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Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Minister of Education, Science and Culture, Iceland.

What is the government’s strategy for investing in and developing  the life science industry in Iceland?
“The government has a twofold strategy to invest in and develop the life science industry in Iceland. Firstly, through the educational system and secondly through various funding instruments and tax relief.  Iceland has a strong tradition in medical sciences and genetic research and both are supported by creating platforms for training students and young scientists in graduate programs at university level. Furthermore, the government offers opp-ortunities for research and innovation, through competitive funding and tax relief for innovation companies and those inves-ting in research and development. The competitive funding is firmly based on a peer review process that selects outstanding proposals.”

How will Iceland become more competitive on the global market?
“Iceland will become more competitive in the global market by investing in research and focusing on innovation. Iceland is a small nation, and therefore depends heavily on international cooperation. Iceland’s success rate in international competitive funding such as FP7 program is above average and it is important to safeguard and enhance this position. The government places emphasis on maintaining the competitiveness of Icelandic scientists. This can only be achieved by creating favorable conditions for scientists and industry in Iceland.”

How will the government work in order to promote research in Iceland?
“The government issues a policy on science and technology every third year that is composed and presented by the Science and Technology Policy Council. In the current policy, 2010-2012, the government has set a clear focus on collaboration, quality enhancement and international standards in research and innovation. A component of this policy is to promote and raise awareness of research and its importance. An important part of the policy is to recruit young researchers and create opportunities for them to prosper in Iceland.”

What is the biggest challenge for the life science industry in Iceland?
“The economy, although drastically improving, remains the biggest challenge for the life science industry in Iceland, as is the case for more or less all industrial sectors in Iceland. Due to the fragile local currency, it is a challenge to hire researchers from abroad. We are also concerned about the risks of highly trained individuals leaving Iceland and seeking better working environments and living conditions overseas. However, a recent plan by the government for increased investment in research and innovation gives reason for a certain amount of optimism in this respect. It is also important to note that in spite of the economic crisis, Iceland still has a strong infrastructure, good welfare system and relatively good living conditions.” γ