KVIST –competence development and exchange between two universities and the forest and wood industry.

How to build an arena for competence development and exchange between two universities and SMEs in the forest and wood industry in Sweden.

Malin Löfving
Träcentrum Nässjö Kompetensutveckling AB

Åsa Blom
Linnaeus University

Jenny Bäckstrand
Jönköping University

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Background and Objectives
There is a need to raise the level of competence and knowledge in the forestry and wood industry in Sweden for increased growth, innovation and competitiveness. The wooden industry in Sweden needs to recruit around 8500 people, of which 2,700 are blue collars, over the next five years. Both replacement recruitments and new recruitments are needed as the industry is growing, partly due to an increasing demand of wooden products. This is an effect of wood as the sustainable raw material resource and material of the future. However, forest and wood companies have a challenge in attracting qualified workers with the right skills and there is a high number of vacant jobs in the region. A majority of the SMEs in the forest and wood industry in Sweden are located in the region of Småland or in the nearby regions. These companies are located in small and have few employees with higher education. The companies often also have very little experience of working with academia and the innovation capability is low.

There neither exists a well-functioning collaborative structure for the regional development of the forest and wood industry that would be necessary in order to increase the growth and competitiveness of these companies, and thereby would ensure that jobs in rural areas can increase, nor is there any coordination between the two universities in the region (LNU and JU) to supply the SMEs in forest and wood industry with competence and knowledge. Today, the academic collaborations with the forest and wood industry is dependent on the individual researchers and mainly on the larger companies. As a result, the local SMEs within this industry have seldom received assistance with their development needs through, for example, theses or participation in research projects.

Therefore, the project KVIST (‘TWIG’ in English, the Swedish abbreviation of “Competence Shift In the Forest and Wood industry”) was jointly initiated by Träcentrum, Linneaus University and Jönköping University to increase the competence- and knowledge exchanges between SMEs in the forest and wood industry and the two universities in the region of Småland in Sweden. KVIST aims at increasing the number of knowledge intensive SMEs in the region, by develop the regional innovation environment. In KVIST, we will develop and implement an arena for closer collaboration between companies, academia and service support organizations. In the arena, companies should be able to grow and further develop based on their own requirements and needs. The KVIST project intend to lead to an increased knowledge- and competence level in the participating companies. KVIST will furthermore be promoted to all programs and students at the two universities, not only the programs that are traditionally related to the forest and wood industry.