“When I started in this business some 30 years ago, the transport service was a very low tech business. Now you see that tech companies like Ericsson, Siemens and IBM are all entering the sector.”
He explains that with the application of modern technology, the traffic systems sector has never been more relevant.
“We have self-driving cars and big data availability. Everything will be connected with everything and it all relates to traffic systems. Sometimes I feel the area is just becoming more and more relevant.”
What’s more, he adds, it has a pivotal role to play in safeguarding the future of the planet.
“The environment is something that concerns everyone. We talk about a fossil-free society -- transportation is one of the main contributors of negative environmental impact. And so working with traffic systems is to work for a better environment.”
Professor Lundgren heads up Linköping University’s Intelligent Transport Systems and Logistics master’s programme, a unique degree that combines knowledge about the transportation system, like supply-chain modelling, road safety and project managements, integrated with technology designed specifically for the transport industry.
Photo: Professor Lundgren
It’s an intense multi-disciplinary programme taught entirely in English that teaches students to understand, develop and control transport systems -- skills which are highly coveted today and will almost certainly continue to be so in the future.
“You can say the overall concept of this program is the same as the research we are doing within our department. The traffic system exists all around the world so with this education students can work pretty much anywhere and the problems are essentially the same.”
As with many of the courses at Linköping University -- which is a world-leading university based between three campuses in Linköping and Norrköping in southern Sweden -- students aren’t there simply to study. Since LiU is the co-ordinating university of the Swedish National Postgraduate School of ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems), they are at the frontline of research in the Swedish transportation industry.
As such, the course is hands-on, challenging and just as fast-paced as real-world working life.
“We have very few written exams. Instead we have a lot of assignments, lab reports and project work,” explains Professor Lundgren.
He adds that when he interviews students some years later, which he always tries to do, this is what they say they found most valuable and that prepared them best for life after university.
“There are rarely written exams when you have finished your studies. You have to deliver, co-operate and work on projects. We prepare students for this.”
Photo: Linköping University
‘You can really follow your interests’
Linköping University researcher Professor Maria Huge Brodin didn’t immediately jump at the idea when she was asked to join a project about the environment.
“It was the early ‘90s and at the time it wasn’t seen as a ‘cool subject’,” Professor Brodin recalls with a hint of humour.
As it turns out, she found her calling and went on to obtain her PhD in recycling and logistics for recycling. Then, when the environment became a hot topic in around 2006-2007, Professor Brodin was well positioned at the forefront of the industry. It’s now one of the most critical issues faced by the world today and Professor Brodin is at the heart of it.
“When people started bringing the environment into every topic, I was there. Then it became cool!”, she laughs.
Now, Professor Brodin describes herself as a mechanical engineer who “turned green philosophically”, and is the world’s first professor of environmental logistics. Her current research concerns green business models and technology for logistics service providers.
Photo: Professor Brodin
She also manages the Energy Environmental Management degree programme at LiU, mainly taught in Swedish. The master’s programme in Sustainability Engineering and Management is taught entirely in English.
“It’s a unique programme in Sweden. We focus on companies’ profitability and sustainability in all dimensions. This is what distinguishes our research and what we’re known for,” she explains.
She says that by studying and researching transportation, students can address an area that affects everyone from the average person to major companies. For example, Professor Brodin’s research at Linköping University has involved postal giant DHL and Sweden’s national postal service PostNord.
“We focus on reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for climate change reasons. By studying and researching transport, we address a difficult but very important area. Our work has impact on companies not just within logistics but on business models for sustainability in general.”
Professor Brodin adds that master’s students have the chance to effect real change because, like many master’s programmes at LiU, the teaching is not wholly theoretical.
“The master’s students often have projects in which companies have given them real-life problems which they help to solve. They are also encouraged to take internships when they do their thesis.”
She adds that environmental logistics is a young field which allows both researchers and master’s students more freedom to conduct cross-disciplinary research.
“You can really follow your interests while making a valuable contribution and being creative in the area, which is quite unique.”
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Linköping University.