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Fisheries Iceland Motivation Award

Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir, Ph.D., director of IceProtein and Protis, recently received Fisheries Iceland Motivation Award. The award is a compliment to Hólmfríður and the employees at IceProtein and Protis, as well as to FISK Seafood, the owner of IceProtein and Protis, and an acknowledgement of the activities of these companies in Skagafjörður.

Furthermore, award is especially gratifying for Matís because until recently Hólmfríður worked at Matís’ biotechnology center in Sauðárkrókur.

But what is IceProtein and what is its operation?

The history of IceProtein, Matís in Sauðárkrókur and dr. Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir’s story

IceProtein

At the Icelandic Fisheries Laboratories (IFL), a predecessor of Matís, selected R&D efforts involving utilization of marine proteins, formerly wasted in processing, were aggregated into a spin-off company IceProtein, founded on September 26th 2005. In 2006, due to interest of FISK Seafood, the pilot plant was located to Sauðárkrókur and placed in what became Verið Science Park.

FISK Seafood acquired 64% of IceProtein in 2009 and IceProtein has participated in numerous R&D projects with Matís. Matís held the remaining 36%. Strategy discussions included applying for research grants, as well as developing IceProtein as service provider for Kaupfélag Skagfirðinga (KS; a cooperative store located in Sauðárkrókur) and related companies. KS established a development fund, designed to serve as center of R&D for the entire KS group in 2010, with revenues of 0.15% of all operating income from each production unit. From the creation of the development fund, IceProtein operations increasingly evolved around servicing the production units of KS. By the end of 2012 FISK Seafood acquired the remaining shares in IceProtein from Matis and hired dr. Sveinsdóttir as managing director of IceProtein. Soon after, IceProtein added new employees to the company and transformed the processing facility by scaling up the pilot plant for production.

In 2015 IceProtein’s operations resulted in the launch of a new company, Protis, to handle productions and sales and the first product lines were launched under the new company’s name shortly thereafter. Currently, Protis’ protein selections include three products for consumer use and they are sold in most stores in Iceland. As of January 1st 2016, Protis and IceProtein employed four people, with background in biotechnology and biochemical sciences.

Matís in Sauðárkrókur

In November 2008 Matís opened Biotechnology Center in Skagafjörður, a fully operational biotechnology lab, with the aim of bringing together different active sectors of the bioeconomy in Skagafjörður and to apply modern biotechnology on a highly advanced lab scale, as well as on a pilot scale, through a spin-off company; IceProtein. The laboratory of Matís complemented IceProtein’s pilot scale operations, with investments in proteomics and equipment for bioactivity assays. Seeing the potential of future collaboration, FISK Seafood (tengill), one of the largest seafood companies in Iceland, supported Matís in their move to Sauðárkrókur through projects and business, in the form of chemical analysis and assays of products, as well as through renting facilities at a reasonable cost. On January 1st 2016, Matís’ operations included four employees.


Verið Science Park in Sauðárkrókur.

Dr. Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir

In May 2008, dr. Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir defended her Ph.D. thesis at University of Iceland and joined the Matís team in Sauðárkrókur, soon followed by other new employees and M.Sc. students. From that time, dr. Sveinsdóttir has been in the forefront of research and development in the area of biotechnology and biomolecules. Dr. Sveinsdóttir has a Ph.D. degree in biotechnology and a M.Sc. degree in nutrition and her area of interest has been in research relating to bioactive compounds from the ocean, particularly proteins and peptides from wild Icelandic cod (Gadus morhua).

In 2011 FISK Seafood, which had earlier acquired majority of shares in IceProtein from Matís, invested in brand new facilities for their headquarters. Verið Science Park, IceProtein and Matís moved their operations in Skagafjörður to the same location. Matís extended the lab operations simultaneously. In 2013, after FISK Seafood had acquired Matís’s remaining shares in IceProtein, dr. Sveinsdóttir left Matís and took the position of managing director of IceProtein, as mentioned earlier.

“I hope that this award will not only benefit us here in Skagafjörður to continue our close cooperation with entrepreneurs for innovations and development for FISH Seafood and the fisheries industry but also that the award will encourage companies in the fishing industry to increase their cooperation with entrepreneurs. Innovation leads to better quality of harvesting and processing, improved image, more varied market opportunities and increased value.“
Dr. Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir