Annual report 2015: Research

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Karolinska Institutet, KI, has made continued efforts to enhance the preconditions that are necessary for taking further steps towards the absolute forefront of international research. This involves investments in infrastructure, both at the university and in collaboration with healthcare services. New career paths have been created, the conditions for strategic recruitment have improved and there is increased focus on competition for research grants. Collaboration with industry has been improved.

"An increasingly important task for KI is collaboration with society at large. In the Stockholm region KI is developing its collaboration with Stockholm County Council (SCC) and with KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University. There is also greater international cooperation with organisations and leading universities. KI is working actively to increase collaboration with parts of the regional and global pharmaceutical industry. Broad collaboration and interaction with society at large is a prerequisite for KI’s continued development."

Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren, Dean of Research


Measures of academic output – bibliometrics

KI and many other universities use bibliometrics to follow the dissemination and impact of research results. Bibliometrics involves the application of mathematical and statistical methods to articles, books and other communications media. Reported data should be seen from a long-term perspective. The number of published articles is a rough measure of academic output and depends on a variety of factors, such as the publication patterns of different disciplines. The bars in the figure below represent published articles with addresses that can be connected to KI.

Figures are based on the year of publication and unfractionated calculation. Because there is a slight delay in the database being updated, complete statistics for the past year are not available at the time the annual report is published. This means that details for 2015 are not reported so as to provide a true and fair view of developments. The sub-items number of “articles” and “reviews” have increased by 47 per cent since 2005, and half the increase has taken place since 2010. For all reported sub-items, the increase in total since 2005 is about 52 per cent.

Field-normalised citation score

The field-normalised citation score reflects the number of citations of the article compared to other articles of the same type, i.e. the same type of document from the same year and the same subject. An article’s score is 1 if it is cited as many times as the average number for similar articles. The graph shows the average value of the field-normalised citation score for all articles from KI. Changes from previous years are relatively small, which means that KI maintains a level above the world average. Published articles from 2015 cannot constitute the basis of stable and reliable results and have been excluded.

Work on the integrated quality management system commenced in 2015 in accordance with Strategy 2018. This involves work to define and develop quality indicators and quality improvement processes. This work will be developed further in 2016.

Recruitment strategy

KI’s recruitment strategy includes coordination and inventory of needs, financing for the group of professors, strategic recruitments and recruitment tools as well as a career structure for junior researchers, such as the tenure track. Resources have been allocated for supporting departments in their recruitment of particularly qualified and internationally leading researchers and for “anti-recruiting”. There is also funding for the recruitment of junior researchers (the "Career Ladder"). An important part of a researcher’s development is to undertake a postdoc period in a highly qualified international environment. This constitutes one of several qualification criteria when filling positions on the Career Ladder.

Commissions as a research team leader

Special criteria have been developed for academic commissions at the research team level in order to raise the profile of academic leadership at this level. The research team constitutes the basis of research and is an important part of the department. The research team is an appropriate unit by which to evaluate quality. The commission as a research team leader is also intended to provide the opportunity for development, greater independence and the acquisition of qualifications for career advancement and other leadership commissions.

Research funding

Having increased for several years, direct government funding has now levelled off. External funding continues to increase. In relation to 2014, this increase is 8.6 per cent. Funding from research councils has increased by 14.8 per cent, while funding from Swedish companies has increased by 27.3 per cent. The proportion of external funds to government funds has seen a slight increase, to 65 per cent.

Total research revenue 2012–2015 (SEK million)
  2012 2013 2014 2015 Change
2014-2015 (%)
Funding source          
Research councils 729 800 844 969 14.8
Other government agencies 349 344 288 307 6.6
Municipalities and county councils 475 396 376 400 6.4
Swedish foundations and organisations 692 779 904 974 7.7
Foreign foundations and organisations 343 351 409 405 -1.0
Swedish companies 168 182 198 252 27.3
Foreign companies 73 85 94 89 -5.3
Dividends from KI funds 56 68 70 76 8.6
Financial income 50 35 18 6 -66.7
Total external funding 2,935 3,040 3,202 3,478 8.6
Direct government funding 1,723 1,763 1,920 1,897 -1.2
Total 4,669 4,802 5,121 5,375 5.0
Proportion of external funding (%) 63 63 63 65  

The European Union

KI retained its position as the largest recipient of EU grants of all Swedish higher education institutions, and one of the largest in Europe, in the field of health. A total of 214 projects at KI were funded by the EU in 2015. Revenues from these amounted to SEK 232 million. KI coordinates twelve of these projects. KI is also involved in projects within the programmes for food, ICT and communication technology, nano-science, safety and environmental science. KI participates in 14 of a total of 57 ongoing Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI) projects, and is coordinator in one project. KI also commenced two new projects under the EU Health Programme in 2015. The first call for proposals within the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Health was announced in 2015. The Scandinavian head office, which is one of six European “Co-Location Centres” has been established in Stockholm at KI Science Park.

KI maintains its national top position with regard to the number of research constellations within the field of health in “top-down” projects. However, KI has stepped down from first to fourth place in the list of Swedish recipients of EU grants. This is in part due to the fact that Horizon 2020 grants have had a greater focus on applied research.

European support for individual researchers

European grants for individual researchers are primarily received from the European Research Council (ERC) and the Research Executive Agency (REA). Four new projects supported by the ERC were started in 2015. At the end of 2015, KI had 29 ongoing ERC projects. The ERC provides support to individual researchers for ideas that have the potential to make a difference in their particular field.

The university has received two Consolidator Grants, which are intended for excellent researchers on their way to consolidating their research position. A grant was also awarded with the aim of advancing ERC project ideas, a Proof of Concept Grant. KI has nine ERC Advanced Grants already running, 14 Starting Grants, five Consolidator Grants and one Proof of Concept Grant.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme encompasses both individual and network-based forms of support, with a common aim to reinforce Europe’s intellectual capital and competitiveness. In 2014 there were 18 individual Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants to researchers at KI. KI had 21 network-based grants, of which six were new. For the first time, KI is the coordinator for such a network project.

Research funding from the European Union

Number of EU projects 2011–2015*
  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total number of projects 222 234 229 202 214
with KI as coordinator** 31 21 19 15 12

* Number of current projects within FP6, FP7 and the Health Programme. Decided but not yet started are not included.

** The figures referring to KI as coordinator do not include projects supported by the European Research Council, ERC.

Source: EU database KI.

Strategic infrastructure

Modern research requires a greater degree of integrated and advanced research infrastructures that can provide researchers with high-quality service. In 2015, KI and the other Swedish higher education institutions have carried out a needs assessment in order to identify advanced methods and expensive instrumentation that could well be hosted at one or more institutions with a nation-wide service. KI is responsible for or participates in several important infrastructures.

The Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Center (Swetox), a centre for research and education in toxicologically related sciences, has undergone further development in 2015. Swetox is a collaboration between eleven universities, with a large research/testing facility in Södertälje. Science for Life Laboratory, SciLifeLab, has continued its national development and now also includes activities at higher education institutions besides the four hosts, of which KI is one party. SciLifeLab provides access to modern instruments for advanced large-scale research projects, focusing on studies of the function of genes and proteins. SciLifeLab hosts a platform for pharmaceuticals development that shares equipment with the national organisation in the field of chemical biology, Chemical Biology Consortium Sweden (CBCS), at the KI campus.

Swedish Infrastructure for Integrated Structural Biology, SWEDSTRUCT, is working to create a cohesive infrastructure for structural biology and also has synergies with SciLifeLab. Biobanking and Molecular Resource Infrastructure of Sweden ( aims to create a national standard for the collection of biobank samples, along with cost-effective opportunities for long-term storage and analysis of samples. KI is also working with the Stockholm County Council, SCC, to set up a number of regional facilities for biobanking collaboration.

International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF)

INCF was established by the OECD in August 2005 for the purposes of developing the field of neuroinformatics (data sharing and computer modelling). Neuroinformatics is a separate part of bioinformatics, which is very important for the development of knowledge about the function of the nervous system and its psychiatric and neurological diseases.

In 2015, Malaysia joined INCF, which now has 18 member countries in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia, and is financed through fees related to the countries’ investments in research and development. INCF also collaborates within various EU projects, such as the Human Brain Project, and the clinical Traumatic Brain Injury Project.


Internationalisation initiatives at KI aim to improve quality and diversity in our research, education and administration in order to improve both the university’s competitiveness and that of its partners. The concept of internationalisation covers international relations and mobility as well as all activities that add an international dimension. 

TRAC (Vietnam)

Training and Research Academic Collaboration (TRAC) is a three-year collaborative project between five Swedish higher education institutions: KI (coordinator), Uppsala University, Umeå University, the University of Gothenburg and Linköping University. These institutions have together received SEK five million from the Foundation for the Internationalisation of Education and Research (STINT) in order to establish a common platform/common infrastructure for research and education collaboration between Vietnam and Sweden. The project inherits from relations established during the many years that Swedish higher education institutions have been operating in Vietnam.

Mayo Clinic (USA)

In September, KI hosted the 21st network meeting within the platform cooperation between KI and Mayo Clinic. Around 140 guests from the USA participated in the hitherto biggest joint conference with a focus on research, education, administration and innovation. Co-arranger for this year’s event was Karolinska University Hospital. During the year funding was admitted for ten research projects and support activities as well as visiting travels.

The Rockefeller University (USA)

KI collaborates with the Rockefeller University through postdoctoral researcher exchanges, short-term exchanges of technical and academic staff and the series of Nicholson Lectures. These lectures are held alternately at each university.

National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)

For many years KI has had a research, education and doctoral education partnerships in Singapore. As a means of further developing KI’s relationships and in order to initiate deeper cooperation within the areas of immunology and infection, a symposium was held at the end of the year with the National University of Singapore, with participation from Nanyang Technological University.

Seoul National University (South Korea)

During the year KI renewed its declaration of intent regarding cooperation with Seoul National University. There are research cooperations within several areas, including cancer and biomedical technology.

The University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)

During the year KI and the University of Edinburgh have identified each other as strategic collaboration partners. A Memorandum of Understanding to develop this cooperation within several different complementary research areas, has been signed.

Hong Kong (China)

In February it was announced that KI had received a donation of USD 50 million from Hong Kong-based businessman Ming Wai Lau. The Ming Wai Lau Center for Regenerative Medicine will consist of two nodes, one in Stockholm and one in Hong Kong, where researchers will be given opportunity to work together in an independent international research environment. During the year work has been undertaken to the centre at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park during 2016.

Max Planck Society (Germany)

During the year KI signed an agreement with the Max Planck Society in Germany to establish a joint laboratory at KI specialising in congenital metabolic diseases: Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing – Karolinska Institutet Laboratory. This cooperation will deepen already ongoing research on congenital metabolic diseases.

Makerere University (Uganda)

During the year a new agreement has been signed to regulate the opportunity for a double PhD degree. An open seminar and a meeting of alumni were also arranged together with the College of Health Sciences. Four project applications from KI were approved by Sida in 2015 under the Research and Training Partnership Programme 2015–2020.

Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, MUHAS (Tanzania)

During 2015 six project applications with funding by Sida (the Swedish international development agency) have been approved for cooperation with MUHAS in 2015–2020, five of which are coordinated from KI. One of these projects concerns raising the capacity of doctoral education and research at MUHAS.

International collaboration

Equal opportunities

Training for research team leaders was carried out for the first time in 2015. The course includes a half-day seminar about equal opportunities and an online course tailored to this group.

Annual report