19 May 2015

She solves problems with the help of nature


Professor Renate Müller, 55, of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences has been awarded the “SCIENCE Business Prize 2015” by UCPH’s Faculty of Science. Müller has been awarded the DKK 75,000 Business Prize for her work in the plant sciences and outstanding ability to transform research into environmentally sound products and technologies for commercial plant breeding and agriculture.

Renate Müller (center) was awarded the"SCIENCE Business Prize 2015". Here she's standing with (from left to right): Jan Mousing, CEO at SEGES; Erik Bisgaard Madsen, Associate Dean for Private and Public Sector Services; Carl Meusinger, Department of Chemistry and John Renner Hansen, dean at Faculty of SCIENCE. Photo: Joakim Groth

Environmental consciousness among consumers is greater than ever. So when it comes to plants and flowers, spray free has become an increasingly popular choice. But is it possible to grow densely foliated, good-looking plants without plant growth substances?

Professor Renate Müller's devotes much of her research towards that end. Among other things, her research focuses on alternatives to chemical growth regulators, research that has led her to develop an environmentally sound “natural technique” for regulating plant growth.

Her work is a boon for commercial interests and in line with the expectations of the increased number of consumers seeking chemical free products. Renate Müller and her research group have developed a technology that makes it possible to transfer the genes of a naturally occurring bacteria to flowering and ornamental plants. The technology enlists nature’s own diversity to facilitate the natural transfer of desired plant attributes. Because plants bred using this method are not classified as GMO, they satisfy consumer desires and expectations.

Renate Müller has developed an environmentally sound “natural technique” for regulating plant growth. Photo: Private

Satisfied customers and job growth

Müller’s technological research and development is a wonderful example of how research and commerce have common interests in relation to society, namely to generate environmentally sound solutions while also generating revenue for companies and thereby stimulating job growth.

In relation to his company’s collaboration with Professor Müller, R&D manager Kai Lønne Nielsen of Queen/Knud Jepsen A/S, comments:

“We are incredibly happy about our partnership with Renate Müller and the University of Copenhagen. By using natural transformation to breed plants that are naturally dense, we can go about our business of improving plants without using growth regulators. Natural transformation is a biological process, one that occurs in nature as well. Therefore, there is no GMO issue here. The result is that these plants can grow in nurseries, naturally – without growth substances – and be good sustainable products for consumers.”

Interesting commercial context

Renate Müller’s research and development of alternatives to growth substances presents major opportunities within the broader commercial context. She has filed two patent applications together with her commercial partners and is deeply engaged in collaborating with businesses large and small to reduce the use of chemicals for the benefit of humans, and nature as a whole. Her work marks an important step forward towards sustainable plant breeding on both national and international scales.

Renate Müller and Jan Mousing from SEGES. Photo: Joakim Groth

Addressing the Business Prize, Renate Müller states:

“The Prize underscores that I work within an important area, one that in the long run will be able to solve some of the problems associated with the overuse of chemicals in nature. At the same time, I am glad that our research and development of new techniques is serving to strengthen the private sector and create jobs that benefit the welfare society as a whole and us as individual citizens.”

Renate Müller is internationally renown for her work and an active participant at conferences around the world. She is also dedicated to creating links between her students and commercial interests beyond the university.

The SCIENCE Business Prize includes 75,000 kroner to support Renate Müller’s continued research and development of new techniques.


For more information about the research:  Renate Müller, mobile: 93 56 52 04 or e-mail: ren@plen.ku.dk Kai Lønne Nielsen, mobile: 25 32 81 66 or e-mail: kai@queen.dk

For more information about the Business Prize and UCPH private and public sector services:  Erik Bisgaard Madsen, Associate Dean for Private and Public Sector Services, mobile: 40 45 08 83 or e-mail: proem@science.ku.dk