In 2008, the Swedish government made an investment in Strategic Research Areas (SRA's) and Sustainable Use of Nature Resources was selected one of the areas of priority. This extensive area was organised into two parts; "Mines and Minerals" and "Forests and Other Raw Material from Plants". As for the latter of these parts, the programme TC4F, Trees and Crops for the Future, was successful.
Trees and Crops for the Future - TC4F
TC4F develops knowledge on sustainable plant production and plant based product development with the main objective to support the development of the new circular bioeconomy in Sweden. TC4F includes research in agricultural as well as forestry systems linking basic research on plant molecular biology, plant physiology and genetics to applied research on silviculture and plant based products. TC4F started in 2010 as a collaboration between The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Umeå University (UmU) and the Forestry Research Institute (Skogforsk). Within SLU the collaboration includes three faculties; the faculty of forest sciences, the faculty of landscape architecture, horticulture and crop production science, and the faculty of natural resources and agricultural sciences. TC4F has high ambitions to provide social benefit through interaction with the agricultural and forestry sector.
TC4F is appointed as a strategic research area (SRA) for the Swedish society by the government. The background is that in the Swedish Research Bill (2008) the former government resolved to provide funding for research at Swedish universities in certain SRA’s. Twenty SRA’s were identified. The calls for proposals were made in January 2009 and the closing date was in mid-March the same year. Each application should have a main applicant and should be made in cooperation with one co-applicant or more. The Vice Chancellor at SLU together with the management group decided that SLU would apply to two SRA’s as main applicant and as co-applicant to an additional number of SRA’s. SLU were successful in three applications; TC4F as the main applicant, Bio4Energy as co-applicant (main applicant UmU) and Stand-up for Energy as co-applicant (main applicant Uppsala University). In total, 43 strategic research environments received funding for an initial period of five years. The government announced in the call that an evaluation would be made after these initial five years and depending on the outcome, the funding could be made permanent. The evaluation was conducted by an international evaluation committee in 2015, in which SLU was considered to have successfully conducted research within TC4F. Thus, TC4F retained their funding for this SRA.
An important investment in future research for SLU, Umeå University and the Forestry Research Institute
One of the government’s main purposes with the SRA-initiative was to increase Sweden’s competitiveness internationally. The evaluation in 2015 showed that TC4F was an SRA of great importance for Sweden’s competitiveness. Moreover, the research produced within TC4F was considered to be of very high quality. The research within TC4F includes both basic and applied research in agricultural as well as forestry systems. In addition, TC4F serves as a platform for collaboration between scientists from different basic and applied research disciplines. TC4F is also integrated in other successful research programs such as Berzelii Centre for Biotechnology, Future Forests, ICON and Framtidens oljeväxter. As a result of this integration, TC4F has efficiently reached out with research results to actors within the agricultural and forestry sector. Research advances within TC4F has also contributed to that SLU, UmU and the Forestry Research Institute can profile themselves as strong, successful and future oriented research environments within plant science in Sweden and in the world.
TC4F is a collaboration between established research environments at the Swedish University of Agriculture, Umeå University and the Forestry Research Institute and it is based on an interdisciplinary way of working, which creates added values and new findings in the interface between different specialist areas. In a complex world it is an increasingly widespread apprehension that joint actions of different disciplines are necessary to meet climate change and develop a sustainable society.
The different research groups from four different themes collaborating within TC4F, were from the start part of strong research environments, which during the time of the programme have been strengthened further. PhDs have been employed and given access to unique networks, which give them prerequisites to build increasingly stronger results for the future.
TC4F acts to;
- Make SLU, Umeå University and the Forestry Research Institute internationally visible through good research and strong publications.
- Educate future scientists. The program is fully or partly financing a number of PhD-students and Post-docs.
- Disseminate knowledge to actors in the society within the area of plant research as well as to students. TC4F’s researchers contribute to a high degree to integration with societal actors, with other national and international researchers and with students.