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Research centres

A vast amount of the research activities at KTH is carried out in research centres. It is a structured form of collaboration between academia, business, and society to focus on a specific target area.

Picture at the entrance at Teknikrikngen 1, bicycles and trees in the foreground. Photo: Olof Holdar

Contact

Sanna Pehrson, Head of unit, Strategic Initiatives: pehrso@kth.se  
Malin Hedengran, centers in the Transport- and Life Science domain: malheden@kth.se
Pierre Bodin, centers in the Energy and ICT domain: piebod@kth.se
Micael Stehr, centers in the Materials domain: stehr@kth.se
Johan Schuber, centers related to the Strategic Research Areas (SRA): jschuber@kth.se

Support when establishing centres

When a new research centre is established, the research advisors in the STRIV team provide support for conceptualisation, research plan, and long-term budget plan. Other support includes e.g., changing board members, directors, extension or closure of research centers, or connection with new partners.

Significant and often long-term funding enables the necessary critical mass and various forms of competencies in different fields. The Research Support Office works closely with all KTH´s research centres to ensure that they have the best setup and other requirements needed to develop excellent research environments and strategic development led by appointed boards.

List with KTH's centres

How KTH work with research centres

Organisation and administration

What is a centre?

A centre is an informal unit in the KTH line management structure and must have a domicile in one of KTH’s schools. However, the centre has a defined influence on the centre activities and operations based on the centre’s board’s mandate, stated in agreements and contracts. A centre cannot make decisions on behalf of KTH that contradicts regulations that KTH has as a public authority.

Employment in centres

People involved in the centre activities that another organisation does not employ must be employed in the KTH line management structure. The centre should not be the organisational unit, but it will cover the costs. Decisions related to employment are managed by the dean, based on recommendations by the centre director. Other staff-related issues can be delegated from the dean to the centre director. The school provides administrative support, facilities and services as agreed between the centre and the school and at cost price.

Formal agreements should be established on a need basis by the centre and the school.

Decisions

Annual business plan and budget

An annual business plan and budget shall be submitted to the head of school for approval with the exception of the SRA, where the plans are submitted to the president or to a delegated person according to the delegation order.

Decisions on the content and implementation of the activities within a centre shall be made within the framework of KTH's line organisation following KTH's delegation order and according to the initiative's steering documents, e.g. funding decisions and collaboration agreement.

On particular matters with financial or budgetary implications, the centre's board has a formal recommending mandate. Decisions on the centre activities, direction and business development, the board are usually mandated to decide on its own, considering the limitations stated in the collaboration agreements and financier's requirements.

Financiers

An external financier can state in their financing decision that decisions within the centre, related to the use of the grant/allocated funds, should formally be made by the financier. In some cases, the financier can choose to delegate the decision right to the president, who usually delegates this further, however not to a person who can is in a situation where there is a conflict of interests, e.g. the head of school, the head of department, or a someone in the centre's board.

Concerning decisions on the use of allocated funds, these can be made in the following ways, depending on the financier's requirements or in agreement with the other financing partners:

  • No specific financier requirements. The head of school approves the research collaboration initiative's annual business plan (action plan) and budget, authorization of other decisions shall be made in accordance with the delegation order of the school
  • Financier decisions with delegation: The board makes recommendations for decisions which are ratified by the president/delegated by special routine
  • Direct financier decisions: The board makes recommendations for decisions. The financier concludes a separate project agreement with the participating parties.

The centres which mainly receives allocated faculty funds by KTH's president, for example the strategic research areas (SRA), decisions are made by the president/delegate based on the board's recommendation for decisions.

Risk of conflict of interest

All involvement and work performance within the framework of the centre take into account the risk of conflict of interest and self-interest. Decisions within the centre shall be made at arm's length from the activities and with transparency in terms of the basis and motivation for decisions. In particular, individuals shall not participate in decisions where the individual has a vested interest in the outcome of the decision, regardless if it applies to their own research activities, their own interest in commercialising results, or access to or sharing of information.

The board, in particular the chair, is responsible for ensuring that this is handled effectively in accordance with the present internal and external guidelines and good practice. This can be done, e.g. by developing specific working procedures as needed.

Financial issues

Unique accounting unit

The centre should have a unique accounting unit within the school. Financial information should be designed in such a way that the centre has separate book-keeping than that of the school and KTH.

The centre will annually establish:

  • A plan of operations
  • Staffing plan
  • Budget
  • The income statement, the results of the current balance sheet and the annual report shall be settled in both periodical and annual financial statements.

Plans of operations and budget

The board decides upon the business plan and budget, which shall be submitted to the the head of school for approval. There is an exception for the strategic research areas (SRA) where the KTH president approves the business plan and budget based on the board's recommendations. The director is responsible for ensuring that an appropriate project structure is established and that the current accounts are carried out in accordance with the rules in force.

To this end, the centre shall have a unique cost unit. Any fixed assets in the centre's activities, which do not belong to an external organization, is reported by the centre. Costs of their use, such as depreciation, shall always be reported by the centre.

The director shall inform the head of school in the event of major changes in activities or financial circumstances. If financial or administrative circumstances arise, which are not in line with the current business plan, budget or other regulations, one shall firstly seek to resolve the matter by mutual agreement between the centre and the school. If this is not possible, the head of school shall take the matter to the president or to a delegated person in accordance with the delegation order.

Governance and management

Annual general meeting (AGM)

A centre with several partners have a formal forum, the annual general meeting (AGM), where all participating partners can influence the organisational setup and operations of the centre. The AGM handles the collaboration agreements and consultations on specific issues that affects all partners. At the AGM, KTH is represented by the president, the vice president for research or by delegation to someone with pre-defined authority.

Board's mission and role

  • Ensure the strategic and long-term development of the centre, with the exception of the strategic research areas, SRA, where the researchers themselves are responsible for the research agenda and prioritised activities under the lead of the centre director in dialogue with the board.
  •  Ensure the general management of the centre operations based on the framework provided by the business plan, the collaboration agreements and requirements of the funding body.
  • Establish the annual activity plan and budget.
  • Handle reports and financial information.
  • Decide on or provide recommendations for decisions on which projects should be conducted within the centre operations.
  • Ensure that the operations are run in a correct and ethically sustainable manner.
  • Act as a forum for the partners' views and opinions of the centre operations.
  • Handle the termination of the centre operations.

When can the board act?

The board is competent to act when at least 50 percent of the group members are present. Decisions are taken by simple majority and in accordance with the collaboration agreement.

In the case of an equal number of votes, the chair has the casting vote. The chair is responsible for the board function and reports to KTH's president or to whom the president gives delegation to. 

The role of centre director

The centre director is responsible for the execution of centre operations vis-a-vis the board, and is also responsible for the compliance with administrative guidelines, regulations and delegation orders at KTH.

The centre director has the means and the responsibilities of the centre as stated in the business plan and budget established by the board.

The centre director is usually employed at KTH and as such has the financial authorisation of the centre according to the delegation order of the school. If the centre director is not an employee at KTH, the financial authorisation should be carried out by the head of school or a someone who is given the delegation to handle this.

Best practises

Centres of Excellence, Linnécentra

In 2005, the Swedish Research Council (VR) and Formas, were commissioned by the government to provide support for the establishment of Centres of Excellence, also called Linnaeus centres, hosted by Swedish Universities in accordance with the research bill 2004/o5:80 ”Forskning för en bättre framtid”.

This led to the financing of 40 centres, which received 5-10 MSEK per year. In 2019, the centres were evaluated by an international panel to provide feedback to the government on how the outcome of the initiative had led to the desired effects. The report, which can be downloaded here,  shows that the initiative has both been very successful and has strengthened the internationalisation of Swedish Universities.  

FLOW

  • The Linnaeus Centre FLOW gathered expertise in flow dynamics at KTH with researchers from mechanics, craft technology and applied mathematics and the activities continue today as a department within the Department of Technical Mechanics at KTH.

Adopt

  • ADOPT did very well in its field of optics and photonics and managed to recruit new research talent. A concrete outcome of the Centre’s importance is that it led to KTH's participation in the EU FET Flagship Quantum Technologies Program.

ACCESS

  • ACCESS, has had a different line of development and has after the end of the centre been able to continue within the framework of the strategic research area focused on Digitalisation.
  • The centre is highlighted as a brilliant example of how, from the start, professional support was hired to establish a strong profile, focused on offering funds for visiting professors and services for postdocs. This gave the centre a critical mass and a good reputation, which in turn helped to obtain additional external funding and develop the research further.