“Holistic thinking is the key to success”
With a PhD in the rather narrow field of enzymatic hydrolysis in copepods, Birthe Vang thought she might have a hard time finding a job. Then Peptek was established.
This article is one in a series of four articles about Nofima´s strategic research projects Spectec og Peptek.
- Using modern, research-based processing technology and expertise, unused or left-over biomass (“residual raw materials”) can be transformed into new, marketable products.
- We coordinate, further develop and increase Nofima’s total expertise related to the future’s sustainable protein production.
- Over almost 40 years, Nofima has built up a strong scientific community in the field of spectroscopy – rapid and non-destructive measurements for process optimization.
- The institute possesses solid expertise within an international format and a modern instrument platform, which is unique in Norway and comparable to the best in Europe.
“When I first heard I had been offered a three-year postdoctoral research post, I could hardly believe it. But once the initial shock wore off, I was over the moon,” says the young scientist with a smile.
“It turns out that Peptek and I were an excellent match,” says Birthe Vang after almost a year in the job.
Indeed, the researcher and research work were such a good match that Birthe Vang was offered a permanent post at Nofima from February 2018, and she is continuing her research in Peptek in collaboration with a new postdoctoral researcher, who is already in place.
“I have learned so much in this project and have had the opportunity to work on many different types of raw materials. I have worked with many different types of people and experienced excellent teamwork across Nofima’s different locations and research fields. I have enjoyed exploring opportunities for collaboration with sensory assessors, who work with smell, taste and texture, biologists and market researchers,” says Birthe Vang.
Through this project she has made valuable contacts with colleagues in Ås and Bergen. She has also had the opportunity to attend a conference to network with national and international contacts.
“And perhaps most importantly of all, I have worked with industrial partners directly. It is incredibly important for us as an applied research institute to learn about what companies want and need from our research,” says Vang.
Nofima has some 600 projects a year and a large geographical spread, with five research locations all over Norway. Having a general overview of and collaboration between all the protein-related projects and scientists is priceless.
“It all boils down to sharing experience. One thing is all the work that has been done and published and that can be accessed in searchable databases. Another is all the trials we do that don’t work out and that end up in the ‘trial and error’ drawer. Being able to share that knowledge, and thus sparing others unnecessary work, is incredibly useful,” explains Birthe Vang.
One of the main advantages of a project like Peptek is the holistic thinking at every step, from idea to market, in her opinion.
“You can do things in the lab, but if production can’t be scaled up to an industrial level, it’s a dead end. And you can develop the ‘best product in the world’, but if the market doesn’t want it, it won’t sell. This is why collaboration between different research fields is so important,” says the Nofima scientist.
She also finds that the collaboration between the two strategic research initiatives is developing for both of them:
“Knowledge gained from using spectroscopy in biomass analysis work helps develop both the disciplines covered by the strategic research initiatives,” says Birthe Vang.