Seven ways this Swedish university is at the heart of the global fight against climate change

The devastating impact of climate change and the need for positive solutions is increasingly apparent all around the world. Sweden is recognised for its progressive approach to many issues, including sustainability.

Seven ways this Swedish university is at the heart of the global fight against climate change
Photo: Linköping University

At Linköping University (LiU) in southern Sweden, scientists and engineers are working across an impressive range of areas to tackle climate change and create a better future. LiU also collaborates closely with the business world and wider society to help ensure its research has the maximum possible impact.

The Local takes a closer look at seven ways this Swedish university is leading in the global fight against climate change.

A tradition of innovation: see the full range of international degree programmes taught in English at Linköping University

1. By taking a collaborative approach to the climate crisis

LiU’s Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research (CSPR) aims to develop knowledge and methods that can help societies manage climate change in Sweden and overseas. Researchers at CSPR are involved in everything from the adaptation efforts of local municipalities through to the global UN climate conferences.

CSPR is a platform for collaborative international efforts involving experts from many fields – political scientists, geographers, environmental scientists and physicists to name just a few.

2. By contributing to landmark UN reports

Experts at LiU also contributed to the landmark climate report by the UN’s IPCC published in August. Björn-Ola Linnér, LiU’s professor of climate policy, said the report made “sombre reading” but marked “a proud day for science”.

Professor David Bastviken, at the Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change, is conducting important ongoing research on how we measure greenhouse gases. He has already identified lakes as a large emitter of methane gas and believes we have too few measurements of methane in natural settings. LiU’s Environmental Change initiative is a platform for strategic research into our impact on the natural world.

Photo: Linköping University

3. By improving energy efficiency

Industry accounts for a huge amount of global energy usage and about 40 percent of all energy used in Sweden. LiU’s Division of Energy Systems has been researching ways to improve Swedish industrial energy efficiency for four decades. 

In Sweden, the research group works to find solutions in areas including the aluminium industry, the pulp and paper industry, and cooling processes in the steel industry. It also contributes to international research projects on vital issues such as helping small and medium-sized industrial businesses to cut their energy usage.

This research has a direct benefit for companies by reducing their environmental impact, and has also led to new methods and tools for improving energy efficiency.

A tradition of innovation: see the full range of international degree programmes taught in English at Linköping University

4. By understanding the power of start-ups

The concept of the circular economy has become well-known in recent years and many companies are keen to embrace it. But achieving change can be difficult in practice. 

Universities have a key role to play in providing expert knowledge and this is another area where LiU excels. The agility of start-ups means they may be able to embrace circular systems that save resources, energy and water quicker than older companies.

That’s why a research project at LiU focuses on sustainable entrepreneurship and gaining the scientific knowledge needed to support start-ups that want circular business models. “Environmental problems are also business opportunities,” says project leader Wisdom Kanda, a senior lecturer in the Department of Management and Engineering.

Photo: Linköping University

5. By engineering tomorrow’s energy solutions 

Engineers are crucial to many of today’s biggest global challenges. The transition to more renewable and sustainable energy systems is no exception. Students on LiU’s two-year Master’s Programme in Sustainability Engineering and Management (available in both English and Swedish) are learning how to contribute on the frontline of this exciting transition.

Says Niclas Svensson, head of the programme: “Modern engineering within the sustainability area to me is a lot about turning today’s environmental problems into future business opportunities. To be able to do that we need proactive engineers with broad system perspectives who can see the connections between the environment, technology, and business.

“At Linköping, we try to bring our broad and extensive experiences from collaboration about and cocreation of sustainable solutions with our surrounding society to our engineering students. They learn how to develop, manage and evaluate future sustainable systems in courses which uses real cases from our collaboration partners.”

Several renewable energy solutions have been implemented in the region, giving students the chance to see environmental technology in action.

The university also administers Sweden’s national Biogas Research Center. Biogas has a key role to play in meeting the UN’s sustainable development goals. 

6. By reimagining forestry and agriculture

Few things matter more to sustainable development and climate change than forestry and agriculture. LiU is known for its high quality research in developing new materials from forestry products.

And it’s no mere coincidence that it’s the host university for the VinnVäxt programme Agtech2030. Vinnväxt is a competition, run by the Swedish government’s innovation agency Vinnova, which allows regions to win ten years of funding for long-term innovation initiatives. Agtech 2030 aims to build up innovation to create a new age for agriculture by using digital technology, AI, the Internet of things, and more.

7. By promoting the ‘circular economy’

Linköping University is committed to promoting the notion of the circular economy – one in which materials and manufacturing equipment are recycled, repaired and refurbished for as long as possible, so as to promote sustainability and innovation.

The university chiefly does this through its participation in the MISTRA REES research program, a collaboration between manufacturers and academic institutions to steer Swedish manufacturing towards a sustainable future. 

Professor Mattias Lindhal, of the university, says: “It works to create solutions that are, from an economic, environmental, social and life cycle perspective, resource efficient and effective, while maintaining the positive value within the overall system.”

Interested in creating a more sustainable world? Linköping University has 32,400 students across four campuses in Sweden. Discover the full range of international degree programmes taught in English that it offers.

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‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”


At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.”