Tomohiko Sakao, the Swedish engineers’ environment Professor with placement at Linköping University. He is called Tom here, and is originally from Japan but spent two years as a guest researcher in Germany before arriving in Linköping. His research area is eco-design and knowledge sales. This is a business area still relatively under-developed in industry, but the idea is to make it possible to increase both profits and the value for the customer while the environmental damage is reduced.
Tom Sakao works at the Division of Industrial Environmental Technology at the Department of Management and Engineering, IEI. He came to LiU in December 2007 and is a guest professor until the autumn of 2009. But he hopes his stay in Linköping will be longer than that.
“Perhaps for life”, he says and smiles.
How come you chose to come to LiU and Sweden?
“I had been working closely with two other LiU researchers since 2003 so when this visiting Professorship was announced it felt natural for me to apply. This collaboration is very important for my research”.
How is it working at LiU compared to other universities you have been to in the world?
“Most of my experience is from Germany and a little from the U.S. and Canada. The German conditions are similar to the Swedish in that there is a lot of work but in a more relaxed working environment. And I think the atmosphere here at LiU is friendly and everybody has a lot of respect for each other. I also think there is great openness between people, for example, among my colleagues here in the department. It makes it easy to start new collaborations and this of course impacts positively on our work".
“Something else I’ve also thought about is that people here at the university seem to be free and open-minded in their thinking. The university is young and therefore not weighed down by an old mindset. You can see this clearly, there are many forward-thinking and innovative ideas.”
“But one disadvantage of a young university is that there are areas where the university is not that well known internationally. I hope this will change; I would really like to contribute to this change happening!
“Overall, the work here is very positive, partly thanks to friendly colleagues and to industry taking an interest in what we are doing. I can definitely recommend others to work here if they want to break traditional patterns and work in an environment where the thinking is a little more free and different.”
Have you got anything to add about the working environment around you?
“I think it’s good. The organisation is flat, I’m not bothered by a disturbing hierarchy and the atmosphere is such that we can exchange views in a constructive way, which is good for work. I do hope that I’ll learn to speak Swedish as quickly as possible. Now we communicate in English, but for coffee breaks, it would be nice if I could participate in conversations on the same terms as the others.”
You live in Linköping with a wife and two children, six and eight years old. How do you like living here?
“The best thing about Linköping is the closeness to nature. That is a really good aspect. But my wife would probably like the city to be a little larger ...”
Yet you could imagine staying here?
“Yes, I hope to receive new research funding so that my tenure is renewed after next year. Sweden is a good country to live in.”
Text & photo: Eva Bergstedt
Translation: Therese Winder
Last updated: 2011-12-16