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From the US army to Christmas trees: 14 thought-provoking contributors to the University of Copenhagen budget

External funding — Researchers at University of Copenhagen (UCPH) have received a approximately DKK 15 billion for 5,092 different ongoing research projects. The newsroom has taken a look at 14 projects that made us think: What? Do they also give money to UCPH?

What does the world’s third largest oil company, the US military, a cigarette producer with 78 billion dollars in sales, and the Danish Christmas Tree Association have in common?

They have all contributed funding to ongoing research projects at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH).

835 different funding entities have granted a total of DKK 15 billion to about 5,000 ongoing research projects at UCPH.

Most of the money comes from the large public and private foundations, and from the European Union, but a large number of companies and organisations from both Denmark and abroad have also contributed research funding.The University Post newsroom leafed through more than 5,000 projects, and 15 of them had us thinking: “Cripes! Do they give money to UCPH? Then we contacted the researchers and asked what the money has been used for, and what has come out of their scientific efforts.

Interested readers can browse through the more than 5,000 projects here, or view a list of all the contributors, ordered by the size of the contributions here. You can also read an interview with Deputy Director for Research and Innovation Kim Brinckmann about the guidelines for who UCPH researchers may receive research funding from here (in Danish).

BP Exploration Operating Company Limited – DKK 78.7 million

Projects Nano-Sand BP and BP Salacia.

The two projects use nanotechnology to investigate minerals found in oil drilling fields. The world’s oil fields are very different from a geological perspective, and we understand very little of the surface chemistry that takes place in them. Sometimes the minerals trap the oil in the ground, sometimes they don’t. The projects’ purpose are to shed light on this by using modern scientific methods of analysis. BP’s interest in the project is that the research findings might be used to retrieve more oil from existing fields. The UCPH interest is that it explores new areas in an analytical, chemical and geological sense.

The University Post has previously written about donations from BP which can reveal the world’s earliest life forms in the article here. It was funding from BP, that enabled UCPH chemistry associate professor Tue Hassenkam to buy a NanoNR2 – a combined atomic force microscope and infrared spectroscope – which he could use in a completely different context when he analysed the millions-of-years-old rocks in Greenland which confirmed geology professor Minik Rosing’s dating of the earliest life on Earth.

Arla Foods – DKK 26.5 million

Supports 23 projects, including some named ‘Pushing the limit in cheese manufacture’, ‘A pinch of salt’ and “Is there room for butter in a healthy diet?”

The PhD thesis,“Is there room for butter in a healthy diet?” investigates the effects of various types of dairy products on cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes with focus on butter and milk.

In one of the experiments, the researcher studied the effect of a moderate intake of butter compared with an intake of olive oil. In another experiment, the researcher compared the effect of a daily intake of 0.5 litres of full and skimmed milk. In a final experiment, the researcher compared the effect of drinking one litre semi-skimmed milk on a daily basis with a corresponding intake of soft drinks with sugar.

The results support the current dietary recommendations of prioritising intake of oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. olive oil or rapeseed oil) instead of butter to prevent cardiovascular diseases. However, there is room for a moderate intake of butter in a healthy diet among people with normal cholesterol levels.

However, the researcher found no evidence for the current dietary recommendations that healthy people of normal weight should choose low-fat dairy products. And the PhD thesis concludes that whole milk and semi-skimmed milk can be included on an equal footing with skimmed milk in a healthy diet.

The U.S. Army Research Office (ARO) – DKK 8.3 million

Supports 2 projects, including ARO-Superconducting qubits.

The project focuses on topics relating to professor Charles Marcus’ activities to create/develop quantum electronics (Quantum Devices). Microsoft also supports UCPH and the American researchers’ attempt to create a super computer – a so-called quantum computer – with a three-digit million kroner amount.

Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre – DKK 5.5 million.

(Maersk Oil was sold to Total in March 2018)

Supports 2 projects, including the “relation between molecular structure of oil”, etc.

The aim of the project is to find out the structure of the metabolites formed when crude oil is broken down into a warm, exposed marine environment, and investigate whether the metabolites are toxic to marine life. According to an email from the department head of plant and environmental sciences Svend Christensen, the researchers hope to, to “make a connection between the biodegradation of crude oil, the formed metabolites and the changes in the toxicity in the water of the Persian Gulf off the coastline of Iran”.

Danone Research – DKK 4.3 million.

Supports two projects including one on milk and bacteria to mature the immune system in newborns (Early milk and microbiotica to improve lat).

The project examines whether the various bioactive components of milk or probiotics (beneficial bacteria) can improve brain development for premature births, that in children is associated with increased risk of impaired brain function.

The Section for Comparative Paediatrics and Nutrition at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is working with a recognised porcine (pig) model for premature babies. The pigs born by caesarean section 10 days too early, exhibit many of the premature traits which premature human babies have. In recent years, the section has developed test systems that can examine the pigs’ learning, memory and motor skills.

These test systems are used in the project to investigate whether bioactive components from milk or probiotics can improve pig brain functions.

In addition, the project will examine the relationship between intestinal health and brain function. It is a part of a larger international research project, NEOMUNE, which is headed by the section of Comparative Paediatrics and Nutrition.

Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft (BMW) – DKK 3.6 million

Supports the project Computational study of the SEI formation

There is a lack of basic knowledge and understanding of how batteries for electric cars work – so the German car manufacturer has set up a research group which includes members from MIT, Argonne National Lab and the Department of Chemistry at UCPH to investigate the topic. The UCPH professor Jan Rossmeisl has contributed with quantum mechanical calculations of how electrode surfaces are affected by the environment.

The researchers know that a layer is formed on the electrodes of the new batteries, which ensures that the batteries do not short circuit in the long term, but they do not yet understand the chemistry behind it. They have combined experiments with the UCPH researcher’s calculations, and the results have recently been published in Nature Catalysis.

GlaxoSmithKline – DKK 3 million.

Supports the project Transport of bile acids in the intestine in premature infants (Bile acid transport, necrotizing in preterm pigs)

The project investigates whether premature birth means that the absorption of bile salts in the intestine is not working properly, and whether this disposes for the life-threatening intestinal disease Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Section for Comparative Paediatrics and Nutrition at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is working on a recognised porcine (pig) model for premature babies. The pigs, that are born by caesarean section 10 days too early, exhibit many of the premature traits which premature human babies do. They have an immature intestine system and NEC occurs in 50-80 per cent of the pigs when they are not fed optimally.

The pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) produces a product which can modulate the function of the molecular membrane transporters in the intestine, and thereby inhibit the absorption of bile salts. The project is to show whether the product from GSK can reduce the risk of NEC in preterm pigs, used as a model for premature babies.

Philip Morris International – DKK 1.7 million.

Supports the project The Actions of the Nicotine on the LTD.

The researcher behind the project has not responded to University Post inquiries.

VolkswagenStiftung – DKK 1.57 million.

Supports 2 projects, including Volkswagen II/85 200 Understanding Default Effects.

In many important situations in our economic and social lives we can choose between different alternatives, but remain passive and make no decisions. When this is the case, our choice is made based on a system of ‘standard’ settings, explains associate professor at the Department of Economics Steffen Altmann.

The research project attempts to answer how and why non-binding standard settings affect our behaviour, and whether there is a need to regulate the use of corporations’ ​standard terms to protect consumers. The researchers will examine the questions by means of an interdisciplinary approach based on economic theory and behavioural experiments and integrate insights from cognitive psychology and biology.

Colgate-Palmolive A/S – DKK 842,000.

Supports the project Caries microbiology.

The purpose of the project is to examine, when in the caries process it becomes infected with bacteria.

The researchers concluded that caries lesions which on x-ray images are deeper than the outer third of the dentin, require operative surgery (filling). The results have been made public in connection with a scientific publication.

Coca-Cola Services SA – DKK 364,923

For the project Study: Orange Nectar, Satin wp-4.

The project goes back to a major EU-funded project SATIN, which was completed half a year ago. A number of European partners in appetite and obesity research have co-operated with companies to develop product concepts with satiety-promoting properties.

Coca-Cola produced a juice drink with a fibre blend, which researchers at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at UCPH tested on humans. The researchers discovered that a kind of mould formed in the capsules, and the experiment was stopped, says professor Anders Sjödin.

New products had to be produced, and their durability tested, and this gave extra work, waiting time and staff costs, which Coca-Cola agreed to pay for.

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia – DKK 320,000.

For a PhD research fellow in Planning and Urban Design

The Saudi Arabian Embassy earmarked payment of tuition fees for a Saudi PhD student to do his PhD in Denmark. He has worked on women’s presence, or lack of presence, in the public space in Riyadh, and examined how the planning of inclusive urban spaces are hampered by the socio-cultural norms of a society.

Danish Christmas trees – DKK 120,000.

Supporting the project Test of neonectia.

The fungus Neonectria neomacrospora is the cause of severe damage to the fir tree, including Abies nordmanniana, the preferred Christmas tree in Denmark. Losses in Christmas tree production due to Neonectria were estimated in 2013 to be DKK 50 million.

“Neonectria neomacrospora has historically not been investigated. But a number of research projects at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management in recent years have taken the lead in this work, says senior researcher Vivian Kvist Johansen. “In order to formulate a best practice for the industry, it is important to know the biology of its dissemination, which includes questions such as how, when and how far can it spread?” It is to answer these questions, and develop a rapid and reliable molecular method for detection of the fungus, that the Association of Danish Christmas trees granted DKK 120,000.

Kennisinstituut bier/ the Dutch Beer Institute – DKK 37,500.

The researchers have studied the concentration of alcohol in connection with the deep-frying of dough products. It turned out that the concentration fell drastically after two minutes of deep-frying, so the researchers conclude that the ingredients with alcohol (for example beer or spirits) can be used in dough recipes without the risk of an increase in the crispiness of deep fried products.