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Ikea founder launches research foundation for ‘beloved’ home province

A foundation backed by the Swedish family that owns global furniture giant Ikea will fund research in the company’s home province of Småland from 2013 onwards.

Announcing a donation of 950 million kronor (€107m) on 22 December, Ikea’s founder Ingvar Kamprad said the foundation would support research improving quality of life for elderly people, rural entrepreneurship, environmental awareness and medicine. It will also back R&D more directly related to Ikea’s business in areas such as architecture, interior decoration and design, Kamprad said in his annual Christmas address in Älmhult, Småland, where the first Ikea store opened in 1953.

The Kamprad Family Foundation for Entrepreneurship, Research and Charity will receive 50m kronor from the Kamprad family. The remaining 900m kronor comes from Inter Ikea Group, the Netherlands-based company that owns the Ikea concept and trademark. The Inter Ikea Group will add 270 million kronor annually to the foundation if business circumstances allow it to do so.

The foundation will primarily support research benefiting the Småland province and carried out at the Linnaeus University in Växjö. The first applications will be accepted in autumn 2012, for grants to be paid in 2013. Bids for projects from researchers in the surrounding provinces may also be considered, as well as some national or international projects.

The foundation is a dream Kamprad has entertained for many years. Småland lacks elite universities like those in Uppsala, Göteborg, Umeå, Stockholm or Linköping. Kamprad, whose emporium spanned 332 IKEA stores in 38 countries in October, is arguably the second most famous Swede to hail from the province after Carl Linnaeus, the 18th century botanist.

Kamprad said he was delighted to launch this support for his “beloved” Småland. “We want to contribute to research that is relevant and that can be turned into entrepreneurship, for example the development of resource-smart and environmentally friendly manufacturing technology,” he said last month.

Stephen Hwang, rector of the Linnaeus University, welcomed the support. “Entrepreneurship has for long been a focus at the university,” he said. “The foundation gives us a fantastic opportunity to strengthen both this area and others such as environment, medicine and health.”