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INERA Report Summary

Project ID: 316309
Funded under: FP7-REGPOT
Country: Bulgaria

Periodic Report Summary 2 - INERA (Research and Innovation Capacity Strengthening of ISSP-BAS in Multifunctional Nanostructures)

Project Context and Objectives:
The Institute of Solid State Physics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (ISSP-BAS) is the leading Bulgarian research institute in the field of condensed matter investigations and their applications to multifunctional nanostructures.
The INERA project was an important mean for ISSP-BAS to rapidly increase its human and technological capacities, to reinforce its local networks and to deepen its partnerships on a European scale. It consisted of an upgrade of equipment to achieve a cutting edge level of laboratories as well as to attract excellent researchers and increase the visibility of the Institute; scientific mobility training in top European research centers in the field of nanosciences (and particularly nanostructures); life-long training at the Institute, partnership deepening and dissemination activities. An important added value of the project was the organisation and coordination of ISSP–BAS activities as a result of market driven and streamlined innovation approach. The project relied on a strategic management and strategy development to further position ISSP-BAS within the priorities of the national smart specialization strategy and its implementation plan.
Providing a new interdisciplinary view, establishing new links for common research and encouraging future synergies on national and international levels is the main project outcome for ISSP-BAS.
The project strengthened the capacity of business exploitation of research results and cooperation with industry and fostered a long-term collaboration with research organizations and enterprises from EU, which also resulted in joint projects development. The project also has important innovation impact (6 patent applications filed).
The project relied on eight European research performing partners, including outstanding research organisations such as the Imperial College London, as well as on four business support partners. INERA achieved the recognition of ISSP-BAS as the most promising centre in Bulgaria on multifunctional nanostructures research and innovation and ensured its integration within the European Research Area.

Project Results:
The INERA activities have followed the working plan, having the most powerful impact on strengthening ISSP scientific, technological and innovation capacity. Activities were done in full respect of the allocated budget. The working plan of INERA consisted of seven interlinked work packages:
WP1 Strengthening research infrastructures: ten new cutting edge laboratory instruments have been purchased and allocated in five ISSP divisions to allow tuned growth of hierarchic nanostructures, characterization of multifunctional nano-hetero-structures as grown, micro- and nano-manipulation of the structures by femtosecond lasers. 10 technical and methodological trainings have been conducted on the use of new equipment.
WP2 ISSP-BAS research organization and recruitment: five interdisciplinary research groups with about 70 members were created. Increase of the scientific expertise and human capital was achieved by hiring 9 experienced researchers in the field of nanophysics and attracting back 2 former ISSP researchers. EC guidelines for open merit based recruitment were followed. ISSP took a decision to create a new division “Functional materials and nanostructures” by merging three previous ISSP divisions. This important first step of ISSP refocusing was performed to concentrate scientific, technological and innovation expertise in nanostructure growth, characterization and implementation.
WP3 Exchange of knowledge and mobility: incoming and outgoing mobility played an important role in increasing the knowledge. 62 researchers of ISSP were trained in 8 outstanding EU organizations and 47 leading partners’ researchers have provided scientific expertise at ISSP. In total, 25 incoming lectures and seminars were organized.
WP4 Innovation capacity building: An Intellectual Property manager has been recruited according to European guidelines. This allowed the development of the internal rules for the creation, registration, protection and management of IP at ISSP. A strategic development plan for innovation capacity building was elaborated. A total of 7 expert and training meetings with business, stakeholders in BG and innovation teams abroad were organized. An innovation working group was set up, contributing to the training and development of an entrepreneurial culture and associated skills.
WP5 Strengthening visibility. Integration of ISSP-BAS in the ERA as a major player: 2 INERA conferences and 1 INERA workshop were organized in Bulgaria. In total, 53 scientists (27 young and 26 senior) from ISSP were financed from the WP5 to take part in international symposia, conferences and training courses in EC, delivering 22 oral and 35 poster presentations. A total of 2 workshops, 4 training seminars, 2 roundtable discussions and 4 meetings have been organized to further strengthen BG cooperation with other research performing and funding organizations. 2 project proposals to HORIZON 2020, 1 proposal to National Science Fund of Bulgaria were filed. 5 joint research project with European universities were signed.
WP6 Project dissemination: the wide dissemination of INERA and its impact to the business environment and society are of uttermost importance for the success of the project and its sustainability. Efforts have been devoted to the project visual identity by developing of a dedicated user-friendly bi-lingual project portal. 2 open days and 2 information days targeting BG scientific community were organized. An external meeting of the “Science, Technology and Innovation Expert Council to the Mayor of Sofia Municipality” was hosted by ISSP.
WP7 Project management: The robust management structure operated to ensure the viability of the project, its day-to-day management, especially solving potential risks to the proper implementation of INERA such as delays in equipment purchase and labs preparation. The strategic management configuration allowed for the development of a national strategy on how to strengthen ties with national authorities and position ISSP within national priorities, in full respect of European challenges.

Potential Impact:
The aim of INERA project was to increase the scientific and innovation capacity of ISSP in the field of planar nanostructures and nano-membranes and to foster the integration of ISSP in the European Research Area. INERA fulfilment brought about the following results:
Higher research capacity for ISSP: Upgrading laboratory facilities provided ISSP with better opportunities to regain the scientific potential “flown out” of the Institute. This was crucial for improving the quality of research at the ISSP and its potential to become a prominent example of interdisciplinary research institution in a new EU member state on a new research trend. Being the most advanced research infrastructure in the region, ISSP now serves and will serve as a core regional unit in this scientific area, opening its facilities to other research institutions and innovative SMEs. The upgraded technical conditions provide additional stimulus for young and qualified researchers.
Better research capabilities at ISSP: INERA helped to raise the skills, knowledge and know-how of the researchers of ISSP. Together with international training this raised the number and the quality of scientific publications (1 monograph, 2 book chapters and 35 publications in total) and patents (6 patent applications). All researchers from ISSP benefited from the collaboration of INERA platform with the EU partner research institutions.
Better connection of ISSP with other research players: The cooperation with the 8 EU support organizations established long term partnerships with selected strategic partners, aimed at future joint participation in EU programs. The participation in new scientific networks in planar and porous multifunctional nanostructures is a key for expanding partnership and acquisition of new knowledge. The visits to other research centers as well as organizing of workshops and conferences contributed also to better working connections.
Innovation impact: The concept of Nano Membrane is a new step in membrane technology development. It may trigger an avalanche of new products and processes in all known membrane industry aspects (separation by organic solvents, global water challenge, waste water desalination, fuel cells applications and the life-health industries). Thermo-electro-chromics provide a new paradigm for energy-efficient buildings. Nanostructured liquid crystals serve as new electro-optic materials with enhanced performance.
The exchange with the industry as well as the organization of the workshops and conferences efficiently connected ISSP with the private sector. Strengthening the relations between industry and academia brought about better understanding of the needs of industrial partners and better use of the research in industry. ISSP became reliable partner for the SMEs in providing innovative research adapted to the specific SMEs potential for modern and competitive development.
Better exploitation of the results: The image of the ISSP is improved thanks to the implementation of the dissemination campaign, a user-friendly website, publication of dissemination materials and organization of events. Knowledge transfer and exploitation of results is facilitated by development of internal rules for IP management and protection, as well as cooperation with the industry and relevant stakeholders.
In the long run, INERA project will have an indirect impact at European, national and local level, emphasizing the collaboration for the Institute with other public, academia and industrial partners and its importance for the business and innovation environment. Cooperation with local authorities leads to better positioning of ISSP within the national research priorities.
Finally, the general impact of INERA exceeds the improvement of the quality of research in the field of multifunctional nanostructures. It also has important social and economic dimensions, such as job creation and better career opportunities.

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Alexander Petrov, (Director)
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Record Number: 196938 / Last updated on: 2017-04-13
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