Faculty of Medicine

Lund University

Ingvar Kamprad – more than an entrepreneur

2018-03-12

On 27 January 2018, Ingvar Kamprad passed away. In one of the death notices published in Swedish morning newspapers a few days later, IKEA employees had fittingly chosen to include the symbol of a hexagon key – a tool that probably all have us have encountered at some point when purchasing IKEA furniture.

dick killander bo baldetorp lars ekblad
(Fr v) Dick Killander, Bo Baldetorp och Lars Ekblad framför entrén till Kampradhuset, en byggnad som uppfördes mycket tack vare ekonomiskt stöd från Fru Berta Kamprads stiftelse. Bild: Olle Dahlbäck

Furniture was Ingvar Kamprad’s life, but what is perhaps less known is that, through a foundation in his mother’s name, he supported cancer research in Lund with millions in donations each year.

“We have a lot to thank Ingvar Kamprad for, as many of the research projects supported by the Berta Kamprad Foundation have been implemented at the clinic and benefited patients”, says Professor Dick Killander and Bo Baldetorp, who can both be considered veterans when it comes to cancer research in Lund.

A little over four years ago, Ingvar Kamprad visited the Kamprad building located within the hospital area in Lund to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the building’s inauguration. Photo: Olle Dahlbäck

However, before the two of them became active cancer researchers in Lund, the oncology clinic and its research had already received funding from the region of Småland, from the Berta Kamprad Foundation back in the mid-1950s.

“Ingvar’s mother Berta suffered from cancer on two occasions and was treated at the radiology clinic in Lund. After passing away from her second cancer, Ingvar, who had already begun to establish his furniture empire, knew what to do. He wanted to support the research and formed a foundation for that purpose”, says Dick Killander.

In 1986, the Berta Kamprad Foundation was founded in Älmhult in Småland. Since then, the foundation has supported cancer research in Lund with more than SEK 213 million (March 2017). Last year alone, the foundation awarded SEK 41 million to cancer projects at the oncology clinic and its research.

Just over four years ago, Ingvar Kamprad and Hans Skalin (board member of the Berta Kamprad Foundation and honorary doctor at Lund University) visited the Kamprad building, located within the hospital area in Lund to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the construction of the building in 2003. This multi-storey building was built in less than two years when the oncologists’ research department, including Professor Åke Borg’s expansive field of research on gene activity in cancer patients, was in dire need of larger premises.

“We didn’t want to send our samples for analysis to the United States, but we lacked space and resources in Lund. When Hans Skalin heard about the problem, he called and asked how much space we needed. The answer was 200 square metres, but it resulted in two floors for oncology research and another three floors for medical radiation physics, the Gunnars Nilsson Cancer Foundation, and the Practicum Clinical Skills Centre”, say Dick Killander and Bo Baldetorp.

“The Berta Kamprad Foundation donated SEK 13 million, on the condition that Region Skåne and Lund University would together contribute the same amount. The hospital director at the time, Leif Granath, supported the project and thus agreed to the terms. The Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Foundation and the PEAB construction company subsequently contributed to the cost of construction.

When the majority of the construction was completed, a proposal to name it the Kamprad building was put forward. However, Ingvar Kamprad who, characteristically, wanted to keep a low profile, objected to the proposal.

Hans Skalin supposedly said “But the name doesn’t refer to you – it refers to your mother Berta Kamprad”, after which Ingvar Kamprad approved the name.

When Ingvar Kamprad visited the Kamprad building about four years ago at age 87, he listened keenly to several lectures and engaged in the discussions about whether using the tobacco product known as “snus” was dangerous. So recalls Lars Ekblad who is currently the head of the Division of Oncology and Pathology situated in the Kamprad building.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Swedish snus causes cancer”, the researcher replied.

Ingvar Kamprad was pleased with the answer. The research had progressed.

Footnote: In 1983, Ingvar Kamprad was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Economics at Lund University.

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