20 million for innovation

The University of Stavanger and SpareBank 1 SR-bank make a joint effort. The number of innovative ideas from the region's research environments is set to double, with the number of ideas jumping from 50 to 100 per year.

Foto av Marit Boyesen og Per-Christian Haugland MORE IDEAS: "With Plogen, we want to promote more ideas from our own environment", says Marit Boyesen, rector at UiS. Thor-Christian Haugland at SpareBank 1 SR-Bank is delighted being involved in the project.

The University of Stavanger (UiS) has taken the initiative to increase the output of ideas and innovations from research environments in the region. This will create new industrial and commercial development and several new jobs in a part of the country where they are really needed. 

The project is called Plogen (the Plough) and is a five-year effort focussed on new jobs founded on research-based innovation. The technology transfer company, Prekubator TTO, is the administrator and is responsible for conducting the project. UiS has invited several regional partners: in addition to several other research environments, SpareBank 1 SR-Bank, Rogaland County Municipality, the City of Stavanger and the University Fund Limitid are also contributing. 

Sowing the seeds for new jobs
Current indications suggest that over 23,000 jobs in the oil sector will be cut as a result of the halving of oil prices. Most of these jobs are in the Stavanger region. This region has also seen the highest increase in unemployment rates. During the summer, the mayor, Christine Sagen Helgø (Conservative Party), highlighted the need for measures to create 10,000 new jobs in Stavanger by 2020.

"Plogen is coming at the right time. We're going to plough the way for research-based adaptation and industrial and commercial development in the region and sow the seeds for new jobs", says Executive Vice President Communications, Thor-Christian Haugland at SpareBank 1 SR-Bank.

He is delighted that SR-Bank is involved. Marit Boyesen, rector at UiS feels the same way:

"One of UiS's goals is to strengthen research-based innovation and wealth creation in the region. Our researchers and students are a major resource for this part of Norway. With Plogen, we want to promote more ideas from our own environment", says Boyesen.

To date, we have approximately NOK 18 million in place. Our goal is NOK 20 million. 

In addition, Plogen is also relying on public schemes such as the Research Council of Norway's FORNY2020 programme, Innovation Norway and the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

Doubling the number of ideas
Prekubator TTO is a leading technology transfer office that establishes new companies that bring in private capital for continued growth. Within a ten-year period, the company has contributed to over 500 ideas and 50 new companies and licences. 

It is hoped that the Plogen project will accelerate this work. 

"Our goal is to double the range of ideas that can be translated into business ideas with commercial potential. In addition, we would like to increase cultural awareness of and interest in innovations in research environments and promote ideas in the very first phase", says Per Ramvi, initiator and project leader of the Plogen steering committee.

"It's a long way from the genesis of an idea to successful commercialisation. But research-based innovation is very powerful when it gets going", Ramvi adds. 

Freeing up researchers
One of the measures that Plogen is implementing is to free up researchers and cover initial costs by verifying the idea in an early phase of its development. 

"We're giving researchers with a good business idea the opportunity to document and look closer at whether their research results can actually be used. They are, therefore, paid to spend time analysing whether the project is realistic and whether it is really possible to transform their idea into new products and services", says Anne Cathrin Østebø. She is CEO of the technology transfer office, Prekubator TTO, which is in charge of running the project.

"It is often the best and busiest researchers and students who have good ideas, and together we would like to help to facilitate them in making these initial clarifications", says Østebø.

Plogen has funding for the first steps. Prekubator TTO has expertise in innovation at an early phase and can access further funding through the RCN's FORNY2020 programme, among other things.

Involving the students
Plogen also wants to involve the students more in the area of innovation. 

"Experience from Norwegian and international universities shows that students can, to a large extent, help to convert ideas into end products and successful commercial ventures. We have major untapped potential here. This is why we are also working on establishing a separate Student Incubator on campus", explains Ramvi. 

Room for more
The Plogen steering committee was recently inaugurated by Marit Boyesen, Rector at UiS. Plogen is to go on for five years, but the steering committee has already asked UiS and Prekubator TTO to look at how this initiative can be made more permanent.

"This is not a closed project; there's room for more partners to participate and contribute. Any contributors that are interested will be given a place in the steering committee. Just let us know", says Per Ramvi.

Partners in Plogen
The University of Stavanger
SpareBank 1 SR-Bank
The University Fund
Stord/Haugesund University College
NIBIO – The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research
IRIS – International Research Institute of Stavanger
Stavanger University Hospital
Prekubator TTO
Rogaland County Municipality
The City of Stavanger
Associated partner The Research Council of Norway w/FORNY2020

Prekubator TTO
Prekubator is a leading technology transfer office that works with public research and knowledge environments to develop new products and services. Prekubator manages new technology and methods, several innovation programmes and establishes and develops start-ups. Owned by the University of Stavanger, Stavanger University Hospital, IRIS, Ipark and Nofima, Prekubator has 10 employees and a turnover of NOK 15 million.  

Text: Karen Anne Okstad
Photo: Elisabeth Tønnessen