An interview with Lena Miranda
Lena Miranda dreamt of becoming a journalist as she studied cultural science and media & communication, but life wanted otherwise. After leaving the university, she’s worked in a municipality, in a startup as well as in a consultancy agency before becoming the CEO and further on owner of a regional recruitment agency, Skill Scandinavia. Since 2014, she is the operating CEO of Linköping Science Park.
Who is Lena Miranda? How would you describe yourself?
I’m a creative soul, passionate about innovation and future oriented trends as well as forming our future society. As a person, I would describe myself as curious, open-minded and engaged in the things I feel passionate about.
What are your core values?
I value freedom, equality and democracy. I admire bravery and endurance within people.
You started studying communication at Linköping University to become a journalist. Can you explain why you changed career paths?
During my time at the university, I engaged in a number of associations besides studying. I also worked for the student union. This opened a whole new world to me, and I learned that the opportunities were endless. I got to try different assignments in different sectors, and grew with every challenge. It widened my perspectives and suddenly I found myself being more open to different career paths.
When I graduated, I was offered a trainee job in the municipality of Norrköping, which I was happy to accept. This was a great start to my work life, and it’s been exciting ever since.
Marketing and business development are part of your core knowledge. Could you tell us about your professional background?
I graduated in marketing and communications. I also studied social science and how technology have changed our society. I’ve always been interested in technology – not so much in the math or algorithms, but in how you can apply technology – and how different technology based inventions were brought to life. I’m also interested in how society evolves and how humans cope with the ongoing changes around us. All this reflects in my professional career path. I worked in the municipality, I worked in a startup, in a consultancy agency. I ran my own company for ten years. And then, I ended up in the science park – in an environment, where I can use all these experiences when working to support companies that want to enable groundbreaking solutions for the modern society. We help them find their customer, market and right business model. My work is also a lot about forming our future society. It is rewarding in so many ways.
As a CEO of the Linköping Science Park what is leadership and what does it mean to you?
For me it is a lot about collaboration and co-creation. It is about finding the vision that unites us, and strive in that direction. For people who feel passionate about contributing to a better society, who value inclusion and freedom, I think my leadership is attractive. I’m committed to value-creation, and when working in my team, people will get a lot of freedom forming their own line of work. It’s a lot of self-leadership, I’m not the micromanagement kind of type. I strive to make people feel energized and motivated through leveraging the bigger picture and guiding them to fulfil their individual goals.
Which great leaders inspire you?
I’m very inspired by people who work hard to make difference. People that are passionate about their beliefs, have strong values and have the ability to execute on great ideas – not just form them. Leaders that surround themselves with skilled and professional colleagues and build successful teams that grow and inspire one another – those are the leaders that inspire me. I’m impressed by bravery and endurance in leadership.
In 2014 you became the CEO of the Science Park Mjärdevi (now Linköping Science Park). What was the first thing that you did?
During my first three months, I made 100 meetings with companies within the science park and outside the science park. I wanted to know what they thought was the best thing about Mjärdevi, what they felt we needed to develop further and in what way our organization could support them to grow and innovate their businesses further. I had so many fruitful conversations, and I grew my network, which have been invaluable to me ever since. Based on these meetings, we created a future strategy for the science park, which we have worked on ever since. I still have continuous dialogues with a lot of the business leaders in the science park to further shape our strategy as we move towards the future.
For those who don´t know about your industry, can you explain what a Science Park is?
A science park is an organization managed by specialized professionals, whose main aim is to increase the wealth of its community by promoting the culture of innovation and the competitiveness of its associated businesses and knowledge-based institutions.
To enable these goals to be met, a Science Park stimulates and manages the flow of knowledge and technology amongst universities, R&D institutions, companies and markets; it facilitates the creation and growth of innovation-based companies through incubation and spin-off processes, supporting the growing scaleups as well as renewing the business offers and business models of established companies. Science parks also provides other value-added services together with high quality space and facilities.
What is the difference between a science park and a business park?
I would say it is another level of complexity. The network of the science park ranges from businesses and include society, academia – even the citizens, and our job is to facilitate the processes that targets the intersections. We work across different industry sectors, disciplines, communities etc.
In what ways does Linköping Science Park positively impact the economy?
We have impact in many different ways. Not the least by supporting entrepreneurs that start and grow their companies and employ more people, but also by introducing new innovations to the market – innovations that through history have reached a global market. Innovations that are sprung out of Mjärdevi includes mobile communication (we’ve been part in developing GSM, 3G, 4G and now 5G technology), automotive safety (the night vision system from Autoliv), security devices (the Tiger phone from Sectra), medtech solutions and ERP systems that have been implemented on a global market. Also, Mjärdevi is the home of IPTV and streaming media enabling us to stream from Netflix and HBO for instance. All these innovations and companies have grown the number of employees, which increases the tax base of our local and regional economy.
Why is the Science Park located in Mjärdevi?
The science park was established in 1984 as a result of discussions between the municipality and Linköping University. The researchers at the university wanted a place outside of campus to commercialize their research and start their companies. So, Mjärdevi, which is right across the street from the university, became an innovation environment to make their ideas come to life. The municipality was very farsighted when they strategically divided the land next to campus in order to build a science park. Mjärdevi (today part of Linköping Science Park) is the second science park to be established in Sweden, as early as 1984.
How do you support business growth and innovation?
We support scaleups by hosting growth programs and by giving individualized business counselling in our accelerator program.
To established companies, we offer open innovation workshops and projects to support them in renewing their business offers as well as business models.
Why Talent Development and Talent Attraction are so important to support?
Lack of competence is the major challenge for our growing companies. There is simply not enough talent being educated to match the needs of the emerging ICT sector. Therefore, being an attractive city – an innovation environment is really important to us. The companies can offer attractive careers and job openings – and we need to match that offer with an “attractive way of life”-offer within in our region.
For existing talent, we need to offer ways to grow their competence – and make sure there are communities and networks to engage in for them to reach personal fulfillment.
From 2019, you are part of the Swedish Innovation council, run by the prime Minister. What´s your role there?
The innovation council consists of professionals from different sectors within the business community and society of Sweden. The council discusses how to increase innovation in Sweden, not just in the private sector but also in the public sector – not only in the bigger cities but also in the countryside – and not just in the technology sector, but in all industries.
My role is to give the view of my industry – by sharing knowledge about the needs of startups and scaleups – but also about the innovation support system – how we can contribute and what we need to become better and more relevant.
- What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
I would say curiosity helped me on the way – and my courage in trying new things. I haven’t let my hesitation about if my abilities and experience will be enough hold me back when facing a new challenge. Instead, I’ve tried seeing every new task as the chance of learning something new. This has always been very rewarding, and with every new challenge I’m growing – both as a professional and as an individual.
- Which are the most important success variables in science and technology parks from your point of view?
The engagement of the entrepreneurs as well as the community is everything. When people feel included and committed – magic happens.
Please, tell us in which projects you´re working on right now in the Science Park.
We are working on our long-term strategy to support startups and scaleups as well as renewing the offers and business models in existing businesses (both public and private) to strengthen their future competitiveness.
Above that, we have a strong focus towards sustainability and renewable energy to drive transformational change in society. We also drive digitalization initiatives towards new industries and sectors.
How is COVID-19 impacting your daily work?
It has affected us a lot. We have changed a lot of our service and support to our startups and scaleups to match their current needs. Now it is more about change management, changing your business offer as well as the business model, your ways to attract funding etc. to over bridge the upcoming period.
We also try to stimulate existing business in more traditional segments to digitalize. It is necessary if you want to stay in business. You need to understand your customer, and the way the customer behaviors are changing and adapt to them. Quickly. It’s the only way to do it if you want to stay in business.
On an international level, our industry association, IASP, who is situated in Málaga, have put together a website, where they show case some of the innovations from our communities that can help in the fight against Covid19. https://www.iasp.ws/covid19
- Tell us how travel has inspired your work or life.
I’ve had the privilege to travel a lot – both personally and for business. I’ve learned a lot, got new perspectives and experience that have been useful in my professional career as well as in my personal life. I mentioned openness and curiosity as two of my characteristics. Travelling has helped stimulate them a lot. Every new meeting widens my perspective and help me take the next step.
- You´ve recently visited Finca Solmark. How was your experience?
I’m so impressed with what you are doing at Finca Solmark. Both in terms of cultivating avocado and olive trees, but not the least in using modern technology to do it in a sustainable and energy efficient way. The whole concept is so thoughtfully carried out and I love how you apply the culture of co-creation, community-thinking and adding the environmental touch to all of it.
It would be great if we could find mutual projects between Finca Solmark and Linköping, to use our knowledge and technology in digitalization and agriculture and apply it in your setting – and also learn more about your ways of growing, harvesting and refining your crops.
Can you tell us what you liked most about the visit?
I loved the countryside out of Málaga, the mountains and the valleys – and the small villages. Perfect place to go touristing. Also, the guided tour of Finca Solmark, made by Pelle with so much enthusiasm, is my best take away. I’m so grateful I got the chance to visit with you. You are doing such an amazing job!
- Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our followers?
The countryside outside of Málaga feels a bit like the European version of the Bay Area outside of San Fransisco. Beautiful nature, charming villages and great food and wine. There is so much to explore.
SOBRE FINCA SOLMARK
Finca Solmark es un EcoTurismo Rural de origen hispano-sueco que se dedica a la fabricación, comercialización y exportación de aceite de oliva, aguacate y otros productos ecológicos a Europa. Dispone de un alojamiento rural con encanto y de varios proyectos de concienciación, divulgación y educación medioambiental.