History of the IIES

The IIES was founded in 1962 in connection with the appointment of a personal research professorship in international economics for Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987).

The Institute was established as an academic research institute with the primary aim to encourage "purely theoretical and methodical studies and empirical research without regard to prospects of immediate practical and political application of the studies undertaken". An objective that has been amended over the years, since over the decades, IIES researchers have been as prominent in the policy debate (and even policy making) as they have been in pure research.

In the early years the IIES was housed at Wenner-Gren Center on Sveavägen, only to relocate to our current premises in Södra huset in 1970.Gunnar Myrdal headed the Institute from 1962 until 1967 and received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1974. To the general public, Myrdal is probably the best-known Swedish economist of the 20th century having had a large influence on a whole generation of prominent economists in Sweden.

In 1971, Assar Lindbeck (1930-2020) took over Myrdal’s professorship in international economics as well as the position of director of the Institute. Lindbeck was instrumental in building the international research institute the IIES is today. He wanted the IIES to function as a "nursery" for future prominent economists, where working in a "strong research environment" would give "research talents the chance to flourish". He recruited both Swedish and international researchers and graduate students and organized the IIES Seminar Series (which still manages to attract international economic talent to hold seminars as well as stay for longer visits) in order to import competence and raise the level of ambition at the IIES. 

Publishing research in internationally renowned economic journals became an important part of the IIES. This would guarantee that our research activities were subjected to international scrutiny and ensure that the IIES worked at the international research frontier as well as contributed to gradually shifting this frontier. As Lindbeck said; "This is the best way of avoiding mediocre or even bad research. Bad research is worse than no research at all".

Lindbeck also believed that researchers have an obligation to inform society of what they have learnt and to participate in the public debate. Several researchers at the IIES publish books and papers of a popular scientific nature, are frequently cited in the media and many of them also serve in advising public authorities on economic-policy issues.

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