First European UN Global Innovation Center established in Lund

October 21, 2019 was a significant day for Lund. It was the day when UNOPS, an operational arm of the UN, inaugurated its first Global Innovation Center in Europe at Ideon Science Park. Grete Faremo, UNOPS Executive Director, Ibrahim Baylan, the Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, and Kjell-Håkan Närfeldt, Chief Strategy Officer of Vinnova, were some of the inaugural speakers. They spoke about how Swedish innovations would help the world. “This is a day of change and hope,” says Mia Rolf, CEO of Ideon Science Park.

As early as the autumn of 2018, it became clear that UNOPS, the project delivery organization of the UN, would be establishing one of its Global Innovation Centers at Ideon in Lund. Swedish innovative capacity and Swedish companies must be matched with major international needs to be able to solve global challenges, such as in climate-saving measures.

The inauguration was held on October 21st to a full house of approximately 400 visitors, mainly from Lund but also from all over Sweden and around the world. The inaugural speakers were Grete Faremo, UNOPS Executive Director, Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, Kjell-Håkan Närfeldt, Chief Strategy Officer of Vinnova, Louise Eklund, Regional Council Member of Region Skåne, Philip Sandberg, Chair of the Municipal Executive Committee in Lund and Mia Rolf, CEO of Ideon Science Park.

“Innovation will be required if we wish to achieve sustainability targets,” says Grete Faremo. “To end poverty and reduce inequality, we must make fundamental changes in how we produce, distribute and consume. Sweden has an innovative culture and strong infrastructure to match this challenge. It also has the right social infrastructure and a committed ecosystem of stakeholders who want to transform ideas into reality.”

Innovation is the key to sustainable growth

The UN is planning a total of 17 innovation centers around the world, with the innovation center in Lund being one of the first in the world and the very first one to open in Europe. This is a step towards working towards the global development targets within Agenda 2030.

Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, pointed out that innovations are also an opportunity for the Swedish innovation system as an export product.

“Innovations are needed to create sustainable growth and sustainable change. Innovations are good for the environment and the climate, but I also see huge business opportunities for Sweden when new jobs and sustainable growth are created.”

The innovation center in Lund will not only provide support to individual companies and inventors, but also provide knowledge, models and support to developing countries that are beginning to build their own systems for innovation.

“This is a day of change and hope. As the number of global disasters increases, we need to build global structures in order to really make a difference,” states Mia Rolf. “We will do everything in our power to scout, match and develop ideas, innovations and solutions to meet the urgent challenges that UNOPS brings to the table. This is a message to Greta Thunberg and her friends – this is us adults listening and taking action. And to all adults, I want to say: let's work together and fix this!”

The innovation center in Lund will be headed by Sarah Emond, Central Manager UNOPS GIC Sweden. The UN is running the innovation center with Vinnova, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation as co-funders.

Three voices from the audience – What do you hope that UNOPS will mean for Lund?

“To me, being here is an occasion for celebration, just like when I was little and we celebrated United Nations Day,” says Birgitta Persson, Point of Value and Mejeriet. “I hope that it makes us in Lund think more globally.”

“This gives Lund further international connectivity and a greater focus on sustainable issues,” says Per Persson, Head of Economic Development for Lund Municipality. “UNOPS will further increase Lund’s attractiveness.”

“Lund is the perfect starting point of the UN incubator,” says Maria Sätherström Lantz, CEO of WIN. “It will strengthen an already strong innovation system and open up global marketing opportunities through UNOPS. I also hope that some of the innovation tools we have developed in the region can also be a source of inspiration elsewhere in the world.”


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