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  • Periodic Report Summary 2 - BEYONDEVEREST (Development of the research potential of the Faculty of Chemistry, Sofia University, in the area of advanced functional materials for successful participation in world-class research at EU level)


Project ID: 286205
Funded under: FP7-REGPOT
Country: Bulgaria

Periodic Report Summary 2 - BEYONDEVEREST (Development of the research potential of the Faculty of Chemistry, Sofia University, in the area of advanced functional materials for successful participation in world-class research at EU level)

Project Context and Objectives:

The project Beyond Everest aims to fully develop the research potential of the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, Sofia University with the focus on Advanced Functional Materials and to strengthen its capacity for successful participation in world-class research activities at European Union level. This aim is realistic due to the existing experience and experimental and theoretical achievements of the Faculty in the field of the Modern Materials Science.
To achieve the project main goal several specific tasks are defined:
• Strengthening the research excellence of the Faculty through transfer of know-how and experience and building of strategic partnerships with European research institutions at the World top level;
• Recruitment of experienced researchers in the Faculty;
• Improvement of the Faculty’s research environment by extending the existing research infrastructure for ensuring a ground for excellent cutting-edge research;
• Promoting the participation of the Faculty researchers in the EU research activities;
• Increasing the visibility of the excellence of the Faculty’s research at European and world level, in the scientific community, industry, and society.
These tasks are being attained through an appropriate mobility of researchers between the Faculty and the partnering organizations and other world top level research institutions, appointment of experienced researchers, acquisition of new research equipment and upgrade of the available one, and through organization of workshops and conferences in the field of Advanced Functional Materials. The partnering institutions participating in accomplishing the goals of the project are five departments of world class research organizations: Technical University of Munich (DE), University of Oxford (UK), MPI on polymer research (DE), University of Turin (IT), and ESPCI-Paris (FR).
The research focus of the project is Functional Materials and they are classified in four groups, according to their potential applications: Materials for clean energy; Materials for environment protection; Materials for optics and optoelectronics; Materials with pharmaceutical and medical applications. All these types of materials are vital for the development of new technologies, which are rapidly transforming our society. Thus, new materials for more efficient generation, transformation and storage of clean energy are needed to overcome the pending problems of the limited resources of natural fuels, the climate changes, and the environment pollution. The ongoing technological renovation of industry requires a rapid progress in the design and application of new materials, and the related production processes, which are more tolerant to the environment. The new generation of communication and information technologies (including optoelectronics and molecular electronics) are heavily dependent on the development of new materials with desired electronic and optical properties. A whole new generation of medical drugs for controlled release, target delivery, and/or efficient treatment of lethal deceases (e.g., anti-cancer drugs and vaccines) are being created by encapsulating bio-active materials in appropriate specific forms – coating by protective gel layer which responses to pH changes, incorporation inside hydrogel matrix with variable porosity, in lipid or polymer vesicles with specific surface properties, protein-lipid aggregates, etc. These diverse applications, spanning all aspects of our life, determine the especially important role from both economic and social viewpoints of the types of materials, considered in the current project.

Project Results:
• The regular meetings of the established Faculty’s Seminar on Functional materials, thematic workshops and organized discussions of the research groups with the guest-researchers increased the efficiency of the interactions between the Faculty research groups and between the Faculty and the partnering institutions. During the second reporting period more than 43 meetings, presenting research reports and intensive scientific discussions have taken place. The Faculty Seminar on Functional materials is already a permanent scientific Forum of the Faculty, more open to the needs of the business and society.
• Numerous visits with an average of 1 month duration of experienced researchers have also been realized during the second reporting period. The guest researchers had regular reports at the Faculty Seminar on Functional materials and participated in organized discussions with different research groups. The exchange of ideas and “know-how” resulted in joint publications and conference participations.
• The initiated during the first 18 months joint research projects between guests and faculty experienced researchers were implemented and new proposals (NSF Bulgaria, Bilateral projects, FP7, H2020 and Industrial projects) were submitted.
• The long-term recruited TEM and NMR experts and experienced researchers in Materials Science continued their successful participation in the realization of the project objectives in close collaboration with the research groups in the Faculty. A new researcher was also recruited. Joint publications of the hired by the project experts and Faculty staff were accomplished. The real research capacity of the new laboratories (TEM, NMR) with strong impact on the research work of all groups in the Faculty was achieved.
• Very successful Workshops and the 2nd General Conference of the project were organized with a comprehensive participation of all research groups from the Faculty, guest-researchers recruited within the project and industry representatives.
• The contacts with Industry were intensified through the organization of Seminars in the Faculty, specially focused on the companies research activities and opportunities for collaboration. Representatives of Actavis, Unilever, AMG Technology, and Sofia Technology Park were invited to attend the seminars, workshops and the conference organized within the project. The proven capacity of the Faculty staff in this activity by the numerous projects with big international companies, like BASF, Unilever, Dow Corning, Kraft Foods, Molecular Probes, and others was developed for making a closer relation with the local and regional industry. The Faculty tried to demonstrate to the society examples for successful knowledge transfer to industry.
• The tenders for the large instruments to be purchased within the project have been accomplished, the instruments have been purchased and installed in the Faculty. The new TEM and NMR laboratories have been opened and work successfully.
• The scientific communication between the Faculty research groups and the Partnering institutions is intensified and the number of outgoing and incoming visits between the Faculty and the Partnering institutions increased, which lead to increased exchange of know how and experience in the design and complex characterization of new materials.
• The Strategy of the Faculty for innovation and commercialization was developed.
• The regular communication with Bulgarian government and municipal institutions (Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Education and Science, Sofia Municipality) continued during the second reporting period as well. The impact of the project results on different regional and national initiatives for supporting the innovative research and technology transfer was strengthened. Project MC members participated in the development of Sofia Science and Technology Park as well as of the New Operational Program “Education and science for intelligent growth”. The OP is already a fact and our Faculty presented a proposal for establishing a Center of Research Excellence on Functional materials.
• The achievements of the Faculty staff and its contribution in the education of highly qualified graduates and researchers in Chemistry and in Materials Science, and performing research on a high international level was made visible for the public.

Potential Impact:
The results achieved during the second reporting period were entirely coherent with the final goal of the project, to increase substantially the research capacity of the Faculty in the area of Functional materials. As emphasized in the project proposal the Faculty had already established long-term traditions in the synthesis and properties characterization of different materials, but only with the realization of the present project the research groups structure of the Faculty could be defined and a common research strategy in Materials science could be elaborated. Now, at the end of the project we have already well collaborating Faculty groups with similar research profile, joined in research clusters with common agenda, able to design and develop new functional materials with various potential applications. Although the work on the establishment of the full research clusters structure of the Faculty is not completed yet the achievements in this direction are solid ground for the successful accomplishment of this important for the reinforcement of our research capacity task.
The large number of short-term recruitments of experienced researchers, outgoing and incoming visits to and from our project partners (TU- Munich, University of Oxford, MPI-Mainz, University of Turin, ESPCI-Paris) supported significantly the achievement of the most important objective of the present project: to raise the level of the Faculty research in Materials Science to that of the leading European and globally recognized scientific centers.
The long-term recruitments of experienced researchers from abroad were also beneficial for the Faculty from one side due to the initiation of new research subjects and methods and from the other due to the very successful collaborations of these researchers with other experienced colleagues from the Faculty. Especially useful for the achievement of the project goals was the contribution of the hired by the project experts in TEM and NMR. Both laboratories with equipment acquired by the project are in active use by a number of research groups from the Faculty, which affects significantly the quality of their studies, especially these on the development of nanomaterials and bioactive compounds. The new catalytic laboratory is to be established after successful final of the public tender.
The possibilities, given by the project, experienced researchers from the Faculty to participate in international conferences in Materials Science with plenary, key-note, invited and oral lectures increased the visibility of the Faculty scientific achievements abroad and increased the competitiveness of our research. The positive effect of all these activities on the Faculty research in materials science can be clearly proven by the increased number of publications from the Faculty in high impact factor journals during the last 2-3 years.
Another very important task of the project was dedicated to intensification of the Faculty contacts with industry and strengthening the collaboration with companies showing interest to study and developing new products, in which the functional materials are key component. This activity resulted in several new joint (Faculty-industry) projects and initiation of research themes directed to industrial application.
Knowing the importance of the project results dissemination a number of meetings, workshops, popular articles and contacts with governmental and regional authorities were realized during the whole period of project implementation. In this way the project results were made visible to the broader audience and society. The Faculty is now recognized as strategic for Bulgaria research center in Materials science, able to contribute substantially to the Bulgaria’s RIS3, which puts emphasis on Clean Technologies (storage and saving Energy) and Health life and Biotechnology (nano-technologies in favour of medicine, medical substances and products, Bulgarian specific food and cosmetic (bio)products).
List of Websites:


Tony Spassov, (Dean of the Faculty of Chemistry)
Tel.: +359 2 81 61 236
Fax: +359 2 962 54 38
Record Number: 184244 / Last updated on: 2016-06-07
Information source: SESAM