Innovation development in focus at the Humanities Theatre

2019-12-12

Mingle outside the Humanties Theatre
Uppsala University Innovation's annual after work event took place at the Humanities Theatre and gathered some 100 people. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt.

For the third year in a row, Uppsala University Innovation has shined a spotlight on promising innovation projects in a festive event held during Nobel Week. This year, fifteen projects involving researchers and students from all disciplinary domains were awarded the distinction Attractive Innovation Project.

Award winning projects
Award winners 2019 of the Attractive Innovation Project award. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt.

“It is important to call attention to and celebrate progress in innovation development from our research and education programmes. Here, researchers and students are developing solutions that can create value in many different sectors of society,” said Jonas Åström, Head of UU Innovation.

On Monday evening, it was time for UU Innovation's after work mixer, with awarding of the distinction Attractive Innovation Project. No less than fifteen projects were recognised with a diploma and flowers from the stage of the Humanities Theatre. The projects represent a wide range of new solutions, such as sustainable pesticides, new cancer therapies, and battery-free sensors. A common denominator for all the projects is that they are in an early phase and that they received funding during the year that further strengthened their development opportunities. The funding comes from a mix of public or private funders, from customers or collaborative partners, and is in the form of grants, investments or sales revenue. Another common denominator is that the researchers and students behind the projects have received support from UU Innovation.

“Funding is key to being able to further develop the innovation projects in a desirable way. Many have a relatively long journey ahead of them before use of their solutions becomes widespread, but the fact that they were able to attract funding shows that the projects are both relevant and full of potential,” said Jonas Åström during the evening. 

Here is the full list of all Attractive Innovation Projects 2019.

Curiosity as driving force

Professor Helena Danielson
Professor Helena Danielson. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt.

In addition to celebrating promising innovation projects, the evening offered a lecture by Helena Danielson, the 2019 recipient of the Uppsala University Innovation Prize “Hjärnäpplet”. Helena is a professor of biochemistry, and co-founder of the company Beactica Therapeutics. Combining academic and industrial research and development is the golden thread running through her career. She discussed the importance of finding and following your own driving force.

“I have always been driven by curiosity and constantly exploring how my research can be utilised outside of academia,” said Helena Danielson.

How can you encourage this way of thinking?

“With the ‘professor's privilege’, Swedish researchers have a fantastic opportunity to combine research with actively creating benefit from the results. It is also a matter of contributing to a culture that promotes fresh thinking and innovation. Teaching in particular is an important aspect in this.”

World-class research environments will promote new solutions to societal challenges

Participants in a fireside chat
Jenny Nordquist, Christel Bergström, Anders Karlén and Anna Franzén chatting by the fireside. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt.

The evening was rounded out with a “fireside chat” with representatives of research and innovation environments who received external funding during the year. In front of a roaring fire on the screen of the Humanities Theatre, UU Innovation's Jenny Nordquist invited Christel Bergström, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Pharmacy, Anders Karlén, Professor at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, and Anna Franzén, Collaboration Manager at UU Innovation, to chat about the activities of the SweDeliver and AddLife centres of excellence and the European collaboration COMBINE. 

“We think this is a good opportunity to highlight environments at the University that have been granted external funding for application-oriented research in collaboration with industry. The funding granted to these environments is intended to both strengthen already excellent research and create conditions for innovation development within areas that are important for sustainable social development,” said Jenny Nordquist.

Christel Bergström is a project manager of the Swedish Drug Delivery Center (SweDeliver) centre of excellence, which, among other things, aims to contribute to the education of the next generation researchers and to the development of new innovative drugs for diseases for which there is currently no treatment. SweDeliver is one of three centres of excellent headed by Uppsala University. Each centre of excellence receives funding from Vinnova in the amount of SEK four to eight million per year over five years, maximum SEK 36 million.

Christel Bergström explained that fifteen companies are involved in SweDeliver, and that it is necessary to have the pharmaceutical industry involved in a long-term drug development venture in Sweden.

“We need to base things on the challenges in the industry, one of them being the competency management of tomorrow. For this reason, SweDeliver has a clear focus on education that meets future requirements for drug development expertise,” said Christel Bergström.

Anders Karlén, Coordinator for COMBINE, told us that, through COMBINE, Uppsala University is now expanding its already strong commitment by accelerating the development of new antibiotics. The six-year initiative, with a budget of 25 million euros, is headed by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a partnership between the EU and the EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations).

“COMBINE’s role is to offer support in a number of areas to strengthen the conditions for IMI to achieve the ongoing Antimicrobial Resistance Accelerator Programme initiative’s goal of developing ten new preclinical drug candidates within a six-year period, half of which should be ready for phase 2 studies,” said Anders Karlén. 

UU Innovation’s Anna Franzén discussed the objectives of the AddLife (Additive Manufacturing for Life Sciences) centre of excellence, which is led by Cecilia Persson, Professor at the Department of Engineering Sciences.

“By working in the grey zone between materials technology and life science, AddLife's vision is to make Uppsala a node for 3D printing within life sciences. This relates to new 3D printing technologies for aims such as improved bioprocesses, more reproducible 3D tumour models, and faster optimisation of medication. The research will be conducted in close collaboration with the industry and healthcare sectors, which also play a key role in the centre’s ability to transform knowledge into useful solutions,” said Anna Franzén. 

She was also asked about her own role in the centre. 

“I will work specifically with issues related to new business models, regulatory aspects, and implementation in healthcare. These are aspects that are key to the new products under development being able to meet existing needs and being put into use in healthcare as efficiently as possible. On a more general level, I will monitor the projects that are started to ensure they have access to relevant innovation support.”

The event was concluded by Jonas Åström, who thanked the audience and everyone who participated in an evening that clearly demonstrated the innovative power found at the University. 

Here is the full list of all Attractive Innovation Projects 2019.

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