This article has been translated with Deepl.

Three years of Kamprad’s 100 million (SEK) investment in companies located in northern Sweden

Vinit Parida is the scientific leader at Norrlandsnavet. Lena Fritzén is CEO of the Kamprad Family Foundation, which is funding the initiative. Photo: Luleå University of Technology / Kamprad Family Foundation.

In the fall of 2020, in the midst of Covid, Norrlandsnavet was launched. Now, after more than three years, the activities to increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in Norrland have been followed up by the Kamprad Family Foundation – and the Foundation is very pleased with the results.

During the first few years of operation, Norrlandsnavet has developed research projects, educational initiatives in the form of courses and training, and student initiatives, all based on analyses of the companies’ needs. All with the ambition to support the development of small and medium-sized enterprises in Northern Sweden.

– We have recently conducted a three-year follow-up and can conclude that our investment in Norrlandsnavet at Luleå University of Technology has exceeded our expectations, says Lena Fritzén, CEO of the Kamprad Family Foundation.

Based on her previous experience as professor and pro-rector at Linnaeus University, she notes that Luleå University of Technology has made a transformative journey with the the development of Norrlandsnavet.

– Thanks to the work of Norrlandsnavet, they have made a transformation. They have reversed the perspective and started from the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises in northern Sweden. Based on these needs, they have developed research projects and training activities relevant to businesses.

Different types of projects

An important part of Norrlandsnavet is to conduct new research. This is done both with research projects in the form of thesis projects where doctoral students have been recruited, and shorter projects with senior researchers. In all cases, the projects are based on the needs identified in dialogue with the companies in Norrland. The short-term research projects that have recently been completed or are in the process of being completed include green investment and growth in tourism businesses, the digitalization of micro-enterprises, and the role of place marketing in tourism recruitment. In total, some 40 researchers and teachers are involved in the different parts of the Norrland Hub’s activities.

– Through the positive feedback we have received from the Kamprad Family Foundation regarding the first three years’ activities, we feel strengthened to continue developing the work in all parts of Norrlandsnavet, says Professor Vinit Parida, scientific director of Norrlandsnavet.

Free courses for small businesses

Another part of Norrlandsnavet’s activities is short courses in the form of MOOCs and a scholarship program for students. The MOOC courses are part of the lifelong learning approach and the scholarship program is important to involve students in the form of a summer job in a small business.

– We think that Norrlandsnavet and the university have developed something important here and have been creative in offering the MOOC courses for free to entrepreneurs and company employees. In addition, a teacher leads the course in real time, which ensures a high quality of the course,” says Lena Fritzén.

– The scholarship program is also a solid program that they have developed and where a portal has been developed to match students with companies.

Have there been no challenges in the first years?

– The first major challenge was of course COVID-19. This meant that it took a little longer than expected to get started and develop the different parts of Norrlandsnaet´s operations,” says Vinit Parida.

– Then there is always the challenge of bridging the gap between research and business, which is particularly difficult with smaller companies that do not have much experience with academia. But here I think we have made good progress in getting researchers to understand more about the concrete challenges of small businesses. And to make entrepreneurs see the benefits of what we have to offer from universities in terms of research and training.

What will happen in the coming years?

– We will continue to develop the different parts of Norrlandsnavet based on continuous analysis of the needs of small businesses. An important part of this is to continue the work to increase the understanding of small businesses of how universities can contribute to their development and competitiveness,” says Vinit Parida.

– In terms of research, this includes launching two new two-year post-doctoral projects and allocating funds for new short-term research projects. These are open to researchers from all faculties of the university.

Lena Fritzén also has expectations for the coming years.

– From the Kamprad Family Foundation, we are pleased that Norrlandsnavet will deepen and broaden its activities by involving even more researchers and teachers at the university in developing new knowledge in close collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises in Norrland,” she says.

– The other parts of Norrlandsnavet, apart from research, have also developed good concepts to build on. Not least the scholarship program for students that proved to be more difficult to develop than expected, but the portal that has now been developed is good and can perhaps become a model for other universities to use in the future. We want our efforts to reach as many people as possible,” says Lena Fritzén.

This article is produced in collaboration with Norrlandsnavet.