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Research with impact

We seek to address global challenges through relevant research-based education in which we, together with the private and public sectors, explore how to make the world a better place. We are a research-driven business school with a long history of research projects on socio-economic, financial and environmental sustainability, as well as ethics and corporate social responsibility.

As part of one of the largest universities in Scandinavia, the School of Economics and Management dates back centuries. Our roots provide us with a solid academic foundation and we see that our work makes a difference. Our expertise enables us to look ahead and see the big picture. Our researchers are active in several academic disciplines; business administration, economics, economic history, business law, informatics and statistics. They often work in an interdisciplinary manner and conduct specific research that theorises practical dilemmas aiming to create better conditions for a sustainable society.

Research impact case studies

We try to ascertain the underlying causes of poverty and find measures to counteract it. We solve problems with the distribution of resources and point out the need for legislation and policies that keep up with the times. Our researchers devote themselves to acute analyses of broad correlations and issues of profound complexity, tackling specific problems of significant impact for all our stakeholders. 

These case studies show how the work of our researchers makes a real difference to economies, businesses, and communities.

Allocating resources

How do we allocate resources that we do not want to see priced by the free market following the law of supply and demand? It could be about human organ transplants – or access to a place in school.

Tommy Andersson on kidney exchange

Mathematics is an unbeatable tool for matching resources with those who need them. Complex algorithms are able to weigh parameters, such as tissue types and blood groups, or requests from parents and schools. Combined with well-defined rules, transparent selection criteria, computerisation and automated processes, we can save lives, time and money and ensure that our resources end up where they are most needed to support the common good.

AI saving lives, time and money

Professor of Economics Tommy Andersson works with transplant physicians and immunologists from several Swedish hospitals. Countries Sweden and Denmark are currently included in the large scheme in which transplantation opportunities are to be optimised with the use of AI and machine learning.

“We have now moved on to the next phase in which the Swedish database has been merged with the Danish one. It is unique in the world in that it spans national borders. In the long term, I hope there will be a Scandinavian database,” says Tommy Andersson.

Algorithms preventing school segregation

The mathematical algorithms can also be used to allocate public housing, or places in schools. Here you can choose to include a number of parameters in the calculation, such as the parents’ wishes and society’s requirements to prevent an increase in school segregation.

“Things have been happening on that front. A number of my colleagues and I helped Lund Municipality with the school placements prior to the school selection period for the autumn 2019. They calculated the distances themselves in the form of student routes to school with the help of an algorithm that we developed.”

The municipality saved 600 hours and was able to send out information to students and their parents four weeks earlier than usual.

“The whole thing is part of a general digitalisation process; however, it is a good example of how even a municipality can save time and money by using its data in an intelligent way,” Tommy Andersson concludes.


Corruption, welfare and confidence

What happens when the conditions on different sides of a border differ so much that they create tensions and problems for the people around them? How should people, goods and capital be allowed to move?

Our researchers study which patterns are behind the relatively low level of corruption in this part of Europe, and how to ensure that the level does not increase. They also study how political polarisation affects our society, the movements in and around the EU, the consequences of migration and how we can better face them.

“Migration can become an issue for our public finances, but it can also be a socio-economic benefit,” says Andreas Bergh, associate professor of Economics and an often cited editorial writer at Swedish daily newspapers.

Analysing the effects of rebuilding barriers

The School of Economics and Management runs the Swedish Network for European Studies in Economics and Business (SNEE) – a national research network, commissioned by the Government, that works to promote Swedish economic research focusing on European integration.

Every year, the network holds a conference on a current topic. 

“After a fairly long period of increased integration between countries, in many places – not least in Europe – we now see that protectionist trends are becoming politically successful. It is therefore important that the research community is prepared to analyse and explain the effects of these trade barriers as they start to rebuild,” says Maria Persson, associate professor of Economics and chair of the SNEE network.

The SNEE network

A more confidence-based form of governance

We also have researchers who are investigating how our public authorities and municipalities can optimise their operations to make their employees feel that their work is meaningful and that they are respected. When the Swedish Government some years ago appointed a delegation to conduct a government inquiry concerning confidence (”Tillitsdelegationen”), the person to be in charge of research within the delegation was recruited from none other than the School of Economics and Management at Lund University.

“My responsibility was to lead 12 research projects, in which nearly 30 researchers from around the country participated in various pilot activities within the welfare sector. Through these activities, they tried to increase confidence in various ways and give employees further opportunities to independently develop the work to fulfil the needs of users. Herein lies a huge commitment to the work of a more confidence-based form of governance,” says Louise Bringselius, associate professor of Business Administration.


Fighting poverty

What are the causes of poverty and what can be done about it? What was it that brought Sweden out of poverty, and how can it be that our prosperity was, in fact, largely built in rural areas and not in cities? 

The infant mortality rate in Sweden 100 years ago is still the case in many countries. Using comprehensive historical overviews of connections and with faith in new technology, our researchers participate in projects to facilitate access to knowledge that can save lives and raise the standard of living in a way that provides a better life for more people.

How do you boost growth and dynamics?

“We want to see how we can use historical examples to find different development paths; explaining why something might be good for one country, but not for another. What are the underlying mechanisms? Some countries have implemented structural reforms, while others have come halfway, and some have not yet started. What are the opportunities for catching up and for launching an agricultural transformation, increasing the productivity and income in the sector, or finding other financial activities? How do you boost growth and dynamics?”

So says senior lecturer in economic history Tobias Axelsson who, together with Martin Andersson, associate professor of economic history, is also the editor of a book, published by Oxford University Press, in which the main question concerns what opportunities poor countries have to break away from poverty and, in the long run, be able to approach the level of prosperity of industrialised countries.

The book: Diverse Development Paths and Structural Transformation in the Escape from Poverty –

Fighting infant mortality

The primary focus of a project on digital health apps in Malawi has been to find a way to reduce infant mortality with as simple means as possible through work that can continue even after the research project has been completed.

“People living in rural areas have to travel far to access healthcare, but through basic local clinics that can quickly identify which treatment is needed, we can prevent children from dying from pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria,” says Sven Carlsson, professor emeritus of Informatics.


Gender equality

How does Sweden live up to the gender equality goals established through policy? One of the goals is about how paid and unpaid labour in the home needs to be more evenly divided between the sexes, so that women’s wages, pensions and well-being do not fall behind.

The financial aspects of gender equality – and inequality – can become painfully clear. With the help of statistical databases, our researchers study how men and women spend their time, and how the patterns are changing slowly. The studies include public inquiries commissioned by the Government, and provide important documentation for future decisions.

Inequality affects our well-being

“An uneven division of labour between men and women in the home has consequences in terms of career and salary and, as the differences accumulate over time, it affects their pensions, and thus their whole life income. For quite some time, not a lot has been said about the financial aspects of gender equality, which is quite strange. Different financial outcomes affect both men and women concerning their independence and self-determination, as well as their well-being”, says Professor of Economic History Maria Stanfors.

Gender equality is about choices

While women have gradually taken on more paid work outside the home, men have not, to the same extent, increased their participation in unpaid household and care work. Women continue to perform a majority of unpaid and, above all, repetitive housework. The workload and stress for women to be able to keep up with their jobs and the work at home may result in them reducing their paid working hours to part-time, or refraining from pursuing a career altogether. By making the consequences clear, researchers hope to demonstrate what is needed to fulfil the gender equality goals.

“Gender equality is often about choices,” says Maria Stanfors.



Healthier population

Household debt continues to increase. Among those who fail to pay their debt, there is often a history of ill health. But do we get sick from being in debt, or do debts grow among those who are already sick? Would it be more beneficial, from a perspective of public finances, to work proactively against ill health rather than combatting debt itself?

For those who manage to pay their bills every month, being in debt is not a problem – it can be a way of fulfilling dreams of studies and living that would otherwise not have been possible. At the School of Economics and Management, researchers work together with the Swedish Enforcement Authority to find patterns among people in debt who fall behind, and how to best assist them. The question is whether it requires tougher regulations of the credit market.

Figuring out where the downward spiral begins

“Perhaps it’s more about taking action at a very early stage in cases of, for instance, depression. From a policy perspective, there is a huge difference: Are we to limit people’s ability to borrow money, or try to improve people’s health? We want to figure out where the downward spiral begins,” says Therese Nilsson, associate professor of Economics.

“If we turn it around: Does income make us feel good, or is it when we feel good that we are able to generate income?”

“By taking a loan, you can invest in things which may be beneficial to you in the future, such as housing and education. As long as you know that you will be making money during your lifetime, it’s not likely to become a problem.”

Analysing the use of healthcare for dementia

At the same time, the proportion of older people is increasing in Sweden and in large parts of the world. The healthcare costs for dementia care are expected to increase dramatically. The School of Economics and Management is working together with the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University to figure out how healthcare can become as cost-effective as possible.

“We will analyse patients’ use of healthcare, drug intake and what assistance they receive from the municipality, as well as the situation for their loved ones,” says Ulf Gerdtham, professor of Health Economics.

Perspectives on e-health

Researchers from the School of Economics and Management are also engaged in the public debate on the emerging, various forms of e-health applications and access to online physicians. How does it affect the care that the Swedish welfare system can provide?

”Since 2016, a number of companies offering primary care services via chats or video calls have entered the Swedish primary care market. We have made the first study to investigate whether these services replace other primary care services or if they induce more care and potentially even increase the workload of traditional caregivers,” says Lina Maria Ellegård, Associate Professor in Economics.

Together with researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Ellegård found that the use of telemedicine services is associated with higher use of other primary care services (visits and telephone or mail contacts). Further, telemedicine users visit the emergency room at least as often as other residents.



What do we mean when we say leadership – and how is it different from management? Management focuses on behaviour and results and getting things done through planning, organising, monitoring and controlling, whereas leadership is more about what people think, value and feel – and how these things are linked to the environment, the unit and the job.

Managers and subordinates are not the same as leaders and followers. A leader is someone who understands the context, the meaning of a culture and the local conditions, who maintains reciprocity in relationships, incorporates the complexity of the organisation, avoids getting stuck in abstract ideals – and understands that leadership is about hearts and minds.

Devoting time to understanding and interpreting

“Leadership is about relationships, and it is not only important what managers do, but how employees relate to it. Most managers are sensitive to their employees’ perceptions, and leadership efforts are often formed by expectations, demands and resistance. If they believe that someone will oppose their attempt to influence, managers adjust their leadership accordingly,” says Stefan Sveningsson, professor of Business Administration.

The literature on leadership is extensive. However, unlike the majority of the work which is solely based on what managers and employees themselves have said and responded in surveys, researchers at the School of Economics and Management have observed interactions, conducted in-depth interviews, devoted time to understanding the organisational context and critically interpreted these results.

Reflexive leadership – where both senior and junior employees carefully consider the structure of the organisation and how leadership and other aspects can make the workplace work well – is emphasised in particular: to think broadly and critically about your own thoughts and actions in relation to others.

“We should ask ourselves: what is the problem? What is the solution? Perhaps we should focus less on the manager and more on collaboration between qualified colleagues,” says Mats Alvesson, professor of organisation and leadership, and among the most cited organisation researchers in the world.


Smarter organisations

How can we make it easier for organisations to get the most value out of the work and efforts they put in? How do we safeguard innovation and listen to the voices of non-conformists? The concept of functional stupidity is used to describe the phenomenon that permeates many workplaces today.

Contrary to how it sounds, functional stupidity requires a certain intelligence – it is about trying to satisfy organisational targets rather than doing something to make the world better in the end. Adapting to the established culture and not making mistakes can become a driving force that overshadows the quest to reach beyond the obvious and sometimes trivial.

Utilise newcomers, outsiders and critics

“Every wise organisation should utilise employees whose eyes are open and who have alternative perspectives, as well as newcomers, outsiders and critics,” says Mats Alvesson, professor of organisation and leadership, and among the most cited organisation researchers in the world.

“Unfortunately, organisations are often permeated by a reflection deficit. Critical questions are seen as uncomfortable. Instead, we assume a position of compliance where we try not to give anyone a reason to complain. We may then end up in a situation where everyone does the right thing, a positive spirit prevails and everything seems good, but in fact functions poorly,” says Mats Alvesson.

Functional stupidity can be catastrophic

When Mats Alvesson and his co-author André Spicer introduced the concept in a scientific article and following book, The Stupidity Paradox; The power and pitfalls of functional stupidity at work, it was widely recognised at workplaces and received a lot of attention in international media. The concept was picked up by Le Monde, Financial Times and Business Week among other media outlets, and became officially recognised as a new word in the Swedish language (in Swedish: Funktionell dumhet).

“The consequences of functional stupidity can be catastrophic to a business from a long-term perspective,” Mats Alvesson concludes.

Mats Alvesson has together with fellow researchers Roland Paulsen and Yiannis Gabriel also studied how academia can ensure that the publication of research truly helps create meaning and seek solutions to the issues facing society – rather than maintaining a culture where research is sufficient in itself.

Build change efforts on trust and understanding

Different views and values within an organisation can complicate collaborations with other organisations – and within the organisations themselves. However, leaders who are prepared for this may be more successful in navigating their way through the storm unscathed. This is discussed in an article by researcher Anna Brattström in the prestigious Academy of Management Journal. Together with Dries Faems from WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, she writes about the importance of managers understanding that their employees do not always share the same values as they do, or as the management.

“For an individual, a new collaboration with an external organisation may mean that something they are an expert in is no longer needed. In this case, the individual will hardly share the same position on the collaboration as, for example, the management. Therefore, leaders need to be aware of the personal consequences that a change may entail. Employees who feel under threat may drive a process in an undesired direction for the company,” says Anna Brattström.

In other words: even informal power can have significant consequences, particularly for an organisation that is unaware of the fact that it works like this.



How do we build brands with sustainability? How do we get people to choose, for example, what is good for themselves and the climate?

The Swedish Corporate Sustainability Ranking

Research at the School of Economics and Management aims to address how sustainability efforts at companies can be measured. Associate professor Susanne Arvidsson works anually together with newspapers Dagens Industri and Aktuell Hållbarhet in providing a ranking of the most sustainable Swedish companies.

“We want to help companies become more sustainable and transparent. But to do that, companies and investors must know what to measure. Our review and ranking can provide instruments to avoid greenwashing, bluewashing or even SDG-washing where companies pretend to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than they really are,” says Susanne Arvidsson.

Replacing carbon footprints with intellectual ones

At the School of Economics and Management, we work to answer the question of how we can create better conditions for sustainability, both in terms of social responsibility and with regard to the Earth’s resources. Our researchers study what works best – how we can replace carbon footprints with intellectual footprints – and provide the Government with proposals for how we should work to achieve the best and most sustainable environment.

An example of this is the previous project where our researchers developed a new method for measuring carbon emissions. Established ways of measuring carbon emissions can sometimes give misleading feedback on how national policies affect global emissions. In some cases, countries are even rewarded for policies that increase global emissions, and punished for policies that contribute to reducing them.

“Our method provides policymakers with more useful information, in order to set national targets and evaluate their climate policies,” says Astrid Kander, professor of Economic History.

Social entrepreneurship for a sustainable society

Ester Barinaga on her research

“I hear many people talking about sustainability and how important it is. But many seem to lack the tools to know what to do. Is this because of something missing in our education? Have we been given the wrong tools?” says Ester Barinaga, professor in social entrepreneurship.

She works with – and does research on – social ventures. One example is ”Förorten i centrum”, where they used the collective production of murals as a method to work with communities in the stigmatised suburbs of Sweden’s cities.

“The idea is that we have to bring the University closer to the world that we study. If we want the world to change, we need to learn together with people outside the university. Right now, I’m involved in a research project in Kenya, where we’ll be studying some of the community currencies that they already have in Mombasa and Nairobi,“ Ester Barinaga says.


A greenish blackboard with white text. A person teaching is seen, blurry, in the background. Photo.
Photo: Charlotte Carlberg Bärg