Prizes for outstanding research, innovation and communication

The Research Council of Norway’s awards for 2014 have been presented to a world-leading researcher on inner voices, a turbo-charged disseminator who gave a marathon history lecture, and a start-up company seeking to revolutionise the line fishing industry and make it easier for amateur anglers to catch fish.

This year, the Research Council’s Award for Outstanding Research goes to Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, while the Award for Excellence in Communication of Science goes to Professor Frank Aarebrot and the Innovation Award to the company Polybait.



The winners of the Research Council awards for 2014: Professor Frank Aarebrot, Professor Kenneth Hugdahl and Svein Kvalvik of Polybait AS. (Photo: Jarle Vines/Eivind Senneset, University of Bergen/private) (Photo: Jarle Vines/Eivind Senneset, UiB/Privat)

World-class Norwegian researcher in cognitive neuroscience

Professor Kenneth Hugdahl of the University of Bergen has received the Award for Outstanding Research for his pioneering research on the brain.

Professor Hugdahl is the leader of the Bergen fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Group at the University of Bergen and is studying the phenomenon of “hearing voices”, a common symptom of schizophrenia. His research has generated greater insight into how the brain registers, processes and interprets sensory perceptions, and has given us a new and better understanding of schizophrenia.

Two discoveries in recent years have put Professor Hugdahl and his team squarely on the international map. First, the group showed that auditory hallucinations occur in a special area of the brain – the upper region of the left temporal lobe. In addition, the group discovered that schizophrenics experiencing the inability to suppress their inner voices exhibit neural activity in the front region of the brain – the frontal lobe. Professor Hugdahl has demonstrated that by training patients to block out external sounds from one ear and then the other, they can also learn how to tune out their internal voices. 

Professor Hugdahl received a prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant in 2010 for his work. He is also a key researcher at the Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT), a Centre of Excellence (SFF) hosted by the University of Oslo.

Although Professor Hugdahl is a psychologist, he forges links between various disciplines and takes a broad-based neurobiological approach to his field of research. He is known for his ability to establish research collaboration across disciplinary and national boundaries and his skill in building dynamic interdisciplinary research environments.

Norwegian Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen is one of many who are pleased about this year’s award: “Kenneth Hugdahl is a researcher of top international stature and exemplifies how Norway can successfully build top-notch research environments through hard work and long-term, targeted efforts.”

Minister Røe Isaksen points to the plans to boost the number of world-leading research environments in Norway set out in the Government’s new long-term plan for research and higher education. “Groups like the one Kenneth Hugdahl has helped to build, that produce high-quality research, have the most up-to-date equipment and can attract the top talents, are precisely what we have in mind,” he said.  

The Award for Outstanding Research comprises a cash prize of NOK 1 million.

Disseminator with a wide impact

Frank Aarebrot, a political scientist and Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen, received the Research Council’s Award for Excellence in Communication of Science for 2014.

The jury characterises Professor Aarebrot as engaging and fearless, clear and forthright in all his communication, with a formidable impact, and the obvious person to receive this year’s communication award. The jury’s statement emphasises the professor’s ability to expand interest and awareness, not only in his own field, but also for social issues in general.

Professor Aarebrot has been a highly active research disseminator for many years. In February of this year he held an impressive marathon lecture entitled “200 years of Norwegian history in 200 minutes”, which was broadcast live on national television.

The Award for Excellence in Communication of Science is intended to encourage and reward researchers who communicate the results of their research to a wide audience. Recipients receive a cash prize of NOK 250 000.


Start-up seeking to revolutionise line fishing

The Innovation Award for 2014 has been awarded to Polybait AS, a Tromsø-based company that has developed an artificial bait for recreational fishing, pot fishing, and line fishing. A substitute for bait made from fish, the artificial bait will promote greater sustainability in the fisheries industry.

The bait, which is manufactured from residual raw materials from the fish processing industry, was developed by Polybait in cooperation with the research institutes Nofima and SINTEF. The bait consists of attractants in the form of amino acids and a biodegradable binding agent. The company has used behavioural studies to identify three types of substances that attract various species of fish from several hundred metres away. Individuals fishing for cod use the bait designed to attract cod. Another type of bait is used when fishing for halibut, trout, salmon or Arctic char.

The innovation is the first scientifically-documented sport fishing bait on the world market. The company has also commercialised bait for pot fishing and has ambitions to enter international markets for industry actors in professional line fishing. 

Artificial bait replaces food fish

The artificial bait is a substitute for bait made from food fish. The biodegradable bait dissolves after a time, thus avoiding the problem of “ghost fishing” which occurs when lost fishing lines remain in the sea with their bait and continue to catch fish. In addition, the new bait makes it possible to fish selectively for a given species. From a sustainability perspective, Polybait’s innovation will provide both economic and environmental benefits.

The company has received support from the Research Council via the Programme for User-driven Innovation-based Research (BIA), the SkatteFUNN Tax Incentive Scheme, and the regional research funds.

In its statement, the jury characterises this year’s winner of the Innovation Award a small, young company with an exciting business plan. It goes on to state that the Research Council is impressed by an enthusiastic entrepreneur who seeks collaboration with Norwegian research groups to achieve his goals.

The Research Council’s annual Innovation Award is given to a company or public sector organisation that has demonstrated an outstanding ability to apply research results in a manner that generates research-based innovation. The award encompasses a cash prize of NOK 500 000.

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