The awards, described by Manfred Eggersdorfer, senior vice president research and development for DSM Nutritional Products, as a win-win situation, honour basic scientific innovations by young scientists. It also gives DSM an insight into university-level research and its potential for commercial applications. "We run the awards because we have an interaction with these young scientists, and it gives us the opportunities to stimulate research in breakthrough areas," said Dr. Eggersdorfer. The research projects are not sponsored by DSM, he confirmed, and any professor in the geographical areas covered - Austria, Southern Germany, Northeastern France, and Switzerland - can nominate their PhD students. The winning researchers are then invited to give a presentation to DSM to discuss the science internally. "We encourage interaction between DSM R&D and basic science, and we do see internal applications for the projects," he said. First place was awarded to Andres Walthier for his work in macromolecular chemistry. The University of Bayreuth scientist worked on Janus polymers, which have two-faced properties. The polymers can self-assemble into particles, and "these have applications in encapsulation, to produce stable emulsions, and for the slow-release of nutraceuticals," explained Dr. Eggersdorfer. The early research used non-food polymers to establish the science would work, and the work has since progressed onto proteins that can be used for food, pharmaceutical and personal care products. Second place was awarded to Irene Maier from the University of Vienna for the development of an analytical tool for allergens in food. "This is a very important topic for the food industry, for companies who provide ingredients, and for the public, with between five to eight per cent of the population with food allergies," said Dr. Eggersdorfer. This project "may have a realization in the near future," he said and would help avoid difficult procedures of people for the determination of food allergies. Third place was awarded to Christoph Dumelin from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich for his work on DNA-encoded chemical libraries. This research was aimed at developing an analytical tool to screen for new nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. Success rate The awards are run with one eye on the potential commercial application of the research, and Dr. Eggersdorfer said that about 50 per cent of the projects will eventually have an impact, but how do we define 'impact'? Taking the example of a project with red wine polyphenols (by Allison Walter from the University of Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg), this research complimented the recent launch of a resveratrol ingredient by DSM. "Such science brings additional information to products we have developed or are in the process of developing," he said. Awards expansion The awards are currently limited to a set number of countries and plans to expand to other countries have been discussed, said Dr. Eggersdorfer. Any expansion would be slow and careful, he cautioned, stating that a network had been established with good and rewarding relationships. Any future enlargement would have to compliment and not dilute this network, he said. "All of us in the internal judging committee were very excited by the quality of the presentations," he said. "There are very good people for the future of key sciences."