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Innovation Award to research-based success story

The Research Council of Norway’s Innovation Award for 2017 has been awarded to Thermo Fisher Scientific. The company was awarded the prize for developing an entirely new variant of an existing product, making it possible to analyse human genes quickly and effectively and improve diagnostic testing and patient treatment.

The product is the result of in-depth research and knowledge in biotechnology, nanotechnology and ICT.

“Thermo Fisher Scientific is carrying out an ambitious R&D effort in a very important area. The company is achieving this by using its own resources, seeking cooperation with exacting customers and drawing on public funding schemes from, among others, the Research Council of Norway. In this way, the company contributes to job creation as well as value creation,” said Minister of Trade and Industry, Monica Mæland, who recently presented the Innovation Award.

Used in cancer diagnostics

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s product is based on tiny, spherical beads of exactly the same size, known as “Ugelstad beads”. Ugelstad beads were originally made of polystyrene, whereas the new beads are smaller, porous and made of hydrogel, a material similar to that used in contact lenses. This new material allows DNA to penetrate the beads, turning them into an important component in genetic sequencing. The beads are used by biotech companies all around the world for purposes such as diagnostic testing and cancer treatment.

The beads carry the name of John Ugelstad, a Norwegian professor who in 1976 pioneered the method for making minuscule, uniformly sized beads. With the new bead variant, Thermo Fisher Scientific has captured a large portion of the international market for cancer diagnostics. At the same time, the company has increased its turnover in Norway by over 40 per in the last year, to a total of NOK 1.14 billion.

“This is a knowledge-based company with 180 employees that has been investing in research and development for over 30 years. We have worked together with Rikshospitalet University Hospital and the Norwegian Radium Hospital in Oslo (both now part of Oslo University Hospital), the SINTEF Research Group and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology,” says Managing Director Ole Jesper Dahlberg.

Expanding research and production capacity in Norway

The Research Council’s Innovation Award comprises a cash prize of NOK 500 000 and is given each year to a business or public entity that has demonstrated an outstanding ability to apply research results to create research-based innovation.

“Thermo Fisher Scientific has demonstrated that close cooperation with the clinical and research communities combined with internal investment in research and innovation yields results. The company has distinguished itself by further developing and finding new areas of application for solidly established basic technology, and the fact that research and production activity are both based in Norway adds another extremely positive component,” says John-Arne Røttingen, member of the jury and Chief Executive of the Research Council.

Thermo Fisher Scientific invests close to NOK 60 million each year on research and development in Norway and plans to continue these efforts. The company also wishes to expand production and is currently building a new factory in the Norwegian town of Lillestrøm.

Written by:
Maria Ekornes Myhre. Translation: Glenn Wells/Carol B. Eckmann.
Published:
17.08.2017
Last updated:
17.08.2017