22 November 2016

Innovation success honoured at the annual commemoration


The 2016 Innovation Prize was awarded to two researchers whose spin-out projects have raised millions in venture capital, established collaboration with Danish industry heavyweights and involved students in the journey from basic research to the sale of optical sensors and colourants.

Each year, the University of Copenhagen awards a special prize to a researcher or team of researchers who has turned excellent research into innovation. This year’s award goes to Associate Professor Thomas Just Sørensen from the Department of Chemistry and Professor Bo Wegge Laursen, Director at the University’s Nano-Science Centre.

Together, they have developed two successful spin-out companies that are rooted directly in the basic research they have conducted at the University of Copenhagen. FSR Systems, which develops and sells optical sensors, and KU Dyes, which produces and sells colouring agents.

About choosing the two chemists as recipients of this year's Innovation Prize, the chairman of the assessment committee, prorector Thomas Bjørnholm, says:

“There was no doubt among the unanimous assessment committee that this was the winning project. They have succeeded in combining basic research and innovation while also involving both students and PhD students in an excellent manner. They have worked with the entire innovation chain from basic research through Proof of Concept to solid business plans. They have started two spin-outs, raised venture capital and now have specific products and a large network of business partners in industry.

The assessment committee also gave importance to the fact that Thomas Just Sørensen and Bo Wegge Laursen deliver a major and dedicated effort to disseminate their experience with innovation both towards colleagues and students at the university. The two researchers have not only involved numerous BA, MA and PhD students in their innovative process, they have also created a local Innovation Advisory Board, which is meant to help both staff and students to test their innovative ideas, and they have held lectures on innovation for other researchers.

Associate Professor Thomas Just Sørensen (left) and Professor Bo Wegge Laursen, both from the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, receiving this year's Innovation Prize.

Innovation moves basic research into the real world

Associate Professor Thomas Just Sørensen is pleased to receive the award:

“This recognition from the University gives us a sense of being valued and motivates us to continue innovating. It shows that it’s worth it to step out of the ‘comfort zone’ of basic research and step into the real world - to use our knowledge to make something tangible that ordinary people can actually use and understand.”

He is backed up by Professor Bo Wegge Laursen, who hopes that the two researchers' work can serve as inspiration for similar innovation projects hidden in the university's research:

“I hope that it will show our colleagues that innovation is an exciting road to take, and that we as researchers can create a business, create jobs and use our research in a ‘practical’ way as well.” 

Study environment and teaching awards

The Innovation Prize was awarded alongside the Teacher of the Year Award and the Study Environment Award at the University of Copenhagen's traditional Annual Commemoration on 18 November, where  HM the Queen also participates.

The Teacher of the Year Award was given to Associate Professor Marianne Vestergaard for her unconventional and inclusive methods of teaching astrophysics at the Niels Bohr Institute at the Faculty of Science.

The Study Environment Award was given to the student organisation Synapse, which organises summer courses, study trips and conferences with the aim to reduce the distance between teaching and hands-on practice in the life science-related business community.

At the Annual Commemoration, the University also awards doctorates and honorary doctorates as well as gold and silver medals to students who have won the University's prize papers.

Read more about the Annual Commemoration and see all the winners, nominees and medal winners on the annual commemoration website.