Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, sent the following message to University staff and students today (10 September 2021):
"Dear students and colleagues,
The University of Iceland is an extremely fertile breeding ground for ideas, ideas that can often be exploited to create new opportunities in industry and society. For example, the touch screen technology in mobile phones, which most of us use on a daily basis, has its origins in basic university research. Companies then embraced this technology, further developing it and finding practical applications. Various solutions to treat COVID-19 were first created within academia, before companies' R&D divisions developed them into drugs. In order for us to succeed, industry and academia need to work as a team.
The University's partnerships with industry are vitally important and mutually beneficial. Collaboration can lead to the development of internships and new study programmes, generate joint research projects and new ideas, products and services, which in turn create new jobs and even new branches of industry. This shows us clearly that knowledge is the strongest currency of the future.
One good example is the collaboration between the University of Iceland and the businesses that have established themselves at the UI Science Park in Vatnsmýri. One of these is the pharmaceutical development company Alvotech, which yesterday held an extremely successful symposium in partnership with UI, addressing amongst other things how important collaboration is for the development of innovations in biotechnology. Indeed, such collaboration has been one of the main drivers of growth in drug development in recent years. Sesselja Ómarsdóttir, head of Alvotech's research division, is also a professor at the University of Iceland and has supervised many PhD students at the University over the past years.
Doctoral studies often propagate new ideas and yesterday, two University of Iceland doctoral graduates received the prestigious Motivational Award from the Science and Technology Policy Council, presented each year to our most promising scientists. The recipients of this years awards were Martin Ingi Sigurðsson, professor of anaesthetics and intensive care at UI and senior consultant at Landspítali University Hospital, and Erna Sif Arnardóttir, lecturer at the departments of computer science and engineering at Reykjavík University.
Martin Ingi has been extremely active in research over the last 15 years, both in Iceland and abroad, and has received a number of awards recognising his contributions to the international scientific community. Erna Sif has been a leading researcher in the field of sleep research in Iceland, for example as a postdoctoral researcher and adjunct lecturer at the UI Faculty of Medicine. She now leads the interdisciplinary Reykjavík University Sleep Institute. The University of Iceland is incredibly proud of these two former students. The fact is that UI graduates not only make an impact on Icelandic society – they play a significant role in shaping it for the benefit of us all.
Over the last few days we have had very productive meetings with representatives of the political parties in the run-up to the general election. They have shown a great interest in the work of the University, not least in the field of research and innovation, as well as the important role of the UI Science Park. The Science Park creates a solid bridge between the University and industry, thereby systematically promoting increased innovation in Iceland. New job opportunities for well-educated young people are crucial for the future of the Icelandic nation.
The campus has been bustling with life this week. We can be proud of how well we handled the period when almost all learning was online. But nothing can change the fact that we are a vibrant community and the meeting of people with different ideas is a clear source of opportunity. It has been wonderful to see students and staff taking responsibility and uniting to protect our precious community by following the rules to prevent infection. Let's keep up the good work.
Take care, dear students and colleagues, and let's enjoy the weekend as best we can.
Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector"