Research

Areas of strength and new initiatives

Uppsala University stands out for its multiple areas of academic strength in which research, education and collaboration are integrally connected. This integrated approach applies along the entire chain from fundamental theory and experimental research to practical application through innovative ideas and perspectives with the potential to change society. Quality and a capacity for renewal have manifested themselves over the years in increased welfare, better quality of life and new businesses. Good results are confirmed and reinforced by quality assessments and awards of external funding following peer review and in competition with other institutions.

Table of contents:

Energy and sustainable development

In this area, the focus is on renewable energy, energy systems, sustainable use of natural resources, environmental and climate research, and sustainable social development. It includes two designated strategic research areas, as well as participation in cooperative projects for innovation and sustainable social development:

  • STandUP for Energy is a strategic research area predicated on a global energy system perspective. The long-term objective is to reduce the cost of large-scale, renewable, environmentally sustainable electricity, delivered to the end user via the electricity grid, and the development of more cost-effective and energy-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • The Centre for Natural Disaster Science is a multidisciplinary knowledge centre in which research contributes to a better ability to prevent and deal with risks in society, nationally and internationally. The research produces a better understanding of the dynamics of natural events and the damage they cause, and of Sweden’s crisis preparedness and vulnerability.
  • KIC InnoEnergy and EIT Raw Materials are two European platforms that emphasise new technology, new expertise and new methods at a cross-society, systemic level.

The digital society

The quantity of digital information in society is increasing exponentially. This trend is reinforced by initiatives seeking to secure open access to jointly funded digital resources. The needs are evident in all research disciplines. High-tech industry, the financial sector, the experience industry and the care sector are increasingly dependent on advanced IT tools that build on mathematical and statistical models and computer-based calculations. Uppsala University is well equipped to play a role where new and emerging needs make unprecedented demands for tools and cooperation between researchers, research infrastructures, university libraries and other actors in society. Important platforms include:

  • eSSENCE is a strategic research area where specialists in applying eScience methodologies in specific subjects cooperate with specialists in the development of new eScience methods and tools. The research area is multidisciplinary and is developing very rapidly.
  • UPMARC is a world leader in developing effective, correct and energy-efficient software and embedded systems. The research area is closely associated with technological development and results are rapidly translated into applications.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) Sverige is a strategic innovation programme. The objective is to make Sweden best in the world by 2025 at reaping the benefits of IoT. IoT means that everyday devices are equipped with embedded sensors and processors. They can sense their surroundings, communicate with them and contribute to creating smart, attractive and helpful environments, goods and services.

People, culture and society

The social and cultural dimensions of the challenges facing society are obvious. Knowledge about human behaviour, power relations, communications, lifestyles and norm-setting plays a key role for society’s ability to deal with complex future issues. Research in the humanities and social sciences addresses the formation of people’s ideas and knowledge in specific times and places, together with the economic, political, social and cultural aspects of the development of society. It explains the causes and consequences of people’s interaction and the organisation of society. Research in the humanities and social sciences provides society with knowledge in areas such as education, languages, migration, national and international relations, history and cultural heritage, media developments, politics and public institutions, the development of prosperity and economics, sustainability and social health. Uppsala University is home to initiatives with a special focus on:

  • Peace, security and democracy – Uppsala University has platforms of expertise in peace and conflict research, international relations and the strategic research area Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
  • Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre – The IMPACT of Religion – addresses the economic, social, political and above all religious changes that are taking place in Sweden and the other Nordic countries at the beginning of the 21st century. Legal expertise adds an important dimension in elucidating the significance of religion.
  • Uppsala Center for Labor Studies conducts research in three main areas: labour market relations; unemployment and social security; and income, education and school issues. It brings together researchers in economics, political science and law. It collaborates closely with the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  • Languages, culture and communication – Language is a prerequisite for individual and social development. To meet the national and global challenges of our time, cutting-edge skills are needed in individual languages together with a scientifically based knowledge of how communication works. Uppsala University has a unique research environment for language studies, with over 40 languages and linguistic subjects. The range of languages offered is the greatest in Sweden and the University intends to further strengthen this area.
  • Interdisciplinary infrastructure platforms, e.g. the digitisation platform Alvin, and high-quality collections that welcome researchers and students, strengthen the scholarly environment. They are used systematically as a resource for students’ career development through internships principally attached to educational programmes in the humanities. 

Life and health

Our health is one of the major challenges facing society. Both preventive measures and better care of those who are already sick depend on increased knowledge of the mechanisms underlying diseases and the development of new diagnostic tools and treatment strategies. Taking a whole person approach, Uppsala University strategically brings its concentrated resources to bear in the life sciences including pharmaceuticals, medicine and health:

  • Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) is a national hub for molecular biosciences with a focus on health and environmental research. It brings together leading expertise with advanced knowledge in translational medicine, molecular biosciences and environmental science. SciLifeLab also has substantial infrastructure resources for genome sequencing (NGI), bioinformatics (NBIS), pharmaceutical development and visualisation, e.g. PET/MR.
  • The major health scourges – cancer, diabetes, dementia, autoimmunity and cardiovascular diseases – are important areas in which Uppsala University has created successful research environments. This research is based in part on biobanking and large quality registers. In addition, studies and surveys are in progress charting the mechanisms underlying diseases and investigating diagnostic tools and treatment strategies at cellular and molecular level. U-CAN, EpiHealth and SCAPIS (Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study) are examples of major initiatives in these areas where Uppsala University has a leading role. New methods are also being developed here for conducting randomised clinical trials using quality registers, an approach that has attracted international attention.
  • U-CARE is a strategic research environment in caring sciences with a focus on the psychosocial effects of serious and life-threatening illnesses. The environment has been built up around the development of a patient–healthcare professional interface, models and software.
  • Life science cluster and EIT Health – Business start-ups, commercialisation and implementation of new knowledge are emphasised in an internationally competitive hub focused on life sciences. EIT Health aims to strengthen society in the long term by promoting personal health, with a particular focus on the ageing population. The initiative Uppsala Health Summit influences decision-makers and other actors in society.
  • Pharmaceutical development – The development of functional and safe pharmaceuticals is key to effective medical treatment. Identifying biomolecules and their role in disease processes creates new prospects for diagnosing diseases and treating them with pharmaceuticals. Uppsala University is a key actor in the SciLifeLab Drug Discovery and Development (DDD) platform. Major development areas include pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmacy, calculation methodology for the simulation of chemical and biological structures and processes, the use of cell-based methods, effective strategies for clinical pharmaceutical development, and product design and production.

Nature and evolution

Knowledge about the building blocks of nature and natural phenomena lays the foundation for human understanding of the fundamental structure of our world and the processes by which it develops. Research extending the limits of the knowable offers rich opportunities for the development of theories, models and new technology. Some examples are:

  • Knowledge about the properties and structures of materials leads to an ability to tailor functionality with high precision in broad fields such as nanotechnology and biomaterials.
  • Evolution and diversity are central to world-leading research at the Evolutionary Biology Centre, including Human Diversity, and the Linnaeus environment Uppsala Centre of Evolution and Genomics.
  • Uppsala University participates actively in international projects such as IceCube and is engaged in Uppsala itself in developing and constructing components for ‘Big Physics’ within the framework of the FREIA Laboratory.