13 May 2014

Imaginative professor spurs major industrial production

SCIENCE Business Prize

Claus Felby, a 49-year-old professor at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management is the first recipient of the inaugural SCIENCE Business Prize being presented by the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Science.

Claus Felby was awarded the 2014 Business Prize for his unique ability to translate his scholarly work, biomass development in this case, into practical industrial use. As a result, he and his research team, in collaboration with Danish industry, have helped Denmark assume global leadership in the development and practical application of biomass for wide-ranging objectives.

Stated otherwise, Claus Felby and his research team are in a class apart when it comes to "Innovation": to translate basic academic research into the development of products in the lab and eventually into industrial production for the benefit of society as a whole. In this case, they have done so in a greener, more environmentally attuned direction in an age when great attention is being paid to global warming, climate change and humanity’s over reliance on fossil fuels.

Novozymes' Executive Vice President, Per Falholt, a member of the evaluation committee, states:

"Claus Felby is a true pioneer in the understanding and processing of biomass. The work that Claus and his research group are responsible for has resulted in Denmark becoming an international leader in making effective use of cellulose for a wide-range of purposes. His ability to combine theoretical work and practical implementation on an industrial scale is exceptional. His efforts through the years have made it possible for Danish industry to become a dominant force in the global development of new biomass."

A man of many talents

Claus Felby regards himself as the motivator and facilitator of his research group and in his collaboration with Danish industry.

In relation to his research and product development of better, greener biomass, he has worked with a considerable number of Danish and international firms – large as well as medium-sized – including DONG Energy, DSE Test Solutions, Novozymes, Haldor Topsøe and Maersk.

While employed at Novozymes, Felby gained insight into industry's need to develop new products that were of benefit to society, as well as to the company. He is also a highly regarded educator of business people, one who has taken out numerous patents and sold them to DONG and Novozymes, among others. But he has also handed over patent rights to the University of Copenhagen, for free.

Professor Claus Felby has this to say about the 2014 SCIENCE Business Prize:

"Just as researchers require access to industry, universities need to open their doors for industry. I am very happy and honoured to be presented with the award. Collaboration between universities and industry can be incredibly fruitful and innovative. That the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Science (SCIENCE) has established the Prize, is a wonderful signal of how much this collaboration is appreciated by all parties. The University is able to generate new knowledge, while industry poses the questions necessary to apply the knowledge and put it to use. My own collaborative ties with industry and the business community have provided a foundation for inventions and the practical application of ideas. To work with a new idea in a little plastic bottle and then see it, five years on, in a large factory is an experience that I want all researchers to experience. Universities and industry need one another more than ever as we transition from fossil fuels. SCIENCE’s 2014 Business Prize is a small, but important contribution to this collaboration."

Claus Felby will receive the SCIENCE Business Prize on May 13. The prize includes DKK 75,000 for academic spending purposes.


Professor Claus Felby, mobile: +45 40 89 89 32, mail: cf@ign.ku.dk