2021 is a special year – with the persisting Covid-19 challenge, but also in the light of the progress made and the lessons learned from COP 15 on biodiversity and COP26 on climate change. Having our minds and our hearts brightened by new inspirations and new perspectives from the memorial event for the Nobel Day at Ambassador Helena Sångeland’s residence, let us, together with you, conclude 2021 by a few stories and thoughts– in the Spirit of Nobel.
The Spirit of Nobel – Inspirations from working with Nobel Laureates
Let us start with the true “Spirit of Nobel” at the event – shared by two researchers who have been working closely with two Nobel Laureates.
As a colleague of Prof. TU Youyou, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 for many years, Prof. LIAO Fulong saw the selfless dedication, truth-seeking and pragmatic scientific spirit as well as the spirit of endless innovation and exploration as her “Spirit of Nobel”. Inspired by this, Prof. LIAO and his team are continuing with their research and innovation efforts to make Chinese traditional medicine a greater contribution to the health and well-being of people all around the world.
For Dr. JIN Yuliang, who was a post-doctoral researcher of Prof. Giorgio Parisi, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics this year, the “Spirit of Nobel” that he saw and felt was Prof. Parisi’s creative thinking and ground-breaking approach to combining theoretical physics and climate science, for the greatest benefit to humankind.
Sweden-China Top Scientists Dialogue – Science-Inspired Actions for Climate and Nature
It was our pleasure and privilege to have three very special top scientists joining us at our event. They are not only leading actors in the fields of academic research and policy development. They have also been bridges between Sweden and China to move the research frontier forward as well as to carry out dialogue for mutual understanding and policy innovation. They shared their thoughts on climate research and the Nobel Prize, the progress and the gap between climate sciences and climate policies as well as how science-based evidence and policy studies can support China’s “dual-carbon targets”. In the context of the Nobel Prize in Physics this year, the “system complexities” that policymakers, the business sector and even citizens need to understand better as well as their relevance for the future Sweden-China cooperation on research and innovation were the focus of the dialogue. A few highlights to share as the follows:
- Climate science has contributed to the science in many ways, not only climate-related natural sciences, but also to social sciences and sustainable development of societies, such as economics and peace. In the future, the links between climate science, physiology, medicine and global health, will and need to be strengthened.
- The great advancement in climate science in the past 30 years, is now broadly embedded and integrated with earth system science, in terms of complex system dynamics, feedbacks and interactions between oceans, land, air, living and biological systems as well as biodiversity, etc. To move the research frontier forward, we need to further develop this earth system approach, adding the human dimension to the system, for dealing with complex feedbacks, building up resilience as well as for disaster and risks prevention and management.
- Thanks to science and science-supported interdisciplinary system analyses, 15 different tipping points, which will lead to irreversible changes, negative societal impacts and inter-generational inequities, have been identified in the latest IPCC-report. We need new policy-making mechanisms and capacities, with both precaution and proactiveness, to combine climate science with policy implementation, based on the earth system approach, with speed and scale for a “safe-landing” towards the 1.5-degree target.
- From a policy perspective, we need to break the linear perception and thinking when it comes to our development and growth models. We need dialogue and collaboration between science and policy to define, measure and quantify the system sustainability in the development perspective.
- As a future direction for research, incl. for Sweden-China cooperation, we need to set safe and science-based red lines and targets for ecosystems and natural resources to build resilience, not only about climate, but also prevention of the next pandemic, putting human and planetary health into one integrated research and policy agenda for the future system sustainability.
Pioneer the Possible – From Hammarby Sjöstad 2.0 to Stockholm Green Innovation District
Hammarby Sjöstad is well-known, even in China, as a transformation success. What is less known is how to make the transformation to the next level, i.e. from Hammarby Sjöstad 1.0 to Hammarby Sjöstad 2.0 as well as how to replicate the success with even greater diversity, innovativeness and inclusiveness, i.e. the new transformation approach and the new initiative of Stockholm Green Innovation District. At the same time, we see that actions are also taking place in Chinese cities after China’s carbon-peaking and carbon-neutrality goals were launched last year. At the event, Allan Larsson, Olle Burell and Dr. FANG Li, who are the best suited representatives from both sides, presented and discussed these new developments. A few observations and reflections from the dialogue:
- The sustainability transformation has moved from “why” to “how”, both in Sweden and in China, which requires changes in production and consumption as well as lifestyle and behaviour.
- From Hammarby 1.0 to Hammarby 2.0 is really a process of starting from “top-down” with policy and planning, then step-by-step combining with “bottom-up” through management, business and innovation development as well as citizen engagement and behavioral changes.
- Given both the huge challenges and the short time to achieve the “dual-carbon goals”, Chinese cities need a “3-in-1” approach, i.e. policy, business and citizen need to be engaged already in the very beginning, and at once.
- International cooperation and mutual learning are therefore more important than ever, so we do not repeat the same mistakes. At the same time we can find solutions together and scale up the solutions together.
In China and for China – Swedish business pioneering the possible for sustainability transformation
Sustainability transformation will not be possible, unless the visions and targets are translated into innovations and actions. As one of the most innovative countries in the world, as one of the most advanced countries when it comes to sustainability, the Swedish business sector is a true pioneer who has made Sweden a forerunner in innovation-driven sustainability transformation. They do it in Sweden. They do it in China. Ericsson, Volvo Group and Scania shared their stories to pioneer the possible, through digitalisation-empowered green transformation, value-chain focused sustainable transformation of transport and logistics services as well as integrated system solutions to align sustainable waste management and public transport.
Getting back to the Chinese context and development, science and innovation have a very special place in China’s national innovation system and the Chinese society today. We see two interesting and important trends. Firstly, the understanding of the relationship between basic research and innovation has advanced considerably. Secondly, discovering and supporting “talents”, particularly young talents, has become one of the key pillars of China’s research and innovation development. At our event, we hear and learn two very innovative and forward-looking initiatives. The Xplore Prize of Tencent is one of the most generous talent funding programs in China to encourage young scientists to do basic research in unexplored areas and frontier technologies. DeepTech China, in collaboration with MIT Technology Review, puts forward the annual list of “35 Innovators Under 35” (MIT TR 35) in China and Asia Pacific to discover and support top-level young talents in research and innovation. Even more interestingly, we see the outcome of these initiatives – in person at our event, to hear the dreams they have and the differences they want to make.
Top Climate Scientists Dialogue – Research for Impact and Transformation
Of the Reuters Hot List of 1,000 Top Climate Scientists in 2020, 87 are from China. Two of these top climate scientists, Prof. CHEN Bin and Prof. PENG Shushi, together with one of the winners of the Tencent Xplore Prize, Prof. LIN Borong joined us to share their thoughts on how top-level research could make societal and policy impacts. Departing from different disciplines and working from different angles, they demonstrated such strong innovativeness and high scientific quality in their research. Their integrated terrestrial and climate systems modelling, big data-based modelling to support climate policy making as well as the integrated approach to improving built environment and energy efficiency are making significant contributions to push the research frontier of sustainability transformation forward.
Pioneer the Possible – Inspirations from Young Talents in Research and Innovation
The most important motivation for why Dr. CHEN Ji, Dr. TONG Dan and Dr. ZHOU Xiaozhou were listed on “MIT TR 35” is the pioneering nature of what they are doing in their research and entrepreneurial endeavour, such as application of quantum computational methods to interdisciplinary topics related to environment and energy, big-data supported energy-human-environment system analysis and translating lab technologies to industrial solutions in the fields of sustainable iron and steel making via carbon capture and utilization (CCU). When we meet these top-level young talents face to face, we are not only inspired by their innovative and pioneering ideas, but also moved by their pioneering spirit and energy.
Science and innovation diplomacy with the dialogue on “Pioneer the Possible” for sustainability…
This event is our effort to put science and innovation diplomacy in action – through a dialogue on “Pioneer the Possible” for sustainability, on this special day, in the spirit of Nobel. As both Ambassador Helena Sångeland and Mr. Chen Mingming, the former Ambassador of China to Sweden reminded us, the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm was a historical milestone for the world to recognize the interconnections between humans and nature. China’s participation had a historical significance for its environment policy and governance.
On the way towards Stockholm+50 next year, we see new opportunities for enhanced Sweden-China cooperation on science, innovation and sustainability. Sweden’s ambition to be one of the first fossil-free welfare states and China’s “dual-carbon goals” provide us with a common ground.
With these stories and thoughts, we would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our colleagues and partners a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thank you all for your support and cooperation in 2021 and we will be in touch with our new ideas and new activities in 2022!
Nannan Lundin, Linnea Yang, Jessica Zhang and Matilde Eng