executive level is visible and clear. This creates commitment,” says research project leader Catrin Johansson, associate professor in media and communication science. “But it’s not just about communication – the actual basis is knowledge of the company one is leading. In other words, a manager needs to have two competences.” The research has resulted in a model survey of the central communication behaviour that can be used to evaluate the communication capabilities of managers. In addition, there will soon be an evaluation model and completed recommendations on how to make improvements. But, some companies have already taken several steps ahead. “For example, the Volvo Group has worked with communicative leadership for over ten years.They have systematically evaluated how manager communication is perceived in order to provide training wherever required. More and more private and public companies and organizations are now focusing on this as they see the positive results.”
Everyone is a potential crisis manager In an ongoing project at the Risk and Crisis Research Center (RCR), researchers are trying to find a way for society to utilise the public’s knowledge about how risks and crises can be handled. “There are many individuals in society who are potential crisis managers, even though they do not work in this field professionally. They can also make great contributions in a crisis,” says Mikael Linnell, doctoral student in sociology at Mid Sweden University in Östersund. Text: Gustaf Blomberg Illustration: Magnus Pedersen Portrait: Sigrid Olsson
risk and crisis research center (rcr) Risk and Crisis Research Center (RCR) develops and communicates knowledge of risk, crisis and security and is one of Sweden’s leading research centres in this field. RCR brings together researchers representing a broad scientific expertise. Research is conducted within the fields of sociology, political science, criminology, economics, law, quality engineering and computer and systems’ sciences. The centre’s activities include research, education and collaboration. RCR also organises conferences and seminars. RCR is a part of Mid Sweden University. www.miun.se/rcr
In the event of a crisis or a disaster, it is important to be able to quickly mobilize all resources that the community can provide. It is not just government agencies or organizations that have something to offer. Mikael Linnell is currently participating in an EU-funded, interdisciplinary research project entitled “Public Empowerment Policies for Crisis Management”. With the project, he and his four research colleagues are investigating whether the public can play a more active role when a community is in crisis. It involves finding the best way to utilise the citizens’ initiative and resources and how the interplay between the public and professional crisis managers can be improved. “When something happens, it may take a long time before professional rescue workers can be on site. In such situations, regular people have a very important role to play. That is why this project is called public empowerment. It involves making it possible for the public to help,” says Mikael Linnell. Examples of crises include storms, avalanches and earthquakes as well as “small-scale” disasters, such as someone having a heart attack while out in the city. In such cases, individual efforts may play a deciding role. “Something as simple as people having basic CPR skills would save many lives,” says Mikael Linnell. One example of using the public’s resources in crisis situations is sending text messages to individuals trained in CPR. The individual nearest the situation can then step in until the ambulance arrives. At the University of Jyväskylä in Finland,
which is also participating in the project, researchers are exploring how communication technology can be used in crisis management. Mid Sweden University is instead focusing on the societal, non-technical aspect related to how the public can be involved in the risk and crisis management collaboration. “We are investigating how people in different areas prepare for and manage crises. This can involve collaboration between municipalities and organizations, such as snowmobile associations or boat clubs, as well as contributions that people can make on an individual level,” says Mikael Linnell. The objective of the project is to find good examples of various types of practices to learn from and be inspired by. All stakeholders can then examine the research results via the website: www.crisiscommunication.fi/pep. There is still a bit left to do. The final report is scheduled to be complete in autumn 2013, but the project will not conclude until spring 2014, with a theme issue of Journal of Human Technology and a conference hosted by the Global Risk Forum in Davos, Switzerland. So far, Mikael Linnell and his colleagues have compiled the scientific literature in this field. The preparations for the field work are now underway. The researchers look forward to what they expect to be exciting field studies. “We’re going out through Sweden, interviewing both professionals and laymen about risk and crisis management. We will ask people how they will prepare for crises such as a storm, power failure or a situation where the water is contaminated.”
Something as simple as people having basic CPR skills would save many lives.
Shift in focus from profit to benefit to society In times of crisis and change, creativity and fresh ideas are needed to meet the major challenges that society faces. From a local to a global level, a new type of entrepreneurship is needed to achieve goals beyond just creating financial gain Text: gustaf blomberg Portrait photo: Sandra pettersson Photo: Per Hanstorp/Bildarkivet.se
Entrepreneurship involves daring to think differently. At Mid Sweden University, ground-breaking work is underway to build up a unique research and education profile in social entrepreneurship. The subject spans five academic disciplines – business administration, quality technology, political science, sociology and pedagogy – and has a conscious interdisciplinary perspective. All three campuses of the university are involved – Härnösand, Sundsvall and Östersund. “Because the subject is under development, the definition is not firmly set. But, it is a different type of entrepreneurship than the Yvonne von kind governed by Friedrichs profit alone. Social entrepreneurs do not think making money is evil. Social entrepreneurship is instead based on the belief that the interests of society should also be taken into consideration. It is about making money while doing good,” says docent Yvonne von Friedrichs, lecturer in business economics. One expressed ambition is to find new ways for politicians and others to solve social problems at a local, national and even global level. The financial crisis and climate problems clearly show that the old models are not good enough.
New times require new solutions. One example is the ongoing urbanisation, where people in the productive period of life move from the rural areas to the cities. “This makes it hard to maintain common social functions, such as schools, medical centres, businesses and filling stations in the rural areas. New initiatives are needed in the affected communities and a new type of collaboration between private and public organizations,” says Yvonne von Friedrichs. These types of initiatives are one example of what she and her colleagues are studying – how people take on challenges themselves and solve problems. “Athletic associations are a great example. In many areas, they have taken over as a meeting point in local communities as interest in church involvement dies out. They are then the driving forces behind the general development of the area.” Social entrepreneurship includes putting all human resources to good use. Businesswomen often have less access to risk capital and support structures than businessmen. This hinders growth in their companies. One of several projects seeks to investigate what can be done about the problem. “We are asking businesswomen what they feel they need more knowledge about in order for their company to grow. There is great potential for society here,” says Yvonne von Friedrichs.
NO MORE FISH. The European fishing agreements for the waters off the coast of West Africa have forced people to flee the area. But many of those who come to Europe receive no help. Researchers hope to draw attention to the problem.
Global problems affect Swedish social services European fishing in Africa has devastating consequences for local fishing communities. Not only that – international agreements increase emigration and thereby also increase social services´ workload in Sweden. This is one of the new research areas at Mid Sweden University. Text and photo: Johanna Stenius
When the waters off the coast of West Africa are being drained of fish because of European fishing agreements, there are global consequences that extend far into the social systems both in the affected countries and in countries farther away. These huge depletions of the fishing stocks cause local fishermen to lose their traditional access to work and food, which in its turn forces people to flee – some within the country and some to other countries, such as Sweden. “Ten to fifteen years ago, you could pretty much freely choose whether you wanted to stay in West Africa or move to Europe. Over the past ten years, people have been forced to flee to Europe due to the consequences of fishing and agricultural agreements as well as other trade agreements on the global market. The people cannot see a future.” These are the words of a Senegalese, quoted in a recent article by professor Masoud Kamali and doctoral student Jessica H. Jönsson, who are conducting research in the area of “Social work and its late-modern challenges”. More and more people are fleeing to insecure conditions in Europe, where they are often forced to live as refugees with no rights. This should have a huge im-
pact on the work of Swedish social services. But according to Masoud Kamali, it does not – not in reality. “In this matter, social services have been missing in action. One reason for this is the formulation of the Social Services Act. These people are ignored and receive no help. This is totally wrong and violates the international ethics codes of social workers. All people have the same worth, but that is not how they are treated today,” says to Masoud Kamali. The study is based on interviews with West African immigrants with experiences from fishing and on interviews with EU politicians and social workers with a West African background. The next phase of the research will involve interviewing social workers, politicians, healthcare workers and volunteer organizations with experience in working with illegal refugees. The researchers hope to establish the problems of illegal refugees as a knowledge area. Until now, very little attention has been paid to these individuals in Sweden. “People who are affected by structural global changes and difficult living conditions are a typical example of a late-modern challenge in social work,” says Masoud Kamali.
Exploring the boundaries The human body has abilities that most people do not think about – or even know about. For example, how is it possible for some people to stay under water for ten minutes without coming up for air or to survive the pressure when diving to a depth of 200 metres? Finding the answer to such questions can be a major help both to athletes and patients in the healthcare sector. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: Tashi Sherpa and Erika Schagatay Portrait photo: private
“We have been able to confirm that In the Environmental Physiology the body can work well in extreme enGroup, time sitting at a desk has been vironments, even at advanced ages, minimised and researchers have and that regular exercise really does spent many days out in the field. The latest expedition was to Mount Everest – a natural choice for a group researching lack of oxygen and the cold. “With this type of expedition, we look at factors such as how diet affects how oxygen is utilised and how cold weather in combination with lack of oxygen affects the body. We also measure body composition before and after a hike or time spent out in an extreme climate, examine the work of the heart and other organs and AT THE TOP. The expedition that reached the top of how oxygen uptake works,” Mount Everest in 2011. explains Erika Schagatay, repay off. This research affects many search group leader. and our articles are often quoted by other researchers and writers. We An understanding of how the body were also able to show that certain reacts and works under extreme conditions is hugely relevant to endurbodily reactions that doctors thought ance sports. But the conclusions can were harmful are instead positive defence mechanisms, for example when also be highly relevant to the healthcare sector and for anyone interested the pulse slows down when diving. in living a long, healthy life without The same mechanism is thought to unnecessary medicines. protect sleep apnea patients against
lack of oxygen.” One particular, tangible discovery, has received particularly great attention. In 2001, Erika Schagatay was able to prove through her research that the spleen has a significant ability to contract and if necessary provide “natural blood doping”, a fact that Erika and Mid Sweden University were the first to discover. When hockey icon Peter Forsberg lost his spleen that same year, he lost a natural mechanism for increasing oxygen transport in the blood, even if the significance of this is probably marginal in a sport like ice hockey. “It was previously believed that the spleen was an unnecessary organ. But, when we compared the ability to hold one’s breath when diving, we saw clear differences between people with a spleen and those without one,” says Erika Schagatay. This knowledge has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), where it has been found that the spleen helps. Tests are now be-
WORLD RECORD. Swedish free diver Annelie Pompe prepares herself for a world-record attempt on one breath: She set a new record of 126 m.
ing conducted on healthy individuals to see whether the spleen can be “trained” to become more efficient. Erika feels that Mount Everest is the perfect testing environment for this. “There is a clear parallel between a COPD patient and a healthy individual at an altitude of 8,000 metres.” Another favourite environment for researchers is under water. Right now, the group is working with several professional divers, including several deep diving world record holders. The group has also studied a 93-year-old woman who
has been diving since the age of 17, making her a living example that it is possible to train and retain the ability to endure smaller amounts of oxygen and high pressure. These results have also been clearly linked to healthcare and researchers are now examining how professional divers’ special technique for pumping compressed air down into the lungs can be used in a broader perspective. “It is possible to get up the three extra litres of air down into the lungs using this technique. Learning this technique will enable individuals with paralysed respiration muscles
We were able to show that certain bodily reactions that doctors thought were harmful are instead positive defence mechanisms.
to eliminate their dependence on a respirator. Conclusions and parallels such as these can be hard to see at the start of a project, but basic research often leads to something that can really be of use.”
Seeking out the ultimate experience Have you ever felt like you were robbed of the experience you expected at a concert, sports event or a visit to a tourist spot? Maybe there were not enough toilets, there was not enough space or the atmosphere was just off? Peak Experiences now makes it possible for the experiences industry to have a better understanding of guests’ needs. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: Jesper Molin/Bildarkivet.se Portrait Photo: Tina Stafrén
As the number of available experiences rise, the expectations of the visitors are increasing. If an event is poorly organised, there is a risk that many visitors will turn their backs on it the next time. If a destination does not live up to what the competitors have to offer, it will soon be left in the dust. Using Östersund as its test environment and Mid Sweden University research as its foundation, the Peak Experiences staff is working to develop the ultimate analysis concept for the experiences industry. “The idea was born when we were working on a different research project. We discovered that there was a knowledge gap in the experiences industry and that we had a method for filling it. The technology is actually rather simple. The key is instead in the analysis – interpreting the collected data and understanding how it can be used to improve the experience. Robert Pettersson The company is therefore made up of individuals representing several different research areas,” explains Robert Pettersson, one of the five researchers behind the project, which has now lead to a brand new company. But, how does it work? Visitors participating in the study are given a GPS or app that registers where that person is every ten seconds. It creates a movement pattern showing exactly where the visitor spent time and how long. For better understanding of the movement pattern, there are different buttons that the visitor can press when he or she experiences a positive or negative emotion. This makes it possible, for example, to see that the visitor spent a lot of time at the toilet because of long queues, not because of a fascination with the toilets. This information can also be
supplemented with pulse meter, cameras and personal interviews, where visitors can talk about the experiences in their own words. The results can create an understanding of whether, for example, there is a need for a handicapped toilet, additional dining areas, better maintenance or whether activities should be planned in a different order. The first partners in the project were the Biathlon World Championships, summer and winter destination Åre and the Storsjöyran festival. “In each case, we were able to contribute new knowledge that helped them improve the experiences. During the Biathlon World Championships, we sat with the event management each morning to provide feedback from the previous day’s surveys. Together with Åre, we helped them to target the marketing towards the great number of German visitor groups the destination typically has. Robert Pettersson feels that the industry is transitioning away from the traditional – creating something and then selling it – to actively involving customers to be able to develop even more complete experiences on the guests’ own terms. The timing of Peak Experiences’ services is just right, but the individuals behind the company have chosen not to pass the idea along. They instead intend to run it themselves for quite awhile to gather even more knowledge. “In the best-case scenario, we can create a commercial part that benefits society and a research part where we focus on continually gaining more knowledge,” says Robert Pettersson. It is not just the tourism industry that is the targeted market. “Obviously, events and theme parks came to mind. But so did shopping centres. Retail has long worked with shopping behaviours and is interested in things like this. We have big dreams.”
How Åre became a summer destination Åre, which is primarily known as Sweden’s largest winter sport resort, wanted to launch itself as a strong summer destination a few years ago. Together with Peak Experiences, they were able to distinguish three large visitor groups: The excursion family, who lives in Åre but goes out during the day and spends time outdoor, grilling hotdogs and canoeing. The downhill tourist, who rides the cableway up and bikes down time and time again. The doing the town visitor, who has a leisurely breakfast, spends the day shopping, has a latte in the square and relaxes at the spa. Based on this analysis, the new, hot summer destination Åre was launched, with customised experiences for all three groups.
Ones and zeros are turned into valuable insight The internet is flooded with data about people’s buying habits and desires, but most of the information goes unused. Now, Åre has become a test site for a new business system that collects all of this material and makes it available to companies in the tourism industry. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: Ulrica Håård
Every day, there are millions of searches and keystrokes made by potential customers looking for the right experience, accommodation or trip. At the same time, blogs, ranking systems, reviews and internal databases are filled with new information on various destinations and companies. While Peak Experiences focuses on measuring visitors’ experiences on site, the project “Knowledge Destination Åre” (Kunskapsdestinationen Åre ) has chosen to focus on customer surveys and the practically limitless amount of inMattias Fuchs formation found on the Internet and in the databases of participating companies. “No other industry is responsible for as many major online purchases as tourism. But the data that is registered is not put to use as of yet,” says Mattias Fuchs, who leads the project at the tourism research institute ETOUR* at Mid Sweden University. The information can be used to understand factors such as how customers find company offers and why they cancel an order as well as to predict the flow of guests. A simple example of the latter is that the traffic and number of Google searches for a destination has a strong correlation with the number of actual visits and bookings. “Here, we can easily predict whether there will be more visitors and approximately when the visitors will arrive. The type of advance information makes it possible to plan and thereby serve guests in a better way.” All major steps along the way from idea to experience and evaluation are included. The focus is on surveying and evaluating everything from the method used to search for information, how bookings are made, what role prices play in things, gains made through marketing and where the company should be seen to how these different variables affect the experience and the length of stay. The first phase of the project will be completed next year, but there is already a completed demo tool developed for Åre and the participating companies. The next step in the practical application is to establish collaborations with a number of international partners. “In the future, we will be able to develop apps and other tools to help the customers,” says Mattias Fuchs. *ETOUR stands for European Tourism Research Institute, a division at Mid Sweden University that develops and communicates knowledge on tourism and travel.
Lean – not as easy as it sounds Lean is in fashion. Everyone wants to quality assure their systems and become more efficient. But research in the area shows it is not that simple. Text: Johanna Stenius
Lean Production is a concept that is on the agenda of many companies and organizations right now. Those who have succeeded with Lean are highlighted in the media. They talk about customer-focused processes and new organization models that have improved efficiency. The positive examples make everyone want to achieve similar results: a customer-oriented corporate culture, maybe even with reduced lead times. But, the truth is that there are also many initiatives that fail.These are the findings of quality technical research at Mid Sweden University. How do you work with lean to be able to successfully implement the processes in your own organization? It is not as easy as it may seem. It may take a long time to implement Lean, and there is no truth or method that works for everyone. Lean is instead an ongoing process, according to Pernilla Ingelsson, researcher at the Department of Engineering and Sustainable Development. “An organization may have worked a long time on all levels to implement Lean. Finally, there are hopefully concrete results that can be seen by outsiders, such as reduced waiting times in a surgical waiting room. In such cases, an outsider may want everyone to implement such changes. But, this often leads to employees running around and stressing even more since Pernilla Ingelsson management does not understand the idea of systematic quality development work.” Pernilla Ingelsson is currently researching how different organizations work to create the conditions for success with Lean and how to measure the presence of values in an organization. “Values are seldom about right and wrong. They tend to concentrate more on customer focus, employee focus, continuous improvement and long-term thinking. It is a matter of having leadership that is present and involved.” When quality development works, things go very well. But not everyone succeeds all the way. “This happens when you fail to realise how much of an effect the culture of the organization has and that the company may lack methods and procedures for working with the soft parts. You can’t say ‘this is how it is’. You have to make your own version of Lean and that’s a process that is never completed.” Right now, Lean is highly sought-after. But the change to the organizational culture does not happen overnight, according to Pernilla Ingelsson. Lean can also have consequences that are not positive to everyone. Some people may lose power. “Look at Toyota, where Lean is said to have originated. They have been continuously working with Lean since the 1950s. If you want to succeed, you must first know whether it is really something that suits the organization. You need to want to develop it, work with improved customer service, focus on creating a good working environment and give employees jobs that help them to grow and develop.”
Good health c good leadersh Good leadership by individuals who also have time to focus on their own health as well as various health-promotion measures for employees. That is the key to financial success in an organization, according to rehabilitation science researchers at Mid Sweden University. Text: Johanna Stenius Portrait photo (lower): sandra pettersson Photo: Göran Strand/bildarkivet.se
Municipal businesses – particularly in sparsely populated areas – are often said to have trouble with a high level of sickness absence, demanding psychosocial conditions and quality shortcomings. Mid Sweden University researchers have taken a closer look at the truth behind the myth.
Under the microscope is Berg Municipality in Jämtland – a municipality that is rather unique in Sweden in that all workplaces conduct annual “health balance sheets”, making it possible for researchers to follow the effects of health-promotion activities at the individual level.
“We welcomed the researchers with open arms” It is a huge advantage for a little municipality to be analysed by researchers, according to Anne Rundstedt, HR secretary in Berg Municipality. “The research is an excellent opportunity to give us a boost and we have taken advantage of each opportunity it has generated.” Text: Johanna Stenius
Berg Municipality is the only municipality in Sweden that has so thoroughly implemented heath balance sheets. This is a major undertaking initiated via a research project six years ago. The researchers have now come back to examine the health balance sheets and interview a number of managers in-depth. “Our health balance sheets cover six key indicators. Five of them compile statistics from the HR and payroll system and describe factors such as sickness absence. The sixth is a key indicator based on questions the employees answered about their well-being at work,” explains Anne Lundstedt.
h creates rship “It is unique for an organization as large as an entire municipality to work with health balance sheets,” explains Stig Vinberg, associate professor in health science. The health balance sheets have enabled researchers to follow individuals over four years of work in the municipality. They combined this with interviews with 19 municipal leaders to see their way of working, values and view of people aligns with the quantitative results of the health balance sheets. “The research shows that workplaces which focus on qualitatively good work processes, good living habits and preventive healthcare in combination with good organizational efforts have clearly posi-
In March each year, the municipality arranges seminars where managers, union representatives and company health centres meet and discuss the results of the health balance sheets. “All managers in the municipality write annual health reports on their workplace. The municipal manager writes a health report for the municipality as a whole. It is an excellent opportunity to get a large, overall grasp of an organization,” says Anne Lundstedt. Of course, it is also a challenge. But it is fun to highlight workplaces that really get the job done.
tive effects,” says Bodil Landstad, who is also an associate professor in health science. The in-depth interviews produced extremely interesting information and showed that many of the female leaders run the risk of stress and burnout. Several had been on sick leave and recovered only to end up in the same situation again. The female leaders were responsible for quite a few more people than the male leaders. “The results show how vital it is to give middle management the tools to handle their leadership position. If leadership is to promote health, then it is vital that the leaders feel good,” says Bodil Landstad.
More attention shall be paid to the working environment as a factor of success and competition. “This topic is in the political spotlight right now. The Swedish government appointed a working environment political knowledge counsel, which has created an action plan for future working environment policies. More attention shall be paid to the working environment as a factor of success and competition. This includes a sustainability perspective, which is where our research comes into play,” says Stig Vinberg.
Research that attracts international students Sebastian Bader from Germany originally imagined a career in trade and industry, but after six months at Mid Sweden University he decided to change direction. Research in electronics simply proved to be more exciting than he had imagined. Text: mats hellström Photo: Olle Melkerhed
Mid Sweden University’s sensor research is at the cutting edge. It spans a variety of applications, such as traffic safety, forestry and industrial applications. Sebastian Bader had visited Sweden several times on holiday and liked the country, but he ended up here almost by chance. “I always planned to go abroad for some time, and then I heard from one of my professors in Wilhelmshaven, were I lived and studied in Germany, that there was a partnership between our two universities. So it was a lucky break. Sweden is different from Germany in some ways, but quite similar in others. It wasn’t hard to acclimatize. And I like that there is a lot of nature here and that people seem to care about the environment. Sweden also offers a lot of variation during the year. Life can be very different depending on whether it is summer, winter, autumn or spring,” he says. After his time at Mid Sweden University, he returned to Germany to finish his studies. But, Sweden made a lasting impression and sensor research at Mid Sweden University’s STC research centre seemed to call to him, so he went back for a career as a researcher and doctoral student. Sebastian Bader’s research primary focused on networked measurement technology, which focuses on monitoring the environment with sensors. “We want to know what it can be used for, but from an engineering point of view it’s even more exciting to look at the system architec-
ture. The technology may well be used outdoors, but its area of application is extremely broad.” According to Sebastian Bader, the most noticeable difference studying at Mid Sweden University compared to studies in Germany is the close relationship between the students and the staff. “There is a closeness between low and high level topics. You feel like people listen to you. In Germany, if you are a student at the lower level, there is often a distance between you and the higher levels of research. Also, everyone here speaks English, so you can easily run your day-to-day life in English. The problem is learning Swedish because it is just too easy to get by with English!” What surprised him most was the strong link to benefit and usage that characterises the sensor research at Mid Sweden University. “It’s a very practical field of research, useful in the ‘real world’ and not too theoretical. You feel like you are in touch with what it can do for people. It’s about creating something, not just performing research. I don’t think electronics is practical in this way at all universities.” Sebastian Bader originally imagined a career in trade and industry. Becoming a researcher was not part of his plans. “But, it proved to be much more practical and exciting than I thought it would be. So, I ended up in research quite by accident.” “Many people have a perception of research as being rather boring, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
It’s a very practical field of research, useful in the ‘real world’ and not too theoretical.
At present, Sebastian Bader’s research will focus on prolonging the service life of wireless sensor nodes (the devices in a wireless sensor network). “This intends to make use of this type of system more feasible, as it results in reduced maintenance requirements. To do so, we incorporate ambient energy sources, such as solar power. This can be quite challenging in regions like the middle of Sweden.” More information about our international programmes and what it is like to study at Mid Sweden University can be found at www.miun.se/en.
HIGH AND LOW: Sebastian Bader likes the fact that there is a closeness between low and high level stuff: “You feel like people listen to you”.
Bengt Oelmann, to the left, and his research team are looking for ways to use micromechanical sensors to enhance reliability and safety in the process industry.
Microsensors add precision to measurement Even heavy industry can benefit from the rapid technological development in the area of microsensors and wireless communication. Bengt Oelmann and his research team use micromechanical sensors to measure different parameters of rotating shafts with greater precision than before. Text: gustaf blomberg Photo: Victoria Engholm
For heavy industries, such as paper mills and energy producers, it is particularly vital to achieve the greatest possible energy efficiency in production. To do so, it must be possible to measure power transfer in motors and generators. Another important aspect of measurement is monitoring to detect problems early and perform preventive maintenance. “In a process industry such as a paper mill, a shutdown could cost hundreds of thousands of Euros. For this reason, major requirements are set for reliability and safety,” says Bengt Oelmann, professor of electronics system design and collaborator at the Mid Sweden University research centre Sensible Things that Communicate (STC). “We are trying to develop new measurement methods for rotating shafts in this type of mechanical system.” The research project Bengt Oelmann has been leading for the past three years focuses on making measurement more precise. Inspiration is taken from the rapid development in microelectronics. “There has been rapid progress in microelectronics and wireless communication. And micromechanical sensors (MEMS), which are found in mobile
phones, have become much cheaper in just the past year alone.” Microtechnology, which at present is primarily used for consumer products, opens up new possibilities for measurement methods with industrial applications. Normally, different types of sensors are positioned alongside the rotating shaft, where they measure factors such as rotational speed, torque and vibrations. Bengt Oelmann and his research team have instead positioned micromechanical sensors directly on the shaft for greater reliability. Preliminary results indicate that there is good reason to believe that the new methods will eventually drive those currently in use out of the market when it comes to precision and possibly even cost. The intention is for the end result to benefit industry. Two companies are also participating in the project – a company that wants to develop new measurement technology and a company that manufactures gigantic marine engines. According to Bengt Oelmann, having such industry partners in the project is critical. “It is extremely important to the research to include the opinion of both a technology developer and an end user so we can set the right user requirements.”
STC Sensible things that communicate (STC) is a research centre at Mid Sweden University with a vision to enable future sensor-based systems and services by conducting innovative and multidisciplinary technology research in electronics and computer science. Sensor-based systems and services is a general technology area that can be applied in all parts of society. The research within STC is focused on applications in the field of Industrial IT, supported with a strong industrial cooperation – both regional and national. STC produces high quality research in all research groups and demonstrates the potential of the whole area. The overall goal is to facilitate remote presence that can be a base technology for new business models.” www.miun.se/stc
Social media provide internal communication benefits Social media are not just for external communication. They are also extremely useful internally. This is the focus of Mid Sweden University’s highly sought-after research on social intranets. Text: Johanna Stenius Illustration: magnus pedersen
Social media are revolutionising how we communicate. More than four million Swedes are on Facebook and, according to a survey by Global Intranet Trends; one out of five companies has well-established social media usage on their intranets. This is not the case in Sweden, however. Today, many Swedish companies want to introduce social media in their internal networks, but do not know how to do this. In addition, social media research is relatively undeveloped. That is why the research group CORE at Mid Sweden University initiated a research project on social media and internal communication in partnership with companies and public organizations in 2011. The first sub study – financed by the Swedish Association of Communication Professionals (Sveriges Kommunikatörer), Sundsvall Municipality and the companies PostNord, Sigma and Arla – has now been completed and the report was recently presented. “We wanted to investigate the benefits and success factors behind the use of social network functions internally,” says project manager Kicki Strandh. The first study consists of in-depth interviews with nine organizations. “It was hard to find organizations that had come far enough in their work with social intranets. Everyone instead wanted to know more since they don’t have things
up and running yet,” says Lena Lundgren, who is a doctoral student working on the project. Introducing social intranets costs both time and energy, particularly in large organizations. “The challenge is not the technical aspects. It is getting employees to feel comfortable using it. It is extremely important for everyone to put this on their agenda. Otherwise, there will be communication gaps,” says Kicki Strandh. The biggest benefit of a social intranet is that you can suddenly collaborate across borders and get away from the “drainpipe thinking” found in many organizations. Using these functions, contacts within the company can occur “laterally” instead of just from the top down. People can find each other and exchange experiences. But there is some resistance. “There is some fear about setting the information free. The demands for the social functions often come from the bottom up. There is a generation shift in progress, where the younger generation wants access to social networks also at work,” says Kicki Strandh. The next step is for the researchers to study organizations that have been able to evaluate their social intranets and look at in what way they affect those using the technology.
The challenge is not the technical aspects. It is getting employees to feel comfortable using it.
New technology requires order Technical products are becoming increasingly complex and are often customised. Companies and researchers at Mid Sweden University will now find new ways of handling the large amounts of technical information needed to use a product. Text: Gustaf Blomberg Photo: atlas copco
Since 2007, the Department of Information Technology and Media has participated in the partnership project TIC Technical Information Centre (Teknikinformationscentrum) together with several industrial companies. The goal is to find new, effective solutions to handle the growing amounts of complex technical information. “Let’s use a truck as an example. It consists of a number of components that are assembled upon customer order. No truck is exactly like the other. It is thus important to find effective routines to keep track of all the parts and be able to reuse the information so that one does not have to start from square one for each truck,” explains Viveca Asproth, project manager and professor of informatics. Another difficulty is that the products are becoming more and more advanced and that the new generation of users is
NEW PERSPECTIVES. Karin Reichard at Atlas Copco likes the different perspective that the researchers bring.
used to searching for information in ways that do not involve thick manuals. Collaboration is required to find new solutions. “Each subproject involves people from the university and various companies. We then try to solve the problems together.”
The project has attracted great interest. Fifteen companies are currently participating and several more are on their way in. Karin Reichard is a manager for Product Services at Atlas Copco Tools, one of the participating companies. She appreciates the different perspective the researchers provide: “Sometimes, it is good to look further into the future with persons from a different environment who can suggest new angles of approach. Naturally, we want to be able to offer even better technical information to our customers.” The partnership also gives a lot back to research, according to Viveca Asproth. “We now have access to an incredible study environment. The companies are open and give us free access. It is a great feeling to know that what you are doing is sought-after.”
Now studies can become even more mobile It is just as much about pedagogy as about technology. Soon, in addition to using computers when studying, students will also be able to use tablets and mobile phones. What we need to find out is the best way to do this. Text: Johanna Stenius Photo: marcus sundgren
According to Jimmy Jaldemark, senior lecturer in pedagogy, specialising in electronic learning (e-learning), learning is about communication. And it is precisely the communication that is the biggest gain with web-based learning platforms, not to mention the huge possibilities that arise out of being able to study anywhere. “The Internet is a huge communication medium. And human interaction is crucial to how much a person can grow,” says Jimmy Jaldemark. At Mid Sweden University, about half of the students study on campus and the rest study on
distance programmes. The platforms must then be able to keep up. In April, Jimmy Jaldemark and his research team had a new project approved that focused on mobile learning. “One of Mid Sweden University’s strategic focus- Jimmy Jaldemark es is to strengthen e-learning, so it is a natural progression to move things beyond the computer. If we want to be at the
cutting edge, then we must be so everywhere. This is the year when mobile devices will make an enormous breakthrough,” says Jimmy Jaldemark. The project involves research at the university, where different teaching methods will be tested on devices such as tablets and smartphones. “I’m no technology wizard.The demands come from the bottom up – from the students. In the future, our teaching platforms will also function in the mobile dimension,” says Jimmy Jaldemark. And that is probably what will happen. If you look back through history, practically every new technological shift has its roots in an educational setting. Radio, TV and books. Everything was tested there first. We think that this can change the way people learn.
Millions of Euros to be earned through new technique for metal recovery A pulp industry that is more environmentallyfriendly that puts more money in the cash register – this is all possible with a new technique from Mid Sweden University. In collaboration with the forest industry, researchers have found a way to separate metals from pulp. Using bubbles. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: Nils Nilsson
The metals manganese, copper and iron have always caused problems for the pulp industry. They are found in every tree and made paper pulp production difficult, costly and harmful to the environment. The industry currently uses a complexing agent – an agent that is mixed with the fibres and traps the metals, which are then rinsed out of the paper pulp together with large quantities of water. But, the technique has clear shortcomings. Therefore, researchers at Mid Sweden University’s FSCN have worked for several years to find a solution that is both more efficient and more environmentally friendly. With the new technique, it is now possible to recover not only the metals, but also the substance used in the separation process. “We have actually reached a point where we can recover 100%. However, there is a threshold when recovery becomes too costly. On average, we are at 90%. This means that the chemicals can be used ten times instead of just once,” says Magnus Norgren, researcher at Mid Sweden University and one of the founders of Chemseq, the company that has patented the new technique. Magnus Norgren The agent used is similar to regular detergent. When it is mixed with the pulp, air is pumped in. This creates bubbles of agent, where the metals collect. This makes it possible to separate both the chemical and the metals from the water – something that was not possible previously. The environmental gain is the most important aspect, but there is also a clear financial aspect to the new technique, according to Magnus Norgren. “Some of the metals we can extract are rare and very valuable. Some are worth more than gold and some are only found in few countries. Securing access to these metals is important to all developed countries. And this is one way to do it for countries that have no natural resources.” Magnus Norgren is now working full-time with Chemseq to achieve a commercial breakthrough together with his colleagues. The collaboration with SCA is a key to understanding the needs of the forestry industry, but there are also other important applications. “We see opportunities in the mining industry and the decontamination industry. There are municipal deposits leaking heavy metals where our technique could be applied. All of these areas have markets worth millions of Euro in Europe alone. But, the technique needs to be refined and packaged as a service that is attractive. The technique will have to be modified for different applications, but these are just minor adjustments since the foundation is so strong. “We just finished negotiating with a customer with whom we have had a dialogue for a long period of time. Hopefully, we can start implementing our technique soon.”
Network collaboration creates career paths
Mathias Wiklund is one of many recent business administration graduates from Mid Sweden University who found employment right after graduation. He met his current employer at a network meet-up for business administration students and accounting agencies. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: Per Helander Portrait: Mats hellström
Times are good for auditors, accounting consultants and other business administration graduates. In certain areas of the country, there are just not enough business administration graduates to go around. The Sundsvall region is no exception. A few years ago, companies and government agencies entered into an extensive partnership with Mid Sweden University to not only exchange experiences and run research projects but also increase contact with students during the course of their education. The partnership is called CER (Centre for Research on Economic Relationships) and has become a research centre at Mid Sweden University. “We focus on more than just research. We also collaborate on educational matters
STRAIGHT TO A JOB. Mathias Wiklund made contact with PwC via a meet-up within the framework of the CER network. His boss, Christine Larsson Schedin, hopes that even more potential students will choose the business administration programme at Mid Sweden University.
CER Working in close collaboration with industry, the Centre for Research on Economic Relationships (CER) at Mid Sweden University conducts research on the economic relationships of companies and individuals, particularly in the fields of banking, real estate, insurance, pensions and accounting. www.miun.se/cer
to strengthen the supply of competence in the region,” explains Peter Öhman, lecturer in business administration and project leader at the university.
It all started with banks, insurance companies and pension funds contacting the university. After a while, accounting agencies and real estate agencies also joined in. CER has a large number of representatives from the university, companies, government agencies and municipalities in the region. It is uncommon for so many competing players to work together in a joint project. “We have had follow-up researchers from big cities who looked at the collaboration and concluded that this probably would not work in that environment. Here, companies have seen that it is possible to benefit from the network, even if they are competitors. It may be easier to gather and create contacts in smaller cities,” says Peter Öhman. The research is often based on discussions with the companies. One example is the project where
researchers are trying to map out why customers choose to pay a certain way and how shops in the retail sector act. Statistics show that use of charge cards is levelling out and banks now want to know why people are not using cards any more.
Some economics students are participating in the research projects, but the main focus of the network collaboration is on ensuring the supply of a competent workforce by increasing recruitment to education, offering activities in trade and industry to students and creating attractive jobs that keep the students in the region. Mathias Wiklund, who now works at PwC, feels that there was a good relationship with the companies throughout his entire time as a Mid Sweden University student. The students went on study visits and employees visited the university to present the companies. “I made my first contact with PwC at a company meet-up and they remembered me when I applied for a job later. Now, there are
even placements, which is unusual in this industry.” Mid Sweden University’s business administration programme strives to have the strongest link to the business world of any business administration programme in Sweden. Christine Larsson Schedin is office manager at PwC in Sundsvall and is active in CER’s work group for new employees: “We regularly welcome placement students from the university, participate in Master’s degree projects and arrange study visits. This is a good way for us to get to know the students and for the students to get to know us. Sometimes, this leads to an employment later on,” she says. Most recently, the work group has visited upper secondary schools to talk about the education programmes, the collaboration with industry, CER, the companies and career opportunities. “We have good experiences from the programme and want more students to choose this education path,” says Christine Larsson Schedin.
Companies have seen that it is possible to benefit from the network, even if they are competitors.
How the forestry industry can halve its electrical energy needs Electricity prices have almost tripled in Sweden over the past ten years. A huge research venture is therefore underway in the part of the forestry industry that consumes a lot of electrical energy. The aim is to cut its electrical energy needs in half. This means that Nordic forestry companies will go from world leading to outstanding. Text: Mats Hellström Photo: Calle Bredberg/Bildarkivet.se Portrait photo: niklas andersson
Forestry is one of Sweden’s biggest industries, with up to SEK 120 billion in net export annually. The combination of plentiful forests, relatively inexpensive energy and research and development efforts enabled Nordic companies to succeed and be considered by many as world leaders. But, as energy prices skyrocketed, one of the biggest competitive advantages disappeared. New knowledge and innovations are required to keep Sweden in the lead. Several big companies have therefore initiated a gigantic research programme, led to a large extent by Mid Sweden University. Over the next few years, almost SEK 200 million will be invested to develop technology that will cut the electrical energy needs of the participating companies in half. The objective is to be achieved within ten years. “There has been a lot of research in electricity usage, but much of this has never been put to use. We are now working on all fronts to achieve as much as we can at present,” says professor Per Engstrand, who manages Mid Sweden University’s part of the project. He believes that all all participating companies have some area they are really good at, but none of them have a production system that is perfect or identical to any other. Right now, researchers are measuring and comparing the results from different parts of the process to see what works best. According to Engstrand, this is extremely important to be able to measure the fibres that are later turned into paper or cardboard.
“We have one technique that could reduce consumption by about 30%. At the same time, there is another technique that could reduce consumption by about 20%. Unfortunately, we cannot combine this to achieve 50%. We must instead review the techniques to see if they work against each other or if there are synergies. But, like the development of cars, we are working on many different aspects at once. Nowadays, a car uses about half as much fuel as it did 15 years ago, yet performance has been maintained. This was made possible by companies working to improve everything from air resistance to combustion. Our research programme follows the same principle and is working to improve everything from process control to modifying the properties of the wood fire.” At present, the project focuses completely on production of new paper pulp. But, what about recycling? Shouldn’t more focus be put there? Per Engstrand feels that we easily draw hasty conclusions when it comes to this point. “Europe is already really good at recycling. Currently, at least 80% of all paper and cardboard is processed. But, in the end only about 70% is turned into new products since some of the material cannot be recycled. With the high demand for return fire around the world (particularly in China), there is a constant shortage. New pulp must therefore be supplied. It is then smart to do this in the most environmentally-responsible manner possible. Here, the Nordic countries really shine.”
There has been a lot of research in electricity usage, but much of this has never been put to use.
Cut in half within ten years The research programme is called E2MP (Energy Efficient Mechanical Pulping) and runs for the next four to six years. The objective is to work with the participating companies to show how we can cut the electrical energy needs of mechanical pulp manufacturing in half within ten years. At present, the programme has the participation of the forestry companies SCA, Holmen, Norske Skog and Stora Enso plus the supplier companies Metso and Andritz. The programme consists of three parts and the part led by Per Engstrand from FSCN at Mid Sweden University is financed by the Knowledge Foundation (Stiftelsen fรถr Kunskaps- och Kompetensutveckling). The research programme has a total turnover of SEK 189 million, of which about half comes from the companies. www.e2mpi.se and www.miun.se/fscn
the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre The Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre (SWSRC) is a research centre at Mid Sweden University with facilities at the Östersund and Åre campuses. The centre operates in four areas: research, education, testing and performance technology (for companies and organizations who want to develop products and services). SWSRC serves as a part of the university’s participation in the regional innovation project Peak Innovation. www.miun.se/nvc
World-class sports research The secret to Sweden’s success in skiing in recent years is the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre (SWSRC). Over the course of just a few years, it has become the world’s leading centre for ski research. It serves as the meeting point for all stakeholders – from researchers and elite athletes to companies and government agencies – in the common quest to achieve new successes. Text: mats hellström Photo: Tina Stafrén
Sweden’s success on the ski tracks in recent years is due to more than the fact that there is a greater pool of talent. As with many other sports, skiing has become an art where the technique can often make the difference between winning and losing. When preparing for the Olympics in Vancouver, Swedish cross-country skiers could test out the race tracks in a lab environment at the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre, where a “super GPS” had copied and recreated the exact track profile. To further improve their chances, the Swedish national ski team also worked together with SWSRC and the clothing company Craft to develop a new and improved racing suit. Today, SWSRC serves as an official partner and test centre for Sweden’s Olympic committee. Developing better products and training methods that lead to success in competitions is one of the goals of SWSRC. However, a more important goal is to improve the experience for skiers and come up with solutions that will be beneficial to companies
and make people’s day-to-day life easier. “We are working more and more closely with the trade and industry. They may use both our lab environments and our expertise to develop their products and services. It is a successful partnership, where the companies can improve their sales, athletes achieve greater successes and we make advances in research and get international publicity,” says Sture Espwall, Deputy Operations Manager at the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre. One of the biggest news among the development efforts is called the “Internet of sports”, which is run together with the Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS) in Kista. Here, researchers and technicians work together to integrate the possibilities and options of the Internet and smartphones. “Previously, it was difficult to gauge performance outdoors because the equipment used was heavy and expensive. We have now started to develop technology to be able to do this through regular
smartphones. This is not only easier and cheaper, but also makes it possible to determine a practically unlimited amount of new information that can be used, for example, to enhance onlookers’ experience at competitions or give the participants more information about their performance,” says Sture Espwall. One example is that small sensors in a phone can measure how the skier skied certain sections of the track or gauge the movement pattern to provide digital feedback on technique. It can also handle standard pulse measurement. “You can compare it to the Vasaloppet ski race, where onlookers can follow the pulse of certain skiers. That competition uses a pulse watch, but it is also possible to use really small sensors instead.” Winter sports and competitions are not the only thing in focus. Researchers have conducted studies in areas such as football and mountain biking and plan to investigate other sports. In addition, there is a great deal of health research that is not tied to any particular sport. One project is studying overweight individuals with the aim of finding optimal ways to combine physical activity and diet to lose weight and be as healthy as possible. “What started out as a sports project focused on testing is now an Olympic test centre and a world-leading centre for ski research, which has enabled the university to create a great deal of exciting partnerships in trade and industry” says Sture Espwall.
Hello ... ... H-C Holmberg of the Swedish Winter Sports & Research Centre in Östersund, who together with colleagues and elite-level skiers is trying to find out why muscles become tired from physical activity. Text: mats hellström Portrait: Tina Stafrén Photo: istockphoto
How does it work? “We don’t know all the details yet. We do know that the glycogen in the body plays a huge role. We are therefore focusing on how and where it is used in different parts of the muscle, any differences between the arms and legs and how quickly one can recover after hard physical work. It is more difficult for arms to use fat as fuel and the general perception is that the upper body is key to becoming a good cross-country skier. Our research supports this theory.”
Who is working with this? “Our team consists of about ten researchers from Mid Sweden University, the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and Karolinska Institutet together with about 30 research subjects, of which several are elite-level skiers. The Danes are leaders in this specific aspect of muscle physiology and we are world leaders in ski research, so the partnership has the potential to make huge knowledge gains. In addition, cross-country skiers at the elite level are extremely fit and excellent examples of optimally-functioning muscles.”
How can the results be used? “They can give us new knowledge in cross-country skiing, how to ski quicker and how to plan a race. At the same time, more knowledge from studying elite athletes and their superbly-developed musculature can help us to better understand how muscles with reduced functionality work, such as those affected by diabetes. The knowledge also gives us greater opportunities to develop training methods that can increase the effect of physical activity.”
New ice skate blades could revolutionise hockey The company Marsblade has developed a new technology for inline skates and ice skates that transfers force from the blade to the surface better. The technology has the potential to dominate the market, but still requires extensive and advanced testing of both the design and its durability. These tests are now being performed in partnership with Mid Sweden University. Text: Gustaf Blomberg Photo: Lars Wiklund
It does not take as long as you would think to create an ice skate blade. When research engineer Ulf Nutti of Mid Sweden University’s SportsTech department in Östersund uses free-form technology to develop blade prototypes, just stand back. “You can describe free-form technology as a three-dimensional printer that prints layer after layer of material. It gives you more freedom in the design work and enables you to quickly produce prototypes and complicated designs,” explains Ulf Nutti. Free-form technology comes in handy when
blade prototypes have to be made quickly. Analyses of the force distribution are then conducted in special programmes to see whether there are any weak areas in the design. The research is part of Marsblade’s work to develop the new, patented technology that they hope will be the new market standard in several product areas. The innovator behind the invention is Per Mårs, a former Mid Sweden University student and also a former NHL ice hockey player. “The technology produces a more dynamic transfer of force between the shoe and the sur-
face, which creates a smoother push. We think this will revolutionise the ice skate industry the same way the carving ski did in the ski industry,” says a hopeful Hans Victor, MD of Marsblade. “A small, fledgling company does not have a lot of resources at its disposal.The university has come to our aid by helping us verify that the technology works and the design is durable. It also gives us an academic stamp of quality for our product.” The inline blade is already being sold to several professional ice hockey teams, who will use it in their preseason training. Soon, it will be time to make the product available to the general public.
New angle cuts costs Researchers at Mid Sweden University can help the paper pulp industry make huge energy savings. Changing the angle settings of the chippers would reduce the electricity consumption of the pulp industry by 10-15%. Text: Cathrine Beijer Photos: Olle Melkerhed
High electricity consumption has long been a problem for the mechanical pulp manufacturing industry. But, thanks to the research of Mid Sweden University’s FSCN research centre, the high costs may be on the way down. Traditionally, the same method has been used for wood chip production regardless of whether the chips are intended for mechanical or chemical pulp production. But, now there may be a reason to change this tradition. Research has shown that it is possible to reduce the energy consumption of mechanical pulp production by ensuring that cracks are formed in the chips during the chipping stage without negatively impacting the properties of the pulp. “Chipping should therefore be adapted to the subsequent pulp process. Our research shows that the method of chipping is critical from an energy standpoint, at least in the case of mechanical pulp production,” says Lisbeth Hellström, doctor of engineering physics. The researchers’ theory is based on optimizing the angle settings of the chipper so the wood undergoes maximum compression during chipping, which causes cracks between the wood fibres. Per Gradin, professor of mechanics of materials, is part of the team who developed the theory. “Through the cracks, the chips undergo a pre-treatment that later reduces the amount of electrical energy consumed during pulp production,” he says. The Swedish paper industry currently consumes five to six terawatt hours of electrical energy per year for the production of mechanical paper pulp. In her doctoral thesis, Lisbeth Hellström demonstrates in a pilotscale trial that it is possible to reduce electrical energy consumption by up to 10-15 percent by simply changing the angle settings of the chipper. Lisbeth Hellström explains that in addition to reduced energy consumption,
the modified angle of dip may also have other benefits. “When manufacturing cardboard, you sometimes use chemicals during mechanical pulp production. If there are cracks in the chips, then the chemicals will be absorbed better. This reduces the amount of chemicals needed; however more research is needed in this area to find synergy effects.” Another advantage of the modified angle of dip is that no extra, expensive equipment is required. This means that the extra equipment required by the mechanical pre-treatment in use today can be eliminated. “Older factories often do not have the space for pre-treatment equipment. Modifying the chipping angle makes it possible to achieve good chip pre-treatment despite a lack of space,” says Lisbeth Hellström. The research team is now investigating whether it is possible to reduce energy consumption even more. “We will investigate whether there are synergy effects with other methods of treating the chips. However, there is a limit to what compression the wood can handle before there are negative effects (such as fibre shrinkage) that could negatively impact the final paper product. You must always have the end product in mind, since the properties of the fibres govern the quality of the paper.” To further develop the technique, FSCN has entered into partnerships with several companies in the paper and supplier industry. These partnerships are part of FSCN’s planned research profile, Energy Efficient Mechanical Pulping, where the purpose is to continually achieve greater electrical energy streamlining when producing mechanical pulps. This activity is led by professor Per Engstrand. A patent is currently pending on the technique and the research team has formed a company to explore its commercial possibilities.
Our research shows that the method of chipping is critical from an energy standpoint, at least in the case of mechanical pulp production.
NEW METHODS: Thanks to the research of FSCN research centre, the high costs of electricity consumption in the mechanical pulp industry may be decreasing. The key is a change in the angle setting of the chippers.
IN HARMONY WITH NATURE. An efficient converter, as the one developed by Kent Bertilsson, requires significantly less energy. It also consumes less material during manufacture.
Hidden solution helps protect the environment That big black box – the voltage converter – will soon be a distant memory. Researcher Kent Bertilsson is on his way to developing a “hidden” version. Text and Photo: Victoria Engholm
Many a curse word has been muttered over that clumsy appendage of our modern technical gadgets, which in all other ways are becoming sleeker and more streamlined. However, development is moving forward even here and Kent Bertilsson of the STC research centre of Mid Sweden University is leading the way.
FSCN Fibre Science and Communication Network (FSCN), is a multidisciplinary research centre at Mid Sweden University, with a focus on improving the profitability of today’s paper industry, and on finding new ways to use the forest as a resource. The centre engineers materials that are extracted from the forest industry material flows, and refined to provide sustainable alternatives to, for example, plastics. The centre also develops ways to use wood fibres, paper and board in new ways, for example in threedimensional packaging structures. www.miun.se/fscn
With the help of three doctoral students, he has spent the past four years developing a transformer that can either be integrated into existing equipment or be hidden in a power cord. According to Kent Bertilsson, making the voltage converters smaller is not just for practical and aesthetic reasons. In the long run, it is also about protecting the environment. An efficient converter requires significantly less energy. It also consumes less material during manufacture. “We have already made a transformer that works and are now working to make the surrounding electronics work with a sufficiently high performance level.” He hopes to have the product out on the market as early as next year. “However, whether or not this will become a reality depends a bit on development outside of our control,” he says.
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A magazine from Mid Sweden University on research for society and industry