After a distinctly unusual start to a new job – a stay in quarantine – new Faculty of Science and Engineering Executive Dean, Professor Magnus Nydén, is finally getting his feet under the office desk.
An elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, Professor Nydén has spent his career straddling the worlds of industry and academia. Most recently he was Chief Technology Officer and Public Policy Director at alternative fuel company Liquid Wind and Global Chief Scientist at specialty chemicals multinational Nouryon, both in his native Sweden.
Prior to returning to Sweden for family reasons, Professor Nydén was Director of the University of South Australia’s Ian Wark Research Institute, a Centre of Excellence for research into chemistry and physics linking higher education and industry, and later becoming Head of Department as part of a joint venture between the University of South Australia and University College London.
His long-term plan was always to return to Australia, and he is all about the long-term, in both thinking and action. He wants to transform big things. And, he says, he was attracted to his new position because Macquarie’s core values and his are in alignment. He was particularly struck by the core value of integrity: “We conduct ourselves ethically, equitably, and for mutual benefit.”
He is careful to distinguish between transformation and upheaval. “Transformation need not mean constant change. It’s much more important to head down the path of lasting change than to continue with change for change’s sake.”
One of his fundamental interests is in long-term sustainability, and in the central importance of a circular economy as a means of achieving it. “We need”, he says “to ensure that what we use is not discarded, but recycled and re-used. We need to do it in a way that cuts waste and pollution out of the design of products. And we need to work with industry to do it.”
Industry, he argues, has the capacity to make many things that can help with this transformation. The current crisis we find ourselves facing is an ideal time to begin it.
“Crazy times offer opportunity. We are entering a new equilibrium that will be a central part of life for many years. And what better way to start than from within the education system?”
“We need to move forward with Capitalism 2.0. To start thinking in terms of creating shared value, not just profit. By reimagining what it means to be a stakeholder, and what profit means, we can better understand what it means to create economic value. There is an inherent beauty in the idea of continuous economic growth that benefits all without destroying resources.”
Part of this will involve trust between academia and industry. With trust, there can be greater cooperation, with research questions defined by working together to solve problems.
For the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Nydén says “This will involve finding the optimal equilibrium for managing the vision of individuals with a balance struck in a way that enables staff to be engaged and inspired.
“Teaching, research and learning should be on long-term thinking lines that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We also need to make sure the curriculum aligns with the needs of society, which are accelerating rapidly.
“The digital economy offers a significant opportunity. What the digital economy, with its massive disruptive power, offers in increased productivity must fit within the circular economy. This will be an ongoing discussion over the next decades and beyond.”