Monday, 30 September 2019

Novo Nordisk Foundation wants to help the strained ecosystems

A growing worldwide demand for food and biomass and parallel goals on reducing CO2 emissions and the use of fossil fuels significantly strain global ecosystems. As part of its Challenge Programme, the Novo Nordisk Foundation will therefore contribute to research on how to sustainably combine the conservation of nature’s biodiversity with the production of food, energy and materials through agriculture and forestry.

To keep up with climate change and population growth, global food and energy production needs to increase by 50% or more by 2050. This will put nature’s ecosystems under additional pressure and result in declining biodiversity. In addition, there are clear environmental and political goals about reducing CO2 emissions and the use of fossil fuels towards 2050. This results in a need to combine a demand for increased productivity in food and biomass production with the preservation of biodiversity.

As part of its 2020 Challenge Programme, the Novo Nordisk Foundation has allocated DKK 120 million to support research on biodiversity and the productivity of managed ecosystems by improving the sustainability of agriculture and forestry: specifically, research projects on how the diversity of ecosystems affects their productivity and how biodiversity can be maintained or improved in agriculture and forestry while supplying food, materials and energy.

The Challenge Programme addresses global challenges within health and technology. The Foundation is awarding 6-year grants of DKK 30 million to 60 million each under the Programme.
“An ecosystem with optimal biodiversity will not only be more productive but also more robust towards such influences as climate change. To counter the decline in biodiversity, we need to not only understand how individual factors of global change impact biodiversity but also to be able to adapt the management of agriculture and forestry in a way that supports biodiversity both in the field and at the landscape level,” explains Claus Felby, Head of Life Science Research and Industrial Applications, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The goal of the grants made available through the Challenge Programme is to obtain deeper understanding of the ecosystems that constitute agriculture and forestry; the biological factors that determine their productivity and robustness; and how the same factors can be controlled and managed for a future sustainable supply of food, materials and energy.

“This task may sound straightforward, but given the complexity of ecosystems and the level of global change, it requires deeper insight into the functionality of ecosystems,” adds Claus Felby.

Claus Felby emphasizes that an interdisciplinary approach to this complex area is very welcome, mentioning researchers within such fields as ecosystems biology, agriculture, forestry and Earth sciences as examples of applicants for the Biodiversity and Productivity of Managed Ecosystems theme under the 2020 Challenge Programme.

About the 2020 Challenge Programme

Biodiversity and Productivity of Managed Ecosystems is one of four themes in the Foundation’s 2020 Challenge Programme. The total budget for this theme is DKK 120 million.

Read more about the research theme, the application criteria and the application process here.

For the application round of 2020, the Challenge Programme is seeking to support outstanding scientists working within one of the following four themes, with a total of up to DKK 480 million being awarded in 2020:

  • Neurodegenerative Diseases in an Ageing Population
  • Biodiversity and Productivity of Managed Ecosystems
  • The Microbial Secretome and the Plant Cell Wall
  • Quantum Simulators for Unravelling Complex Processes in Nature

The Programme will open for applications on 14 October. The deadline for applications is 12 December 2019.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. It has two objectives: 1) to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of the companies in the Novo Group; and 2) to support scientific, humanitarian and social causes.

The vision of the Foundation is to contribute significantly to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society. Since 2010, the Foundation has donated more than DKK 20 billion (€2.7 billion), primarily for research at public institutions and hospitals in Denmark and the other Nordic countries as well as research-based treatment and prevention of diabetes. Read more at

Further information

Anastassia Khrouchtchova, Scientific Officer, phone +45 3527 6675,

Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, phone: +45 3067 4805,