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Sustainable growth: how can medium-sized municipalities exploit their development potential when large companies are established?

PhD project Doctoral project within the Industrial Doctoral School for Research and Innovation at Umeå University.

The battery factory Northvolt’s billion-dollar investment in Skellefteå has initiated a rapid transformation process in the area. This project aims to investigate the planning challenges that the city and municipality face and how Northvolt’s establishment can contribute to sustainable development.

Doctoral student and supervisor

Moa Hedström
Doctoral student
Madeleine Eriksson
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2022-09-01 2026-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Geography

Research area

Human geography

Project description

After decades of disinvestment and population decline, several places in northern Sweden have now attracted large-scale industrial investments described as 'green industries'. In 2019, following a competition between 20 Swedish municipalities, Northvolt decided to build one of the first large battery production plants in Europe, and among the largest in the world, in the municipality of Skellefteå.

Northvolt’s investment is enormous, approximately 30 billion Swedish kronor, and it creates thousands of new jobs both within the industry and throughout the society. The rapid growth also poses a challenge for the municipality to manage, particularly in terms of planning. New plans need to be developed at a high pace, and various interests must be balanced against each other.

The overall purpose of the project is to deepen the understanding of how planning can meet challenges arising from rapid and major changes by studying how Northvolt’s investment can contribute to a sustainable development in Skellefteå. The goal is to critically analyse the ongoing transformation processes and formulate alternative long-term strategies that strengthen local and regional agency. Furthermore, the project also aims to highlight goal conflicts in concrete planning situations and find methods for sustainable planning practices.

By studying a specific and ongoing process of change, the ambition is also to draw lessons from the project that can be useful for other municipalities meeting similar large-scale investments.

Latest update: 2024-06-14