Pontus Sjöberg, Swerim

Five years as a research institute serving industry

3 October, 2023

Two research institutes became one in 2018. Expertise was broadened and came into its own when Sweden's industrial transformation accelerated at a speed few would have believed possible five years ago. Now the only bottleneck for metals research institute Swerim is the recruitment of sufficient numbers of research engineers.

“The merger of Swerea Mefos and Swerea Kimab was initiated by industry. Looking back, that was a wise decision. The industrial transformation has accelerated in recent years and this trend fits our research know-how like a glove,” says Pontus Sjöberg, Swerim's CEO. He also notes that the increased demand poses a challenge.

“We're making every effort to be an attractive employer. Here, the fact that we have co-workers who have chosen to return to us after working in industry for several years proves that we are succeeding. It is an exciting time to work with Swerea right now. But the demand for qualified personnel is a bottleneck. Our objective is to grow by 10 percent during 2023.”

Forward-looking merger

Since the two research institutes joined forces, development has been positive. Pontus Sjöberg notes that the owner companies showed a lot of foresight in deciding to initiate a merger. Swerim was established in October 2018. At that point in time few would have believed how quickly the industrial transformation would accelerate. In 2020 LKAB announced Sweden's biggest-ever industrial investment; towards a fossil-free transition of the company's entire iron ore operation. In February of the following year plans for a new steelworks, H2Green Steel, in Boden, made headlines. In addition, SSAB has announced that transformation of the company's entire Nordic production system will be brought forward to 2030.

“The collective expertise of our research engineers is fully aligned with the transition to a climate-neutral industry. Hydrogen technologies are decisive for realising the shift away from fossil-fuel dependency. Here, for example, more knowledge concerning the impact of hydrogen on metallic material is needed. At Swerim we have ramped up our resources through investment in both Luleå and Kista, in order to meet the demand for testing.”

When Pontus Sjöberg took the helm as CEO for the newly formed research institute in 2018 the aim was to create an institute that would serve industry – and turn financial loss to profit. Now, in his fifth year as CEO, he can say with confidence that the figures started to improve right from year one. Swerim is now in a good financial position.

“Of course, from the start we had to focus on costs, but we also had to raise awareness, both internally and in the world around us, of the synergies that we had suddenly gained, above all, in terms of our broad expertise. We have succeeded in achieving a good balance, thanks to increased demand and a high level of resource utilisation. Quite simply, our researchers have done a great job.”