Gothenburg, a city with strong historical ties to the United States, not least as a trading city and port of departure during the great Swedish emigration of the 19th century, became his first stop. Chalmers is also the first university that Ken Howery has visited in Sweden.
“I am becoming familiarised with the university, the student base, and learning what’s been done so far. We would love to explore ideas, and learn what might be possible,” says Texas-born Ken Howery, who has a long background as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
He founded Paypal together with, among others, Elon Musk, in 1998 – the same year he graduated in economics from Stanford. When Paypal was acquired by Ebay, he became head of business development there, and since 2005 has worked as a venture capitalist.
“It is very exciting for Chalmers to have an Ambassador with an entrepreneurial background, who has created tech companies and is interested in the role of universities,” comments Stefan Bengtsson, President and CEO of Chalmers University of Technology, and host for the visit.
In front of a packed lecture hall, the Ambassador talked about his political priorities, where the US regards Sweden as an ally.
On the topic of 5G, he emphasised that each country should ensure that it procures 5G from suppliers with integrity against the governments regulating them, and that the national standards in place prevent untrusted vendors of any national origin from securing access to a network. The Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE are forced to cooperate fully with the Chinese authorities and army, and to keep that relationship secret, the Ambassador claimed.
“These are not paranoid fantasies. There are many documented cases of Chinese cyber intrusions linked to the Chinese Communist Party, even without the easy access 5G would provide”, Ken Howery said.
He also had a concrete message regarding exchanges with Chalmers. Since 1952, Sweden and the United States have had an academic exchange programme called the Fulbright Commission, where both Swedes and Americans can apply for funding for exchanges at different levels. Recently, for example, Professor David Blekhman, active at California State University, was installed as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy here at Chalmers.
“I want to encourage more Chalmers students and faculty members to apply for these programmes, to have more diversity within them. Right now, I think we have a high percentage of lawyers among the Fulbright winners,” said Ken Howery.
Text: Christian Borg