Dr. Joakim Appelquist
Head of Division International Collaboration and Networks at VINNOVA
Dr. Joakim Appelquist is a clear example of how economic history could lead to an exciting career even outside the academic world. He completed his PhD in Economic History in 2005, with a dissertation about the relation between investments in ICT technologies, organizational change and productivity applied to the Swedish banking industry. Since then he has been working in different positions inside VINNOVA –Sweden’s innovation Agency- where the knowledge acquired from years of study at the department had turned out very helpful.
Already in the last two years of his PhD studies, Joakim started to work part-time for the think tank IKED – International Organization for Knowledge Economy and Enterprise Development - where he focused on evaluation of innovation policies and came in contact for the first time with that would be his next employer, VINNOVA. During his time at IKED he did some consulting job for VINNOVA that eased his way into the agency when he applied for an open position at the end of his PhD studies. After only six months spent on innovation policy evaluation inside the agency, Joakim was appointed as program manager for innovation system research, a position that he held until 2010 when he became head of division for international collaboration and networks.
What are your main areas of responsibility at VINNOVA?
Well, in my division we have two main lines of operations: on the one hand, we have a governmental assignment to be a NCP –National Contact Point- related to the Framework 7 program, which is the EU research and innovation program, where we offer advice and information to Swedish companies and researchers on the possibility of getting funding from this program. The other main line of operation is developing and maintaining programs that promote collaboration between Swedish companies and partners from countries outside EU. At the moment we have on-going programs with China, Brazil, India and Japan... On the side of this, we also provide expert advice to governmental institutions and ministries here in Sweden.
What do you enjoy most of your job?
The strategic side of my job. Swedish actors are already very internationalized but helping them to do it in a strategic way in order to grab all the opportunities that are out there and really connect them globally is really what I enjoy most.
How did your studies at the department of economic history facilitate your career path?
I think economic history has been a key factor in my career because of the methodology and approach to solving a problem is applicable in many situations. Besides, working with innovation, it is very important to have a time perspective, look at structural changes and the dynamics of economic development. The analytical tools I acquired during both my undergraduate and my PhD studies in economic history have been very helpful in my job. There are at least five economic historians working here and another division institution is actually headed by one of them, it cannot be a coincidence.
What is economic history to you?
For me it is the study of highly relevant questions focusing on dynamics and time. That is also what really distinguishes economic history from other disciplines. The focus on dynamics, structural changes and the idea of growth in particular are fundamental aspects to be considered especially when working with innovations.
Most precious experience of your university days?
What I really appreciated of being at the department was the possibility of working with such smart and dedicated people that made my six years there very enjoyable.
Are you still in touch with your professors and study mates? How important it is to remain in contact with the university after graduation?
After graduation I had continuous contacts with some of the professors, such as Jonas Ljungberg and Lennart Schön, and of my former colleagues. Although my case is quite exceptional because I work with universities in my everyday life, I believe that even in a different environment keeping in contact with the university would definitely be beneficial.