The ordinary operating profit was NOK 80 million, compared with NOK 52 million in 2015, providing a net operating margin of 3.1 per cent.
"We have taken significant steps to secure a healthy financial position at SINTEF", says CEO Alexandra Bech Gjørv. "I am proud of the efforts that our employees have made, and pleased that in today's challenging market we are now on the right track. However, we still have some way to go before our revenues reach a level that enables us to invest adequately in the research, commercialisation, competence, laboratories and systems we need to enable us to become a world-leading institute in the future", she says.
In 2016, SINTEF invested NOK 100 million in laboratories, scientific equipment and other business assets. Since 2007, it has invested a total of approximately NOK 1.3 billion.
SINTEF financial position is robust. As of 31 December 2016, SINTEF has equity amounting to NOK 2,178 million, which constitutes 60 per cent of its total capital. Most of this capital is invested in laboratories and other properties linked to research activities.
During the last two years, SINTEF has taken significant steps to reduce costs and increase sales. Cost reduction measures during 2015 and 2016 have resulted in combined annual savings of NOK 300 million. This has involved redundancies, more efficient use of building premises, new IT agreements, changes to pension schemes, and the closing down of SINTEF's operations in Brazil.
SINTEF has reduced its employee numbers by about 120 during the last two years. This includes 32 employees at a company sold by the SINTEF Group in 2015. In particular, personnel reductions have been made in research departments with high activity in the oil industry. For the most part, redundancies have been achieved by means of modest severance packages.
The biggest organisational change that has taken place in 2016 involved the merging of SINTEF's marine research activities into a single institute named SINTEF Ocean. The institute has about 350 employees and became fully operative on 1 January 2017. The aim of this change is to consolidate SINTEF's position as a world leader in the fields of maritime and biomarine research.
During 2016, SINTEF worked on 5,722 projects for 3,952 small and large customers. Forty-one per cent of gross operating revenues were generated directly from contract research projects for Norwegian private sector customers.
International sales amounted to NOK 448 million. Fourteen per cent of SINTEF's operating revenues were generated from international projects. In 2016, SINTEF had customers in 63 countries worldwide, and EU-funded projects constituted about 50 per cent of international sales.
Health, Safety and the Environment (HSE)
HSE issues are given the highest priority at SINTEF. In 2016, five unwanted incidents led to sickness absence, resulting in an "H1 factor" (total injuries/sickness resulting in sick leave per million hours worked) of 1.4. Sickness absence was at 3.7 per cent, a small reduction compared with previous years. One incident of pollution of the external environment was recorded, involving a spill of 100 litres of oil from an outdoor storage tank.
At the turn of the year SINTEF had 1,960 employees. Fifty-six per cent of our researchers have doctorate degrees, compared with 44 per cent in 2009. The proportion of women among our research scientists is 29 per cent, and 33 per cent among managerial personnel.
Twenty-two per cent (432) of SINTEF's employees come from as many as 74 countries outside Norway. SINTEF's overseas employees provide a valuable source of scientific and cultural expertise. The majority of employees from outside Norway are from Germany and France.
Robust scientific and technical results
In terms of research activity, 2016 has been a good year. One of the highlights was the creation by the Research Council of Norway of eight new Centres for Environmentally-Friendly Energy (CEERs). SINTEF and NTNU are participating in all eight centres. SINTEF is also by far the largest Norwegian participant in the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, also known as Horizon 2020. As of February 2017, SINTEF has been granted participation in 104 projects linked to Horizon 2020, involving funding from the EU amounting to EUR 60 million.
In December 2016, SINTEF was awarded a prize by the UN Secretary-General for "leadership and innovative practice aimed at meeting current global energy challenges".
SINTEF has boosted its activities to develop new businesses based on ideas generated in-house. During 2016, SINTEF TTO invested NOK 28 million through the SINTEF Venture IV fund. At the close of 2016, SINTEF TTO had 15 companies in its portfolio.
The dramatic fall in oil and energy prices is having a major impact on the Norwegian economy, resulting in declining levels of activity and rising unemployment in many sectors and geographical regions. SINTEF is experiencing that customers in the petroleum sector and its suppliers have either cancelled or postponed research projects. However, there are some early indications that the market is improving.
At the same time, growth in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, combined with high levels of activity and interest for innovation in the building and construction sector, have led to an increasing demand for SINTEF's skills and expertise.
The major importance of restructuring processes in society promotes increasing demands for research and innovation, and SINTEF is positioned to play a significant role. Digitalisation, automation and advanced robotic technologies are fuelling change in all aspects of our working life and in society at large. SINTEF has considerable skills and expertise in these fields, and is making an active contribution to successful restructuring and transition processes in both the private and public sectors.