VINNOVA, Sweden's Innovation Agency, has decided to continue funding the activities of the UPSC Berzelii Centre for Forest Biotechnology at Umeå University for five more years (2017-2021). The UPSC Berzelii Centre now becomes a new VINNOVA Competence Centre and will be one of five existing Centres of Competence in Sweden that receive this funding.
With its Centre of Competence programme, VINNOVA aims to create active networks between universities, research institutes, companies and other public research organisations. The focus is set on research areas that are significant for Sweden's competitive strengths on a national and international level. In a directed call against existing Competence Centres, VINNOVA has decided to grant the most successful Centres a five-year continuation.
Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) at Umeå University is hosting the current Berzelii Centre for Forest Biotechnology that is funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR) and VINNOVA from 2007 till 2016. Research groups from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Umeå University are collaborating with seven industrial partners on performing and translating excellent basic research to applications within the Swedish forest industry.
The performance of the Centre was recently evaluated together with 19 other Berzelii and VINNEX Centres and was found to be "Exceptional" among these centres. In this new call, UPSC competed with those 19 and other previous VINNOVA centres and was found to be one of five centres that had earnt continued support.
"This is great news for us," says Ove Nilsson, director of the current UPSC Berzelii Centre and the new UPSC Centre for Forest Biotechnology. "The new approval allows us not only to continue and develop our academic/industrial research projects, but also confirms that what we are doing and the way we are doing it is successful."
VINNOVA motivates the decision for granting the UPSC Centre for Forest Biotechnology by "an excellent application in which the applicants add many innovative developments to an already high-functioning centre". They especially valued the proposed activities for staff development, the international collaborations, and the industrial graduate school.
The Swedish government agency VINNOVA was funded in January 2001 and operates under the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. Every year, it spends SEK 2.7 billion in different projects aiming at promoting Sweden to become "a world-leading country in research and innovation". The new Centre of Competence programme was opened in autumn 2015. The programme is a follow-up of previous VINNOVA competence programmes but in particular requires integration of existing research programmes into the new centre.