Award-winning idea will ensure biodiversity

Invasive foreign plants pose a threat to biodiversity in Norway. Every year we spend billions of kroner on fighting the consequences of foreign plants and animals. A research group from the University of Bergen targets the problem trough an innovative research project that can solve serious challenges.

This is the reason why the project wins Sparebanken Vest and Bergen Technology Transfer Idea Competition 2018. The prize is worth a total of 500 000 NOK.

The Sitka spruce gives great shelter for wind and weather, and that´s why you find it many places along the Norwegian coast. The tree, which was imported from North America and planted in Western Norway in the late 1800s, produces large amounts of seeds and therefore grows quickly. Sitka spruce propagate so well that it outperforms all other species in areas where it has a foothold.

This makes the Sitka spruce a threat to biodiversity in Norway. The tree has therefore ended on the Norwegian Fremmedartslisten. On this list you will find almost 200 plant species that are considered by the Artsdatabanken to constitute a potentially high to very high ecological risk.

The plants on the list are so-called invasive species – that is, plants that spread to an area beyond their natural range and affect other organisms. The Norwegian authorities have defined that all plants that were in the country before the 19th century are Norwegian. Those who have come to the country afterwards are defined as non-Norwegian and have been assessed on the Fremmedartslisten, says Heidi Lie Andersen, Associate Professor in Botany at the University of Bergen.

Few options and little knowledge

Despite the fact that fighting invasive species costs Norway up to four billion NOK every year, we still plant, sell, import and produce these species. The reason for this is that there are few Norwegian legal alternatives, the knowledge about Norwegian alternatives are limited and it is therefore relatively easy to get a dispensation from the regulations.

In our project we will create sustainable Norwegian plant alternatives. The Botanical garden is a unique combination of different science areas that meet. By combining science with knowledge of plant production we have already identified several Norwegian native plants that can be produced and thus provide legitimate alternatives to the invasive species on the Fremmedartslisten, says the Idea Competition winner.

The challenges we face are international and increasingly relevant because of climate change. This project wants to develop a sustainable alternative to preserve the biodiversity of the planet, Andersen continues.

Based on this innovative idea, Heidi Lie Andersen wins Sparebanken Vest and Bergen Teknologioverføring Idea Competition for 2018 and is awarded 500 000 NOK. The award was handed out on Bergen Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual conference, Friday 16th of November.

It is amazing to win this award. It is very unexpected. I´m excited about the continuation. I´m now working together with BTO to find different business models for the idea. There are several exciting opportunities that have been opened, Andersen finishes.

A tangible and sustainable solution

The Idea Competition received 17 contributions from the research institutions in Bergen. The jury finds it likely that the winner will contribute greatly to addressing environmental challenges related to the displacement of biological diversity in Norwegian flora or extinction of alien species introduced from other countries. The jury writes:

“The winner of the Idea Competition 2018 has presented a tangible solution that can contribute to improve a significant problem. The group of researchers from the University of Bergen is in forefront on its field of research. They also show a good understanding of the commercial development needed for the idea; from planning through product development to production, sales and communication. In other words, all the phases of success in the industrial ecosystem.”

BTO congratulates Heidi Lie Andersen and her team!

Members of the jury:
Aslak Sverdrup, Avinor (Chairman of the Jury)
Dag Skansen, Entrepreneur and Investor
Margunn Aas Minne, Sparebanken Vest
Jone Engelsvold, Regionalt forskingsfond Vestlandet
Nils-Eivind Holmedal, Bergen Teknologioverføring (Secretary of the jury)

Background of the Idea Competition
Sparebanken Vest and Bergen Teknologioverføring has conducted eight Idea Competitions since 2010. The purpose of the competition is to stimulate commercialization of research results, to enlighten the research and commercializing environment, and to generate attention for the need of innovation and research.

 

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