Strategy AAU


Mission-oriented university

These times are characterised by complex and critical challenges that do not recognise regional, national and global divides. Producing and implementing knowledge for the world requires active collaboration, problem-based learning and partnerships.

For AAU, being a mission-oriented university means that we are guided by a meaningful purpose that goes beyond our own organisation and contributes to the sustainable development of the world.

Through partnerships with the outside world, we strive to contribute to missions where we have strong research insight. We strive to play an active role in finding solutions to current – and future – global challenges and make a difference to the world around us.


At Aalborg University, we want to contribute to missions along with others – researchers, business people, interest organisations, international partners and governing bodies – to find the best solutions and create knowledge for the world. In addition to individual efforts, we aim to work in unison across areas of expertise and in cooperation with selected partners with a clear focus on the mission's goals. We consider our interdisciplinary approach that is based on strong foundational and transformative research expertise to be a quality in our work on missions.


Our distinctive features – problem orientation, collaboration, commitment and change – are prerequisites for our success as a mission-oriented university. Our distinctive features are instrumental in AAU being internationally recognised as a mission-oriented university that contributes to sustainable development. 


The university's profile must be experienced as relevant by the wider world, our staff and students, because we are helping to create changes and solutions to regional, national and global challenges.

Missiondriven university

The illustration is based on an interpretation of the mission concept based on descriptions by Professor David Budtz Pedersen (Department of Communication and Psychology, AAU) and Mariana Mazzucato, Economist and Adviser to the European Commission. (Interpreted and illustrated by Lone Bechmann, Strategic Advisor, Dean’s Office, Faculty of Medicine, AAU in collaboration with Professor David Budtz Pedersen).

The illustration provides an operational overview of the elements of the mission orientation and can serve as a methodical guide.

[GOAL] The goal is therefore to solve the major global societal problems with concrete actions – and to do so by organising in cross-cutting partnerships where we bring together actors across state, business, foundations, universities and civil society [ORGANISATIONAL FORM] with a clear intention to both involve and co-create [WORK METHOD]. The missions are driven by these partnerships which are a different way of developing and implementing research than universities are used to. However, we at AAU have extensive experience with interdisciplinary research and the utilisation of our research, which helps to provide AAU with favourable conditions for working in a mission-oriented manner in relation to our research.

As a mission-oriented university, we are interested in topics with significant social relevance, but missions must not be confused with 'grand challenges'. Rather, they are to be understood as grand challenges that are broken down into smaller and well-defined programmes. The missions are worked on within a defined thematic framework [THEMATIC FRAME], which gives researchers, businesses and decision-makers a clear focus and enables them to orient themselves towards clear goals [ORIENTATION]. At AAU, we have selected four themes for our approach to mission-oriented research, and we will continue to work on them in 2022.

The mission-oriented approach is to blend and unite across disciplines [APPROACH] – and it is therefore clearly in line with the interdisciplinary mindset. The missions must be solved with competences from both STEM and SSH. The missions require several disciplines and societal actors to work together and "blend" knowledge.

Last but not least, the mission-driven university engages in research initiatives from start to finish – from idea to solution [SCOPE] – and ensures concrete output in the form of solutions, innovations and knowledge sharing [OUTPUT].


AAU’s thematic approach as a mission-oriented university

To be a mission-oriented university requires that we work with missions within a defined thematic framework (cf. Illustration of the mission-oriented university). As an internationally recognised mission-oriented university, our vision states that we will contribute to the sustainable development of the world. Sustainability is therefore a key element of AAU's thematic approach.

The four themes that AAU will focus on in Knowledge for the World 2022-26 are:

AAU LIFTS society with competences for the future

We provide the labour market with entrepreneurial graduates capable of cooperation and who strengthen competitiveness and innovation. 

Societal development requires holistically oriented graduates who can contribute to a more peaceful and sustainable world. Our graduates must be independent, critical thinkers with the highest level of knowledge and an innovative mindset. Through a focus on high academic expertise, problem-based learning, interdisciplinarity, the integration of STEM and SSH, innovation, entrepreneurship and lifelong learning, we will ensure that graduates acquire the competences demanded by the labour market of the future.

AAU PARTNERS on a green and sustainable world

We work with the world to transform the global community towards balance. We aim to help create a balanced and sustainable future for people and our planet. Sustainable development is about balancing environmental, political and health-related development, all of which are interconnected. Our work/business must be based on the fact that we belong to a larger society and a common humanity. This emphasises the recognition of interdependence and interconnectedness between the local, the national and the global.

AAU IMPROVES life for people and the world

We offer solutions to the climate agenda – whether it's water, energy, health or anything else. We tackle the climate crisis with deep knowledge of technologies, business opportunities and essential considerations for democracy and the individual.

AAU UNITES people and technology

Through our academic strengths and interdisciplinary approach, we will help shape society and create opportunities through the development and integration of the technological, the digital and the human. We will explore the effect of technology on humanity. We have the finest knowledge that must play a greater role in the digital and technological transformation of our society, our industry, public and private companies, and our lives and actions as citizens.