Natural sciences and engineering, with a strong emphasis on mining and energy, have always formed the core activity at Luleå University of Technology. The growing ambition of the University to expand research and teaching in social sciences, humanities and the arts, came to full fruition in 1997, when a new Faculty of Philosophy was established. The launch of an Economics Research Program took place in 1992, and so antedates the new Faculty. From its inception, the Program has been characterized by:
a clear international orientation;
a strong emphasis on applied, policy-oriented work; and
a decisive focus on natural resources and energy.
Several advantages follow from the narrow subject focus. First, it facilitates synergies between the individual projects of which the Program is composed. Second, the specialization is a precondition for the development of prominence in the field, in Sweden and internationally. And third, it provides valuable opportunities for the development of research links with the University’s Faculty of Technology.
The ambition is to make Luleå the Nordic Centre of Excellence for applied, internationally oriented research in resource and energy economics.
The thrust of work has shifted over time. In the early years, considerable efforts were devoted to an exploration of the sources of competitiveness in the production of natural resources. In the mid-1990s, the emphasis moved towards analyzing the economic reforms in Russia and the FSU, and their likely effects on the competitiveness of coal, iron ore and forest raw materials from this set of countries. At the end of the decade, the economics of recycling natural resource products became an important area of study.
Core funding is provided by Luleå University Technology, but the majority of the financial needs is satisfied from external sources. Significant grants in recent years from the following organizations are gratefully acknowledged:
The Swedish Energy Agency (including the AES Program and the International Climate Policy Program)
Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas)
Without the generous financial contributions from the above organisations the research effort would be seriously hampered.
Arrangements for the exchange of research results and scholars have been established with:
Centre for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, MIT, USA;
Centre for Petroleum & Mineral Law & Policy, University of Dundee, Scotland;
Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines, USA;
Department of Economics, Texas A&M University, USA; and
Institute of Mining Research, University of Zimbabwe.
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
Since its initiation, the Program has maintained a very close liaison with the Divisions of Economic History (Nils-Gustav Lundgren) and Political Science (Lars Carlsson) at Luleå University. These divisions pursue research in closely related fields. Joint projects have been undertaken, and further ones are planned. The impact of geography, politics, and of the institutional setting, on natural resource exploitation in a changing world, is in focus of the joint efforts. These features provide a distinct profile to the social sciences research at Luleå.