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Postdoctoral studies in Sweden: Insights on funding agencies and research opportunities to advance your academic career 

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Postdoctoral studies in Sweden: Insights on funding agencies and research opportunities to advance your academic career by Swapnali Barde, PhD An image of a keyboard where the enter key is the flag of Sweden.

Sweden is well known globally for its breath-taking views, white winters, fika (coffee culture) and its emphasis on sustainability, social welfare system and high level of technological innovation. According to the World Economic Forum, Sweden ranks as the second most innovative country in the world which invests heavily in education and approximately 3 percent of its GDP in research and development, thereby making it an attractive place also for scientists, including postdoctoral research fellows. Sweden offers pronounced opportunities for postdoctoral researchers who want to expand their academic career and obtain valuable experience in a country that possesses a dynamic work culture and innovative research environment. In Sweden, postdoctoral training is highly esteemed, however, successful postdoctoral studies are easier with individual, independent funding. In this blog post, we take a closer look at some of the key players that can help postdoctoral researchers take the leap to chase their academic career. So, if you are seeking a postdoctoral position in this winter wonderland or just plain curious, continue reading to understand what options the Swedish funding landscape has to offer. 

Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet, VR)  

Vetenskapsrådet is the chief national funding agency for research in Sweden. It offers various options of funding, which includes international postdoctoral fellowships, project grants and career development grants. The main requisite for the international postdoctoral fellowship is that the candidate must have a Swedish PhD, which is less than two years at the time of application and performs the training outside Sweden. VR also provides base funding for return to Sweden after completion of the training. It supports interdisciplinary research and has specific funding programs for humanities and social sciences, medicine and health discipline, natural and engineering sciences and educational sciences. The selection process is thorough with emphasis on scientific distinction and potential for impact.  

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (Stiftelsen för Strategisk Forskning, SSF) 

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research is another major funding agency for research in Sweden with a strategic mission to financially support research of highest quality and contribute to Sweden’s future competitiveness. SSF provides an international postdoc grant for up to two years and a subsequent repatriation in Sweden for up to one year. It supports applications in one of the following areas: natural sciences, engineering or medicine. This foundation also funds entrepreneurial ideas and urges collaborations between the industry and academia. 

Wallenberg Foundations

The Wallenberg Foundations are a group of private foundations which support postdoctoral fellowships in all disciplines. In 2022, this foundation granted funding of almost 2.2 billion SEK, making it one of the largest private funders of scientific research in Europe. Of this group, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is the largest and supports research in medicine, technology and natural sciences. This foundation issues calls for applications in three programs at Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Broad Institute and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Support is provided for up to three years with an aim to support research projects that are innovative and have scientific potential.  

Ragnar Söderberg Foundation (Ragnar Söderbergs Stiftelse) 

Ragnar Söderberg’s Foundation is another private foundation that supports younger researchers in academics by project grants, postdoctoral positions and network support. Funding is provided for up to three years and open to candidates who have obtained a PhD within the last three years of the application deadline. The preferred disciplines are medicine, economics and law. It supports promising young scientists who aim to conduct independent research in Sweden.  

Wenner-Gren Fellow Fellowships for Postdoctoral training (WGF) 

Scholarships for the postdoctoral training is the most exclusive program of the Wenner-Gren Foundation and it aims to provide young researchers the prospect of postdoctoral training abroad for three years and then to conduct research in Sweden for two years. The doctoral degree must be no more than three years before the time of application. 

The Kempes Foundations (Kempestiftelserna) 

The Kempes Foundation primarily targets education and research and supports postdoctoral studies for a maximum of two years. They fund research in science, medicine and engineering and provide support via different programs, such as the Kempe Foundations’ Research Fellowship program which targets early researchers who wish to be in academics and conduct research in Sweden. This program is open to researchers who have obtained a PhD no more than three years prior to the application deadline.  

Funding Agencies in Sweden

In addition to the list above there are several more funding agencies that provide support to postdoctoral researchers in the specific fields, for example, in the life science and medicine discipline some other prominent funding sources are Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden), Swedish Brain Foundation (Hjärnfonden), Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation (Barncancerfonden), Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation (Hjärt-Lungfonden), Swedish Society for Medical Research (SSMF) and Apotekarscocietan which targets applications in drug development and pharmaceutical sciences. Similarly, several universities in Sweden offer their own postdoctoral funding opportunities such as Karolinska Instituet, Uppsala University, Lund University, Umeå University and more. 

Likewise, some of the funding agencies in engineering, technology and natural sciences in Sweden are Wallenberg AI autonomous systems and software program (WASP), Swedish Energy Agency (Energymyndigheten), Formas and as above, universities such as Chalmers University of Technology, Royal Institute of Technology and Lund University provide funding opportunities for postdoctoral researchers.  

Finding postdoctoral funding in Sweden

Overall, the funding backdrop for postdoctoral studies in Sweden is attractive and appealing for ‘fresh’ PhDs who are looking to advance their academic careers and secure independent funding. Every funding agency has its own eligibility criteria, application procedure, timeline for application, application portal and the total amount granted. To maximize your chances of applying to the right grant at the right time, make sure to familiarize yourself and use the ScientifyRESEARCH database, whereby up to 12 search filters help you identify the exact funding you need for your research, or use our curated lists as shortcuts, such as the funding list tailored for the National Junior Faculty in Sweden. You are just a step away from a successful postdoctoral funding application. Afterall, ScientifyREASEARCH is here to help you increase your productivity so that YOU have more time for research! 

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