Last week I had the privilege to attend the symposium “Molecular Life Sciences” in celebration of the centennial of Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW). It all took place in Aula Magna at Stockholm University.
The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has contributed to world-class research for 100 years. During the course of the day we listened to outstanding researchers from leading universities abroad and from our own universities here in Sweden.
Thanks to the foundation’s commitment over the past century Karolinska Institutet has been able to finance research centres, research projects and not least equipment for medical studies. Much of the funding has gone to life science. During the past few years alone, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has invested approximately 2.5 billion SEK in this field.
Long term and flexible funding
External funding comes in different flavours. In my mind, the KAW foundation has identified a recipe that works and that should stand as a model for others to follow. The funding is long term and flexible, allowing researchers to freely test, develop and pursue their own ideas. Such a recipe is conducive to science breakthroughs, in stark contrast to short term funding that typically and inadvertently fosters incremental research. I also give my strong support to the Foundation’s uncompromising and unwavering attention to quality, engendered by a rigorous review process, input from an expert advisory board, and a close dialogue with the host institutions.
Benefits society beyond Swedish borders
In the first session of the symposium we were introduced to the 100 year history of the KAW foundation and learned that the Foundation was established “for the betterment of Sweden”. In hindsight we can safely say that the Foundation has benefitted society far beyond the Swedish borders. Research sponsored by KAW has brought Sweden to the fore. But excellent research also serves the world and the humanity at large.
To keep its leading international position Karolinska Institutet needs to ensure that its career paths are attractive to talented students and young researchers from our own country and abroad. In this perspective the Wallenberg Academy Fellows programme stands out as particularly important. Many of our researchers have been sponsored through this programme and I trust that many more will benefit from it in the years to come.
Fundamental research is required
It is with gratitude and appreciation, and with expectations of continued success, that I congratulate the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation on 100 years of nation building. Seen from the outside – and now from the inside – I realize how important the Foundation has been in bringing Sweden to the international forefront of fundamental research. While new insight has a value in itself, fundamental research is required to meet the enormous challenges that we are facing today, as a region, as a nation, and as a world.