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Published: 2023-10-13

IT manager returns to his roots in the Industrial Doctoral School

PROFILE Nils-Petter Augustsson’s first contact with the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation was as a doctoral student. Today, several years later, he has returned to his academic roots, but this time in a different role – as a collaborative partner. We sat down with him to discuss his journey from student to IT manager, his return to academia, and how his previous experience is now being put to good use in his work at Region Västerbotten.

Image: Sara-Lena Brännström

The road between the University and Nils-Petter Augustsson’s office is long and windy. As the rain pours down outside, we make our way through the hospital’s main entrance, through corridors and stairways, until we finally reach a small, secluded room.

Nils-Petter Augustsson has been IT manager at Region Västerbotten for the past five years. His professional journey has been long, with some obstacles along the way. At the turn of the millennium, he graduated from the Study Programme for Social Science at Umeå University, specialising in informatics, economics and organisation.

The IT crash struck

“I graduated in 2000, extremely enthusiastic as I was about to enter the working world. I had a job waiting for me at an IT company, or so I thought. Then the IT crash struck and the job never materialised. Instead, I started working as a lecturer at the University’s Department of Informatics. I was there for a few years before the recession hit there too,” says Nils-Petter Augustsson.

After a few years of ups and downs, he finally managed to establish himself in the industry, and in 2005 he was hired as a consultant at what was then called VM-data, an IT company that was later acquired by Canadian CGI.

We were the first crop of students, so everything was new and exciting

In 2009, he began his doctoral studies at the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation. During those years, he worked at VM-data while studying his own organisation, with a focus on service deliveries and self-service.

“The consulting world is very much here and now, with a focus on profitability. You rarely look far back and reflect. So we thought it would be interesting to see how things went over time with these tools the company had developed,” he says.

The Industrial Doctoral School gave Nils-Petter Augustsson the opportunity to delve deeper into what he had previously studied, enabling him to gain new perspectives on his operations.

“It was very rewarding. We were the first crop of students, so everything was new and exciting. I met many interesting people, and we had fun together. I really enjoyed that time,” he says of his days as a doctoral student.

Works closely with the University

Nils-Petter Augustsson wrote several scientific articles that were published, but there has not yet been a thesis. Switching focus between practical work and theoretical research proved to be a challenge.

“This year, I’ve said that this is my last chance to get it done. I don’t like having unfinished business when the finish line is so close. I’m now working in an organisation where a doctoral degree is something to strive for and is rewarded,” says Nils-Petter Augustsson.

As IT manager, he works with everything from infrastructure issues to project management, architecture and development. Region Västerbotten works closely with the University, and research has become an increasingly important part of its operations.

New project

For the past two years, Nils-Petter Augustsson has been mentoring a doctoral student at the Department of Informatics, where he previously worked. He also recently reconnected with the Industrial Doctoral School through a project in which Region Västerbotten is a partner and funding body.

The project is led by doctoral student Lars Mattsson and Professor Patrik Rydén at the Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics. They will be looking at how artificial intelligence, AI, can be used to predict the length of care for a patient who has undergone surgery.

AI is nothing new in healthcare, but the standard models used previously have their challenges, such as how to deal with the fact that patients cannot be discharged during nights and weekends.

“It’s great to be able to include a research component in this particular area of AI and prediction, which is very hot right now. While you can achieve an effect quite quickly with AI, we also need to understand what we’re doing. We’ve not had any research approach to this before, and I see it as a very important step on the journey Region Västerbotten is making towards using data as a strategic resource,” says Nils-Petter Augustsson.

The goal of the research is more efficient use of resources in post-operative care. At the same time, they aim for these methods to be transferable to other areas of healthcare.

"Fun and stimulating"

In today's technology-driven world, Nils-Petter Augustsson considers collaboration between academia and industry to be essential. He believes that the University can provide research on the use of data, and companies or other organisations can provide practical applications of this research.

He is now looking forward to his new role as a partner in the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation.

“I feel it’s important to make sure I’m a support for the doctoral student and create good conditions. That’s my role. I also find the subject interesting. Mathematics at a deeper level is not my speciality, but I’m learning a lot now. It’s both fun and stimulating,” he says.

The interview comes to an end, and it is time to say goodbye. Nils-Petter Augustsson shows me out of the room and points to a back door nearby.

“You can go out there. It takes you right to the main road with the University straight ahead.”

Sometimes the distance between the University and the IT manager’s office is shorter than you think.