An open university


Photo: Håkan E Bengtsson

Last week kicked off with the first Science and Innovation Talks event at Tetra Pak. It’s an initiative with the aim of creating new touch-points between private companies and the university’s researchers. Olaf Diegel, Professor at the Department of Design Sciences, gave a lecture on 3D printing and the amazing opportunities this exciting technology opens up. I hope it was well received and provided some inspiration for the many Tetra Pak employees in the audience. We are very open to starting similar initiatives with other companies and government agencies. But why are we doing this? Are we not “sufficient unto ourselves”?

That might seem like a dumb question with an obvious answer: Of course we’re not! Academia is a part of society, albeit with some strange ideas and rituals that can seem foreign to outsiders. Some of us, such as myself, stay inside the academic circle. But most of our students leave academia and become part of “the real world”. This means we have to listen to its needs and understand how our students will be received. What we have to give our students is a solid base to stand on, a set of tools and the ability to think critically. They have to be able not only to solve known problems, but also to understand how to attack a new question and deal with the unexpected. We don’t know how the world will develop over the course of our students’ careers, but we can be sure that plenty will happen that we can’t foresee today.

So we listen and keep the lines of communication with wider society open. Last autumn I participated in a debate about Lund University closing up – see my earlier post “Frosty collaboration”. Even though it feels as if the storm has abated, I can still hear the echoes of “LU is closing in on itself! LU doesn’t want to collaborate!” … and so on. Nothing could be farther from the truth in my eyes. I have worked with private companies ever since my PhD thesis in the 80’s, and I share this experience with many of my colleagues. We want an open dialogue with industry and society. We want to know what they need from us. We want to collaborate. But we retain the right to make our own choices. We will listen – but also act as a barrier for temporary trends, twists and turns. We believe – rightly or wrongly – that we sometimes know better!

Viktor Öwall
Dean of the Faculty of Engineering LTH




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Viktor Öwall
Dean of the Faculty of Engineering LTH

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