31 July 2015

Op-Ed: We need more initiatives like UNIK

Future funding initiatives can benifit from the learning outcomes of the succesfull UNIK initiatives, writes pro-vice-chancellor Thomas Bjørnholm in financial newspaper Børsen on the large and unprecedented grant type UNIK,that enabled the establishment of Synthetic Biology and launch Center for Synthetic Biology at University of Copenhagen

In 2009 UNIK (UNiniversitetsforskningens InvesteringsKapital) grants of each 120 M DKK were awarded to four cross-disciplinary research initiatives of excellence in Denmark by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. UNIK-Synbio was one of them and ran from 2009-2014.

Now, in Børsen, pro-vice-chancellor Thomas Bjørnholm looks back on the succesfull initiatives and advises government and funding bodies to harvest from the lessons learned. 

Read the article here, in Danish only

Keys to future funding initiatives
In particular, Thomas Bjørnholm stresses the freedom given to the initiatives, structurally as well as scientifically, and the high level of trust in the performances of the scientists as key points to the success of the initiatives.

Furthermore, he applauds the strategic courage of the funders to focus the investments in large grant sums and emphasizes the need for more strategic investments in the future.

Success of Synbio 
On the UNIK-Synbio initiative in particular, he writes: 

"Through focused cooperation between research groups in plant biotechnology, nanotechnology, biophysics, neurobiology and ethics, we have created a strong research basis for a bio-based, sustainable Danish production of, for example, medicine and food ingredients with great commercial potential."

"Denmark is now in the forefront of this area, and the researchers involved have received additional external research funding of about four times the project's original investment"