- Written by Anna Strom
"In line with the government directives, the strategic research areas hosted by Umeå University will continue. However, this is on the condition that you continue having a set aside, strategic funds, so that we will be able to adjust our activities in accordance with any new directives that the government may specify" in its forthcoming Letter of Regulation, said Sommarin, who is also chair of the Bio4Energy Board, commenting on the research bill.
"Now that we know we have been granted a continuation, we will be following up on the quality improvement work initiated in connection with the  evaluation of Bio4Energy. Cooperation within the sector, interactions between our research and education initiatives and gender equality are areas that we will be keeping an eye on", according to Sommarin.
Bio4Energy is one of 43 strategic research environments (SREs) appointed by the previous government at the outcome of a competitive selection procedure led by Swedish authorities the Swedish Research Council, Vinnova, the Swedish Research Council Formas, Forte and the Swedish Energy Agency. The task of the 43 entities has been to create or consolidate internationally-leading research environments, equipped with a clear focus and plans for contributing to the solution of key societal problems. Bio4Energy develops methods and tools for conducting efficient and sustainable biorefinery—in which biofuels and green chemicals are produced—and delivers or contributes to programmes that are specifically designed to educate students to become equipped for developing the biorefinery of the future or building the bioeconomy in other ways.
Bio4Energy's first programme period spanned the years 2010-2015. In 2014 an encompassing evaluation of the performance of the SREs was conducted by the authorities and an international evaluation panel made up of independent experts. A third of the SREs were deemed to be of top quality in terms of strategic management and making good progress toward becoming world leading in terms of the scientific research produced. Bio4Energy was taken to be among the top third. Since then the members of its executive leadership have been biting their nails, waiting to hear the government's verdict on a possible continuation past 2016.
"It brings us hope that we will be allowed to continue our activities in the long term. I feel that we are part of the society’s transition towards a bioeconomy", he added: "In particular, we will be working hard to give our students the skills needed to work in the biorefinery sector".
"We are very happy to be trusted to continue running this initiative. This gives us the possibility to build on the many new collaborations that have come about thanks to Bio4Energy. Today we are a creative and a productive environment for cooperation across borders", Rova said.
"As far as our education initiatives go, we will be giving the two generic courses of the Bio4Energy Graduate school next year and we have opened it up to students at universities who are not part of Bio4Energy. Industry representatives will have the possibility to participate in the courses, as well, and we will be increasing our efforts to create projects which implies joint work between industry and our students".