Expansion of Sweden’s largest research programme

The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP), Sweden’s largest individual research programme, has been extended by three years and will receive a further research grant of nearly SEK 1.3 billion.

An exercise at the WARA PS (public safety) arena, where academia and industry meet to solve challenges together. Magnus Johansson

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has decided to earmark further research funds to what was already Sweden’s largest individual research programme, WASP. This means that the programme, which started in 2014 and is hosted at Linköping University, will continue until 2029 with a total budget of SEK 5.5 billion. The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW) will provide SEK 4.2 billion, and the remainder will be provided, as previously, mainly from the five partner universities and industry.

“I am extremely proud and happy over the decision to extend and expand this huge and strategically important research programme. This creates extremely positive conditions for Helen Dannetun, Matilda Ernkrans, minister of higher education and research, and Lars Nielsen in the vehicle laboratory at LiU. Helen Dannetun, Matilda Ernkrans, minister of higher education and research, and Lars Nielsen in the vehicle laboratory at LiU. Photo credit Magnus Johanssonincreasing knowledge and improving society”, says Helen Dannetun, vice-chancellor at Linköping University.

The current programme director, Lars Nielsen, professor of vehicular systems at LiU agrees:“It’s extremely gratifying and inspiring to see the confidence in WASP that KAW demonstrates through such a large donation. We take this as recognition of the positive national collaboration that has been established at several levels, and of the excellent basic research we conduct.”

Under new management

On 1 January 2020, Sara Mazur will take over as WASP chair. She has previously been research director at Ericsson and is currently working at the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Anders Ynnerman, professor in scientific visualisation at LiU, will take over as programme director on 1 July 2020. Together, they will review the long-term investments and initiatives to which the new capital can contribute.

“We will continue to work towards our vision of strengthening Sweden’s expertise within AI, autonomous systems and software. One way we can do this is by continuing to recruit both junior and senior researchers to Sweden. We have so far managed to attract 15 professors and 12 associate senior lecturers, with more in the pipeline. There is considerable interest in coming to Sweden to carry out research here”, says Anders Ynnerman.

“The new financing and the extra years make it possible to continue to develop the research arenas in WASP. These are important environments for collaboration between the universities and Swedish industry in general, and will help to ensure that Sweden gains long-term benefit from the investment in research and education”, says Sara Mazur.

The rapid technical developments also give rise to questions of how society and humans are influenced by the arrival of autonomous systems. Recruitment outside of the technical fields is therefore important, and Virginia Dignum, professor in social and ethical artificial intelligence at Umeå University and scientific leader for the parallel WASP-HS research programme, is an important contribution to research in Sweden. WASP-HS is hosted at Umeå University, where Virginia Dignum will be working.

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