NOK 250 million for a new biotechnology centre

Under the strategic initiative “Digital Life – Convergence for Innovation”, biotechnologists will work shoulder-to-shoulder with mathematicians, informatics scientists and engineers to create innovations based on biotechnological research. One of the objectives is to transform vast amounts of genetic data into concrete applications. In addition, the participation of researchers from the humanities will help to generate a deeper understanding of the societal context in which the research is being performed.

Cooperation between the field of biotechnology and other disciplines will help to develop solutions of benefit to society in areas such as health, aquaculture and industry. (Illustration: Arkiv)

“This initiative will take Norwegian biotechnology further into the new digital era, opening up tremendous opportunities. The new National Centre for Digital Life will serve as a ‘lighthouse’ extending across research groups, institutions and sectors,” says Director General of the Research Council Arvid Hallén.

There is major potential in the interface between biotechnology and powerful digital tools in areas such as health, aquaculture and industry. The establishment of the centre is the largest effort under the Research Council’s large-scale programme Biotechnology for Innovation (BIOTEK2021).

A virtual centre

The national centre will be operated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in close cooperation with the University of Oslo (UiO) and the University of Bergen (UiB). In addition, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and the research institute SINTEF will participate as partners from the outset. Trygve Brautaset of NTNU will head the centre, while Svein Stølen of UiO will chair the steering group. The centre will have approximately NOK 250 million in funding from the Research Council at its disposal.

“The new National Centre for Digital Life will serve as a ‘lighthouse’ extending across research groups, institutions and sectors,” says Director General Arvid Hallén. (Photo: Forskningsrådet) Seeking to break down disciplinary barriers

The societal dimension is pivotal in the Digital Life initiative. Addressing this will require new forms of cooperation between disciplines. Examples of relevant thematic areas under the initiative include treatments for diseases such as obesity and cancer, the production of sufficient amounts of healthy food for a growing population and the transition to more sustainable industrial processes based on biomass processing. These are highly complex research problems that no single “expert group” can solve on its own.

“The challenges facing our society will drive research forward. To meet the needs of the health care sector or the need for new industrial development we are entirely dependent on the interaction between the field of biotechnology and disciplines such as mathematics, ICT and engineering science. Cooperation between the R&D community and the user community will also be a key element of the initiative,” Mr Hallén explains.

The initiative will be of major significance for the development of the Norwegian business sector in areas such as aquaculture, pharmaceuticals, the process industry and medical technology as well as for the cultivation of new industries. A number of company partners will be participating in the centre from start-up. 

Six projects awarded funding

The six Researcher Projects selected for funding from a total of 47 applications will each receive between NOK 20 million and NOK 40 million over a five-year period.

Project title


Lab-on-a-chip Biophotonic Sensor Platform for Diagnostics


Double Intraperitoneal Artificial Pancreas 


DigiBrain: From genes to brain function in health and disease


dCod 1.0: decoding systems toxicology of cod (Gadus morhua)


Towards the Digital Salmon: From a reactive to a pre-emptive research strategy in aquaculture (DigiSal)


Integrated Novel Natural Product Discovery and Production Platform for Accelerated Biopharmaceutical Innovation from Microbial Biodiversity




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