CEO with an eye for innovation

She wants to foster new types of collaborations, in order to address global challenges. Meet Lena Miranda, CEO of Science Park Mjärdevi in Linköping.

Lena Miranda is proud to lead Science Park Mjärdevi, where large international companies live side by side with small start-ups. Magnus Johansson

During Lena Miranda’s five years as CEO, Science Park Mjärdevi has grown – and it will continue to grow. At Mjärdevi, international companies rub shoulders with start-ups, micro-businesses and consultants.

“It’s a unique environment. Whenever I present Mjärdevi and the region, I always feel a sense of pride”, she says.

Linköping University has been a constant throughout Lena Miranda’s career. She started in cultural studies; her aim was to be a journalist. Parallel with her studies she was involved in the student union, including as editor of its magazine, Sulan.

“When I became editor I had done a fair bit of writing and photography, but I’d never worked as an editor or headed an editorial office. I was shown to a little room with a Macintosh computer on a desk. I had to ask the editor of another student paper, in the next room, where the On-button was.”

New challenges don’t faze Lena Miranda. While working on her bachelor thesis she was recruited to Norrköping Municipality’s development company. She then spent a few years in the electronics industry before getting a phone call from the CEO of Skill, a recruitment agency that was a spin-off from LiU. The CEO was moving to a new job, and encouraged Miranda to apply for the vacant position.

“At the time my son was one month old, and I said no. But then I discussed it with my mother. who said ‘Go for it, I’ll help you’.”

Lena Miranda began the CEO job working half time when her son was six months old. When Skill was to be sold a few years later, she decided to purchase the company. Initially it was difficult, because the market suddenly crashed. Then after some successful years, in 2013 she sold Skill to Industrikompetens, another recruitment agency.

The idea was to stay on at the company, but a new opportunity appeared:

“Sten Gunnar Johansson, who had been CEO of Mjärdevi for 30 years, decided to retire. I had been eyeing his job a bit, so I applied. The funny thing is that after all those years in the recruitment business I had never applied for a job. I wrote an application and handed it to my husband. His comment was: “You’ve written about all the things you want to do, but haven’t presented yourself and why you should have the job.”

So she rewrote her application and got the job, despite tough competition. One of the first things she did as CEO was to visit a hundred Mjärdevi companies and ask them about their requirements and wishes. This formed the foundation of the strategy that is now taking the science park to new heights.

“Here I get to pull everything together, and tie in both national and of course international perspectives. Global challenges require new types of collaborations. Academia, industry and government agencies must work hand in hand.”

Leads collaboration of Swedish science parks

Lena Miranda, vd Mjärdevi Science Park; foto: Magnus Johansson, Linköpings universitet Photo credit Magnus JohanssonLena Miranda is also chairperson of SISP, Swedish Incubators & Science Parks. SISP works with advocacy and the exchange of experience. One important issue is the supply of talent.

“We need legislation that facilitates recruitment, especially of foreign talent, and solutions for researchers and students from other countries who want to stay in Sweden.”

She travels a lot for her job, and has taken two “workcations” – one in the United States and one in China – where she combines work and leisure.

“I was keen to learn more about Silicon Valley as a site for innovation, so I asked my company chairperson if I could work there for a few days.”

She ended up having about 25 meetings during four weeks in the summer of 2017. The following year she travelled to China to learn more about their innovation systems and what Swedish companies need to keep in mind.

So, how does Sweden compare, on an international level?

“We’re an engineering country that has generated several global success stories. Wherever I’ve travelled I’ve felt that Sweden is a leader in terms of technology development. But we can be better at sales.”

And maybe we should start at home, because not many people in the county of Östergötland know how many innovations Science Park Mjärdevi has spawned.

When Lena Miranda meets school groups, she has a trump card:

“You can watch Netflix thanks to technology created in Linköping in the late 1990s!”

From LiU magazine 2 2019

Translation: Martin Mirko

Lena Miranda, vd Mjärdevi Science Park; foto: Magnus Johansson, Linköpings universitetCreactive - one of many thriving environments in Science Park Mjärdevi. Photo credit Magnus Johansson

About Science Park Mjärdevi
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Founded in 1984, Science Park Mjärdevi is now Sweden’s second oldest science park. (Only Ideon Science Park in Lund is older.)
The park is home to more than 400 companies with 7,000 employees. Many of the companies arose from research at Linköping University.
LiU is an extremely important recruitment base for the businesses at Mjärdevi. Every year there is a recruitment fair and a degree project fair, organised together with the student union LinTek. There are also plans for a poster fair where doctoral students can present their research.

More alumni out to make a difference
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