The Kempe Foundations

The Kempe Foundations were created by a lady, Lotty Bruzelius. 1936 she started one foundation in memory of her father, J C Kempe, and in her Will she stipulated her wish to create a second foundation in memory of her brother, Seth M Kempe. She died 1941.

But it all started 200 years ago. By that time Sweden was a dominating power in Northern Europe as Finland and a large part of Germany belonged to Sweden. But it was also the time of the Napoleon wars, and from the Swedish town of Stralsund in Pommern a young boy, Johan Carl Kempe, was sent to his uncle in Stockholm, a much safer place. There J C Kempe started to work in the office of his uncle. Among the staff was a young man, Olof Wikner from Härnösand, 200 km south of Umeå, who invited Kempe to come and work at the trading company of his father. As Stralsund by that time was not longer part of Sweden, Kempe accepted and soon became a partner to his friend in Härnösand, and married his sister in 1823. 13 years later his brother in law wanted to retire, and Johan Carl Kempe took over the company. He built a shipyard in Härnösand and developed the sawmill in Mo, outside Örnsköldsvik, 100 km south of Umeå.

In Härnösand Frans Michael Franzén was appointed bishop. He was born in Uleåborg in the northern part of Finland and became a professor in Åbo. When Sweden lost the war with Russia 1809, Finland became part of the Russian empire. Professor Franzén had to choose between staying in Finland as a Russian citizen or moving to Sweden. In Sweden he became after a while the secretary of the Swedish Academy of Literature for ten years, and finally in 1834 he accepted to become bishop of northern Sweden residing in Härnösand. He had several beautiful daughters. J C Kempe, after having lost his first wife, proposed to one of them. Seth M Kempe and his sisters are thus the descendents of parents coming from remote southern and northern parts of the onetime empire of Sweden, combining the knowhow of the north with the new experiences from the south.

Johan Carl Kempe decided in 1858 to move to Stockholm. He left his trading company in Härnösand to his eldest sons, and concentrated on the industrial part and built a steampowered sawmill at Domsjö along the bay of Örnsköldsvik.

When he died in 1872 his children formed the company Mo och Domsjö AB, that continued under the same name until the year 2000 when it changed name to Holmen AB.

Lotty Kempe, his daughter, was named Charlotte after her mother, but was always called Lotty in order to avoid confusion. After losing one of her sisters Lotty married the widower, Ragnar Bruzelius, her brother in law, and they had a daughter. He was a renowned lung specialist and a physician to the royal family. He was not only a famous professor, but also a skillful businessman, starting an insurance company and buying property in Stockholm. Lotty found herself being a very wealthy person when her husband passed away in 1902, and she herself had to manage their fortune. She had both the shares in Mo och Domsjö AB that she inherited and the shares from her sister, who married Ragnar first. Her only daughter died 1924, and Lotty then started to think about what would happen to her money and her shares. Seth M Kempe, who played a very important part in the development of Mo och Domsjö AB, helped her to set up the Foundations.

The Foundations are still the second largest shareholder of Holmen AB, and the annual distribution from the shares is aimed to promote the development of Northern Sweden. Today we consider ourselves as a research foundation, because we believe research is the best way to promote this region. Presently our annual grants amounts to 50 MSEK.

We contribute to research activities that we believe will draw resources to Northern Sweden, and we prefer of course to do it in a cost effective way. Instruments and equipment necessary for advanced research is one example of cost effectiveness, fellowships or stipends another. We depend on well prepared applications from the universities to identify the equipment necessary, and to select the right candidates for PhD studies and to PostDocs.

We have a board of 6 members and we meet twice a year to decide upon the applications that we have received. Between the board meetings we have a setup to rapidly decide upon smaller grants. We believe flexibility is one way to help promote the region, and we work closely with the Universities to be easily accessible.