Time to travel, time to think


September was a month full of travel. It started with a meeting about ESS in Bilbao, where I represented Lund University. There is plenty going on with ESS right now, and it’s high time for a strategic collaboration – not just at Lund University, but also on a national level! The following week it was off to Graz for a conference (ESSCIRC) within my own research field of electronics construction. It was good to meet colleagues, stay in touch and hear about new projects. After a quick stop-off back home, it was on to Gdansk and a review of their technology university for CESAER, a network of leading technology institutions in Europe. Very interesting, but is there time to see anything? Glamorous? Experience new places? No, there’s little time for pleasure and amusement. I did have time though for some tapas at Cafe Iruña in Bilbao, the welcome reception at the Tesla high-voltage laboratory at TU Graz and a visit to the Solidarnosc centre in Gdansk.

Following all that was a longer, albeit fragmented, tour to Stockholm, Brussels and Japan. In Stockholm, the Marcus Walleberg Prize was awarded for advancement in the exciting field of nanocellulose. The banquet, award ceremony and symposium were hosted at Grand Hotel in Stockholm. That was glamourous! After that I headed off for a Deans’ trip to Brussels, comprised of a few hectic days meeting Swedish EU parliament members and visiting Sweden’s EU embassy and other organisations. It was also good to meet the university management and deans in a different environment, and we had many stimulating discussions. The others spent the last day there in Leuven while I flew on to Japan - missing my connection in Frankfurt, and arriving late to my meeting with Swedish university representatives at the Swedish embassy in Tokyo. I had to quickly change into a suit, white shirt and tie in the embassy toilets – the dress code for the next four days. STS Forum in Kyoto, and a visit to the University of Tokyo and Keio University with LU’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg. On my last morning in Tokyo I had planned to visit the Tsukiji fish market, but it turned out to be closed on Wednesdays, which it just happened to be. It was strange to walk around in what is usually such a bustling place, at a time when it was completely deserted. I did have time for some fantastic sushi though.

Hectic but fun, with a high consumption of white shirts!

Travelling means meeting many new people and taking in and evaluating many new experiences. What was good and what can be useful? How important was it? Often the answers to these questions don’t become clear until much later on. But travelling also means there is a lot back home that is left neglected – both at work and at home. The meetings and things you should have been dealing with are left hanging, and then it’s a struggle to catch up. How do you prioritise? It isn’t easy. LTHs Assistant Dean for Research, Erik Swietlicki, sometimes asks me if I have time to think. I often ask myself the same question! The danger is that you just carry on at full steam, forgetting to take time for reflection. Travelling on long flights can sometimes provide time to do that. Unfortunately these days, in-flight WiFi has started intruding on this ‘freedom’.

Once back home it was full speed ahead again. It will soon be time to deliver our input to the research stopper. I think one input should be to make changes to Akademiska Hus’ assignment so that they play a role in the long-term strengthening and development of the infrastructure at Swedish universities and higher education institutions for the advancement of research and education. That is, a broadened assignment outside of simply being a cash-cow for the government. If they can afford to pay out and extra SEK 6.5bn, they can afford to support us more. Rent costs for new, custom-fit spaces are threatening to bankrupt the research groups using them. Renovations to lecture theatres leading to rent hikes strains an already stretched education budget and affects our students. It’s time for a change!

Viktor Öwall
Dean of the Faculty of Engineering LTH


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Viktor Öwall
Dean of the Faculty of Engineering LTH

Viktor's book recommendations