An excellence centre drawing together the best brains in Swedish Poplar UPSC Kjell OlofssonPoplar plants in the Umeå Plant Science Centre greenhouse, a regular haunt of Berzelii Centre researchers. Photo by courtesy of the UPSC/Kjell Olofsson.
forest biotechnology and feedstock research, which 'wood development' branch is led by Bio4Energy scientists, has been given top marks by international evaluators.

The Berzelii Centre for Forest Biotechnology at the Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC), shared by Umeå University (UmU) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), has been ranked "one of the top forest biotechnology research establishments in the world”, according to the UPSC homepage, in an evaluation carried out for the Swedish Government Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA). Among other strong points, the evaluators put the centre’s success down to its “exceptional leadership”.

In charge of the UPSC Berzelii Centre’s Wood and Fiber Platform from 2007 to 2012, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.of the B4E Feedstock Platform in cooperation with UPSC chief Ove Nilsson and others paved the way for a rapid expansion of the centre’s research activities. According to B4E scientist This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.their success lay in their using the funding money to create a flat-hierarchy structure in which just a few professors, in much the same way as researchers in middle management, where invited to put together small research groups. These were placed on an equal footing, said the UPSC associate professor Hanson.

“It is all about the fact that the UPSC consists of many relatively small, independent and actively cooperating groups. This has worked very well. [The sponsors VINNOVA and the Swedish Research Council, together with the two universities and forestry industry] have got a big bang for their bucks”, B4E Feedstock platform member Johannes Hanson said. 
The Berzelii Centre's funding totals about SEK200 million (€23.8 million) for the period 2007-2016, or roughly SEK20 million per year, according to Sundberg, an SLU professor scooped up in 2012 by pulp and paper giant Stora Enso where he works to develop its Forest Biotechnology branch on an 80 per cent regime.  

“Apart from being important for the whole of the structure, [the UPSC Berzelii Centre] finances some projects. For instance we have been able to set up a platform for association genetics in spruce. In one B4E project we work with Innventia to set up a spruce property database. This is critical to the association genetics' project”, Sundberg said with reference to that Sweden-based research institute and B4E founding partner.

Since 2013, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and Ewa Mellerowicz, both of Bio4Energy, were in charge of the UPSC Berzelii Centre’s Wood Development and Wood Quality branch, Sundberg said, defying the organisational chart for the centre available on the UPSC website 21 March, which lists Sundberg and Tuominen as leaders.

These days, Sundberg for his part is busy overseeing and developing experimental plantations of fast-growing eucalyptus trees in China and South America, on behalf of Stora Enso. “I have got into the work now. It is exciting”, Sundberg said.


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