Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP7

NANOSENS Report Summary

Project ID: 316194
Funded under: FP7-REGPOT
Country: Romania

Final Report Summary - NANOSENS (Upgrading the capacity of NIRDTP to develop sensing applications for biomedicine using magnetic nanomaterials and nanostructured materials)

Executive Summary:
The National Institute of Research and Development for Technical Physics (NIRDTP) is an established European research organization as demonstrated by its research activities and associated results.

The NANOSENS project, per its overall objectives, resulted in an essential contribution to the increase of the institute's scientific visibility, at both European and international levels, to the increase of its research and innovation capacity, as well as to the enhancement of its strategic partnership with leading European research organizations. The overall aim of the NANOSENS project was to upgrade the research and innovation capacity of NIRDTP to the highest European level in microsensors for medical applications and biosensors based on magnetic nanoparticles and nanowires. NIRDTP's initial scientific expertise and facilities have been expanded through a range of research and innovation capacity building activities. These activities have increased NIRDTP's visibility, society/regional responsiveness and innovation potential for the most advanced topics of microsensors and biosensors.

The general objectives of the NANOSENS project were:
(1) Increase NIRDTP's strategic partnership;
(2) Increase NIRDTP's research and innovation capability;
(3) Increase NIRDTP's scientific visibility.

These objectives have been reached through targeted activities supported by the NANOSENS project.

Central to these activities were the twinning partnerships with the following five specialist research organizations:
(1) Sheffield Centre for Advanced Magnetic Materials and Devices within the Department of Engineering Materials, University of Sheffield, UK (SCAMMD);
(2) Department of Materials for Information Technologies in the Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid, Spain (ICMM-CSIC);
(3) Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores para os Microsistemas e as Nanotecnologias, Lisbon, Portugal (INESC-MN);
(4) Nanobioelectronics & Biosensors Group in the Institut Catala de Nanotecnologia, Barcelona, Spain (ICN); and
(5) Solid State Physics group within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK (UGLA).

NIRDTP increased its human potential by hiring experienced researchers on seven available positions, along with one IP and innovation manager, as well as by organizing know-how exchanges and trainings for its existing staff with the twinning partners. NIRDTP increased its technology potential by purchasing a scanning Auger nanoprobe equipment, by upgrading its RF sputtering equipment with laser ablation capabilities, and by purchasing a gel electrophoresis system.

Finally, to ensure its research quality and innovation capability, NIRDTP was ex-post evaluated by a team of international, independent experts nominated by the Commission.
Project Context and Objectives:
The overall aim of the NANOSENS project was to upgrade the research and innovation capacity of the National Institute of Research and Development for Technical Physics (NIRDTP) to the highest European level in microsensors for medical applications and biosensors based on magnetic micro/nanoparticles and micro/nanowires.

NIRDTP’s scientific expertise and capacities was developed through twinning activities with the following specialist research groups:
(1) Sheffield Centre for Advanced Magnetic Materials and Devices within the Department of Engineering Materials, University of Sheffield, UK (SCAMMD)
(2) Department of Materials for Information Technologies in the Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid, Spain (ICMM-CSIC)
(3) Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores para os Microsistemas e as Nanotecnologias, Lisbon, Portugal (INESC-MN)
(4) Nanobioelectronics & Biosensors Group in the Institut Català de Nanotecnologia, Barcelona, Spain (ICN)
(5) Solid State Physics group within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK (UGLA)

NANOSENS lasted 42 months (40 months’ main project + 6 months’ Ex-Post Evaluation) and was led by a dedicated team of researchers from NIRDTP.
The overall concept of upgrading NIRDTP’s research capacity to the highest European level was achieved by increasing NIRDTP’s research and innovation capacity in the most advanced topics of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors based on magnetic micro/nanoparticles and micro/nanowires. By improving specific research and innovation capabilities – identified from NIRDTP’s SWOT analysis - the NANOSENS project supported NIRDTP’s advanced research in magnetic micro/nanomaterials and nanostructured materials for biomedical sensing applications, increased the visibility, society/regional responsiveness and innovation potential of NIRDTP and, as a result, increased NIRDTP’s participation in EU R&D programs and integration in ERA.

The proposed topics have dealt with specific activities aimed to develop microsensors and biosensors employing nanomaterials and nanostructured magnetic materials.

Besides the scientific progress beyond the current state-of-the-art in microsensors and biosensors technology, in materials science and medical applications, there are also potential economic, social and environmental benefits of the obtained results. Important economic effects will follow the exploitation of results by technological transfer toward companies interested in the production and commercialization of the developed materials, microsensors and biosensors.

New opportunities for participating in EU funded projects in the fields of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors for nanomedicine were created as a result of the implemented activities.

In order for NIRDTP to achieve the overall aim of establishing a European Centre of Excellence in Nanomaterials and Nanostructured Materials for Sensing Applications, the NANOSENS project was divided into three general objectives and six specific objectives, each one being implemented through its own work package.

General objectives:

1. Increase NIRDTP’s Strategic Partnership;
2. Increase NIRDTP’s Research and Innovation Capability;
3. Increase NIRDTP’s Scientific Visibility.

Specific objectives:

1. Develop NIRDTP’s Strategic Research Partnerships in ERA
The objective was to exchange know-how and experience through twinning actions with five research centers based in the European Research Area (ERA):
a) SCAMMD, which has an excellent expertise, facilities and is involved in a wide range of research activities linked to the growth and characterization of magnetoelastic materials and magnetic nanowires;
b) ICMM-CSIC, which has excellent knowledge of magnetic micro and nanostructures, from their autonomous production and magnetic characterization to their functionalization;
c) INESC-MN, which has first rate experience in magnetic layer deposition technology, magnetic coupling phenomena and micro-magnetic understanding of magnetic devices at reduced scale together with the design of sensor systems and their application;
d) ICN, which is conducting both scientific (nanoscience) and technology (nanotechnology) researches related to the physical and chemical properties of nanostructured functional materials, devices, scanning probe microscopy and synchrotron radiation spectroscopy, nanobiosensors, theory and simulation; and
e) UGLA, which is renowned for their leading work in materials characterization using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and associated techniques.

The main goal of the twinning actions was:
• to strengthen NIRDTP researchers’ capabilities;
• to develop new research fields at NIRDTP;
• to enhance NIRDTP’s participation in EU research programs.

2. Increase NIRDTP’s Human Potential
The objective was to increase the human potential of NIRDTP, by:
• recruiting and hiring seven experienced post-doctoral researchers, in order to approach new interdisciplinary and emerging themes in the field of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors;
• supporting the return of very skilled Romanian researchers;
• recruiting an IP and Innovation Manager in order to enhance IP management and protection and innovation capacity at NIRDTP.

3. Increase NIRDTP’s Technology Potential
The main objective was to develop NIRDTP’s existing R&D facilities. In order to achieve this, the main equipment items that were upgraded or purchased are the following:
• scanning Auger nanoprobe equipment;
• laser ablation capabilities for the existing RF sputtering equipment;
• gel electrophoresis system.
An associate objective was the training of NIRDTP personnel for the efficient use of the new equipment.

4. Increase NIRDTP’s Scientific Visibility
The objective was to maximize the dissemination and promotion of the NANOSENS project and NIRDTP in Romania and across the EU. A multilateral approach was adopted to achieve this:
• promotion of project activities and results through a project website;
• publication of a market research report on R&D opportunities for NIRDTP;
• organization of dissemination workshops with the regional sensing sector;
• organization of a satellite meeting of NIRDTP’s ANMM 2015 international scientific conference; and
• organization of a strategic workshop to update the national strategy in the field of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors.

5. Increase NIRDTP’s Innovation Potential
The objective was to elaborate a strategic Intellectual Property development plan for NIRDTP, in order to manage and protect its IP as well as build its innovation capacity. The plan provides a framework for improvement of IP and protection of know-how. Meanwhile, the innovation capacity building measures assure IP and innovation management training and update of competences, provide expertise on IP issues and assure organization of the IP including networking with partnering entities for co-exploitation of results.

6. Ensure NIRDTP’s Research Quality and Innovation Capability
The objective was to ex-post evaluate the performance of NIRDTP in terms of its innovation orientation, international position, scientific/academic position, education and governance system, in order to ensure its research quality and innovation capability during the NANOSENS project and over the following 5+ years. The ex-post evaluation was conducted by three international, independent experts nominated by the Commission who constituted the NANOSENS Evaluation Board. The experts were chosen from academia and industry with a range of knowledge and experience in top-level research in microsensors and biosensors.

The NANOSENS Action Plan was divided into seven work packages covering, respectively:
1) Twinning through exchange of know-how and experience (WP1),
2) Recruitment of experienced researchers by NIRDTP (WP2),
3) Development and upgrade of research equipment (WP3),
4) Workshop, conference, dissemination and promotion activities (WP4),
5) Elaboration of an intellectual property and innovation capacity building plan (IPI Plan) (WP5),
6) Ex-post evaluation (WP6), and
7) Project management (WP7).
Work packages 1, 2 and 3 contributed directly to improving the research capacity of the institute by supporting and mobilizing the human and material resources, and by developing strategic partnerships with excellent research groups. Work package 4 was mainly focused on dissemination of scientific information. Work package 5 elaborated an Intellectual Property and Innovation Capacity Building Plan (IPI Plan). Meanwhile, Work package 6 ex-post evaluated the performance of NIRDTP, in order to ensure its research quality and innovation capability during the NANOSENS project and over the following 5+ years.

Project Results:
During the NANOSENS project, 32 outgoing visits, all made by young researchers from NIRDTP, and 15 incoming twinning visits took place.

The added value of all these twinning visits consisted in:
• novel collaborative work with the twinning partners in the topics of interest of the NANOSENS project, e.g. nanomaterials and biosensors;
• training of NIRDTP researchers in the partner organizations;
• identification of Horizon 2020 topics of mutual interest;
• joint applications with project proposals.

The collaborative work has resulted in 13 publications and 44 conference presentations. Other joint papers are currently being prepared to be submitted to prestigious scientific journals and international conferences.

The 3 bilateral seminars provided opportunities to discuss and identify new subjects for project proposals to be submitted to Horizon 2020 and related calls. 6 international project proposals have been submitted following these discussions:
• 1 proposal with ICMM-CSIC under the 2014 Joint Call of the M-ERA.NET program;
• 2 proposals in the EURONANOMED II Call 2015 and M-ERA.NET 2016 Call, respectively, both with INESC-MN;
• 3 proposals in Horizon 2020:
• one within the H2020-SEAC-2015-1 call with INESC-MN, and
• the other two within the H2020-MSCA-ITN-2016 and H2020-MSCA-ITN-2017 calls with ICMM-CSIC.

Other Horizon 2020 and international proposals are currently planned/under development with the NANOSENS twinning partners.

The bilateral seminars were attended by the twinning partners, by the National Contact Point coordinator for Horizon 2020 and by the Director of the Department of International Relations from the National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation.

The recruited international experienced researchers were involved in R&D projects connected to the relevant NANOSENS research topics.
NIRDTP recruited and hired experienced researchers in order to approach new interdisciplinary and emerging themes in the field of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors. The recruitment process was carried out via open competition. Job adverts were placed on EURAXESS website.

In the process of hiring:
• 95 applications were received;
• 19 candidates have been selected for the interviews and interviewed;
• 13 have been selected;
• 5 renounced a couple of weeks up to a month after being accepted.

Six experienced researchers were each employed by the project for a period of 12 months, with the possibility of prolongation, and have been involved in R&D projects connected to the relevant research topics. After the initial 12 months, their performances were evaluated and the contract was renewed or not, depending on the evaluation outcome. One hired experienced researcher had his contract signed until the end of the project, given his extensive expertise (at Professor level) and highly-qualified skills.

The selection criteria for assessing the experienced researchers were as follows:
• past experience in the NANOSENS research topics;
• past experience with using the modern equipment sets for samples preparation, characterization and their use in medical and biomedical applications;
• past experience of working on national and international nanosensor and nano research related R&D projects;
• past research papers in international journals in the research topics.

The added value derived from the recruitment of seven experienced researchers is given by the increase of the research potential and expertise of NIRDTP, quantifiable by the following:
• the expertise and experience of each newly recruited researcher fulfilled the researcher profile requirements as detailed in the grant agreement;
• high level experienced researchers have been hired, covering the specific areas of research at NIRDTP, which, previously, have been partially covered or not covered at all;
• good integration of newly recruited researchers with NIRDTP staff.

In terms of upgrading the micro-nano facilities, all the three planned equipment sets, i.e. Scanning Auger Nanoprobe, Laser Ablation facility for NIRDTP’s RF sputtering equipment, and one Gel Electrophoresis System, were purchased and installed, being used in the current research activities at NIRDTP. The equipment sets are now fully operational and the NIRDTP staff was trained to use them properly. One of these, the Scanning Auger Nanoprobe, is mainly operated by one experienced researcher hired within the NANOSENS project, whose employment contract was extended beyond the end of this project.

Following the market and supplier analysis, the acquisition of the equipment sets was based on a transparent supplier selection and tendering process. Official selection procedures were carried out in agreement with national and European laws. The suppliers that offered the best performance/price ratio and technical support were selected. According to the national and European procedures, the winners of the tenders were announced and the contracts signed with these suppliers.

The purchased equipment sets completed the already existing research infrastructure at NIRDTP and are fully integrated within the daily research activities of the institute.

The dissemination and promotion activities in the NANOSENS project, with the main objective to increase NIRDTP’s scientific visibility, were maximized at national, European and international levels by adopting a multilateral approach:
1) through the NANOSENS website, http://nanosens.phys-iasi.ro/, which was regularly updated;
2) through a Market Research Report, aimed to help NIRDTP to identify and exploit R&D opportunities in medical applications and biosensors R&D services;
3) through the cover story “NANOSENS consolidates the role of NIRDTP Iași in the elite of European research area” in the "Market Watch" magazine, October-November 2014 issue [No. 169] (http://www.marketwatch.ro/revista/arhiva/);
4) through 3 dissemination workshops, attended by participants from companies, research and academic institutions, and in which special attention was paid to industry and SMEs in order to attract them to this emerging field;
5) through the organization of the NANOSENS Satellite Meeting in conjunction with the NIRDTP ANMM’2015 Workshop (Amorphous and Nanostructured Magnetic Materials International Workshop 2015), aimed to promote and disseminate NANOSENS results to the international scientific community;
6) through the dedicated workshop to update the national strategy in the field of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors;
7) through the participation of NIRDTP researchers in international conferences/events; and
8) through promotional materials, e.g. posters, leaflets, newsletters, which have been displayed and distributed during the NANOSENS project meetings and organized events (e.g., Salonul Cercetării Românești – Romanian Research Exhibition in 2014 and 2015; Salon of Inventions and Innovations INVENTIKA 2014), as well as during other events attended by NIRDTP researchers;
9) through the promotion of the NANOSENS project by acknowledgements in research papers presented at international scientific conferences relevant to the microsensors for medical applications and biosensors based on magnetic micro/nanoparticles and micro/nanowires topics.

To ensure the sustainability of the institute, the purpose of the Market Research Report was to help NIRDTP to identify and exploit R&D opportunities in medical applications and biosensors R&D services over the next 5 years.

Consequently, the report has been structured in the following sections:
1. Biomedicine and Nanomedicine in the Medical Sector, which provides a synthesis of the national and international medical and related sectors with respect to R&D;
2. NIRDTP’s R&D Capabilities, which summarizes NIRDTP’s nanoscience research activities and laboratory facilities;
3. Potential Research Funding Sources, which highlights funding programs in Romania and in Europe that can support nanoscience related R&D;
4. Potential Research Partners, which identifies and recommends European organizations that successfully participate in nanoscience related R&D projects; and
5. Strategic Next Steps, which outlines practical steps over the next five years for NIRDTP to exploit the available R&D funding opportunities.

Newsletters have been prepared to build expert image of the NANOSENS coordinating institution and twinning partners, newly employed members of NANOSENS and to promote NANOSENS project goals and achievements (such as kick off meeting, hiring of new employees, bilateral seminar).

The dissemination workshops were held on 22nd of October 2014, 29th of May 2015 and 22nd of April 2016, being hosted by the National Institute of Research and Development for Technical Physics (NIRDTP) in Iași.

The aims of these workshops were:
• the dissemination of the most recent scientific and technological achievements in the field of nanomaterials and nanostructured materials with applications in sensors for medicine and engineering, and
• the analysis of collaboration opportunities for participating institutions in national and/or EU programs (Horizon 2020).

Between 30 and 40 participants from host institution and research, academic, industry and private companies have attended each meeting.

Specific attention was given to industry and SMEs in order to attract them to this emerging field, by creating awareness about the interest of local and regional sector on the topic of the NANOSENS project, including nanomaterials and nanostructured materials with applications in sensors for medicine and engineering and to make available opportunities for collaboration with research organizations. In addition to universities and research institutes, participants representing companies from different sectors of medical, consumer and pharmaceutic industry, have also attended the meetings. The topics of the presentations were well developed and the speakers made important contributions for awareness of their research activities related to the state of the art field of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors based on magnetic micro/nanoparticles and micro/nanowires. The meeting provided the opportunity for effective exchanges of experience and views both during the plenary and Round Table discussion sessions.

It is expected that the contacts created at regional and national level will stimulate the motivation for collaboration with NIRDTP Iași, common participation to national R&D calls and HORIZON 2020 calls for proposals the contacts established/strengthened on this occasion should be continued on a permanent basis.

The aim for the organization of the NANOSENS Satellite Meeting in conjunction with the NIRDTP’s Amorphous and Nanostructured Magnetic Materials International Workshop, ANMM 2015, was to contribute to promote the exchange and the dissemination of information from NANOSENS (research results, information on facilities, expertise, and research interests) and of NIRDTP’s scientific visibility in Romania and across Europe.

The ANMM’2015 hosted the 1 day Satellite Meeting of the NANOSENS on Tuesday, 22nd of September 2015, covering the topics of the project:
• Microsensors for medical applications;
• Biosensors based on nanomaterials and nanostructured materials.
The full program of the conference, including the NANOSENS Satellite meeting can be found at: http://www.phys-iasi.ro/anmm2015/ANMM2015_Technical%20Program.pdf.

A total number of 83 participants of which 30 participants from abroad (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, and USA) and 53 participants from Romania have attended the NANOSENS Satellite Meeting and have visited the NIRDTP Iași premises, being introduced to the NANOSENS project research topics and results, newly appointed NANOSENS researchers, and facilities. Among the participants, exceptionally well-qualified speakers, including IEEE Magnetics Society Distinguished Lecturers and NANOSENS twinning partners have given presentations during the NANOSENS Satellite Meeting. All ANMM’2015 participants attended the NANOSENS Satellite Meeting as well.

The main outcomes of the meeting were related mainly to:
• presentations by Romanian and foreign specialists of the most recent and significant scientific results in the field of nanomaterials and their applications as microsensors for medical applications as well as in biosensors based on nanomaterials and nanostructured materials;
• facilitation of a dynamic and fruitful dialogue between Romanian and foreign experts, participants in these two events (ANMM 2015 and NANOSENS Satellite meeting), leading to a better development of existing research areas and opening new research directions aimed at fundamental and applied aspects in the field;
• new field of applications of amorphous magnetic materials, nanostructured and nanocomposite materials, which will lead in the future to new scientific partnerships, at national and international level;
• discussions related to the actual policies related to role of nanomaterials and nanodevices (including sensors) to the progress of automotive, communications, medicine, biotechnology, etc., as well as legislative issues regarding the effect of nanomaterials usage on human health.
It is expected that the contacts created at national and international level will stimulate the motivation for collaboration with NIRDTP Iași, common participation to HORIZON 2020 and international calls for proposals. The contacts established/strengthened on this occasion should be continued on a permanent basis.

NIRDTP hosted the 2-day Strategic Workshop of the NANOSENS project on 20-21 September 2016, in order to update the national strategy in the field of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors. The aim of this event was to identify and prioritize research topics and technologies in the field of nanomaterials and nanostructured materials for sensing applications, based upon current scientific and industrial needs thereby enhancing Romanian competitiveness in ERA.

The workshop has covered topics such as recent developments in research and innovation in materials science, microsensors for engineering and medical applications and biosensors in Romania and several EU countries as well as identification of key research and innovation topics in materials science, microsensors for engineering and medical applications and biosensors for Romania. A total number of 35 participants, of which 4 NANOSENS twinning partners, 7 specialists from the research units, universities with activities in the field of microsensors for (bio)medical applications and biosensors, and Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and 24 participants from the host institution, NIRDTP Iași have attended the NANOSENS Strategic Workshop.

The topics of the presentations were well developed and the speakers made important contributions for awareness of their research activities related to the state of the art field of microsensors for medical applications and biosensors based on magnetic micro/nanoparticles and micro/nanowires as well as related to the funding system and opportunities for funding in several EU countries.

Following the presentations and discussions, the participants came to the conclusion that it is opportune to prepare and submit a Position paper, entitled “Ways to support Romania’s innovation ecosystem for biosensors/microsensors”, in which to:
• describe the key research and innovation topics for Romania and main players;
• make a case for including them in Romania’s regional/national RIS3;
• communicate the workshop report to organizations responsible for Romania’s regional/national RIS3 (e.g., the National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation).

This was based on the fact that Romania enjoyed a strong participation in FP7 themes relevant to microsensors and biosensors in the FP7 Cooperation program: biotechnology; health; nanosciences and nanotechnologies; materials; new production technologies; and integration of nanotechnologies for industrial applications (NMP). Collectively, the EU contribution received by Romania for these FP7 themes was 24.48 M€, which represents 28.3% of the total funding received by Romania in the FP7 Cooperation program. However, none of these microsensor/biosensor related FP7 themes feature in the specialization areas of the SMART Specialization Strategy for Romania.

The Position Paper has been drafted at the end of the second day of the Strategic Workshop and will be submitted to Romanian Research and Innovation authorities.

In terms of intellectual property, which considers the NANOSENS project's scientific domain - microsensors and biosensors - as well as NIRDTP's existing IP know-how and innovation capacity, the recruited Intellectual Property and Innovation manager (IPI manager), trained NIRDTP's staff in IPI matters and has finalized NIRDTP's IPI capacity building plan. An IP workshop has been organized to describe current best practices in IP management and capacity building. An innovation workshop has been organized to increase the use of research results and protect innovation, and enhance innovation management from the conceptual stage of research.

One IP and innovation Manager (IPI Manager) was hired on the NANOSENS project for a period of 30 months in order to enhance NIRDTP’s IP management and protection as well as its innovation capacity. He was responsible for:
• the development of the IP Capacity Building Plan;
• the training and information of administrative staff with regard to IP issues;
• managing NIRDTP invention disclosure process;
• maintaining registers of background and foreground IP;
• managing publication clearance procedure;
• leading the development of NIRDTP’s IP strategy;
• identifying commercial opportunities in conjunction with NIRDTP’s partners;
• drafting technology development plans;
• liaising with researchers and industrial representatives to support and promote technology transfer activities.

The IPI Manager has carried out the following activities in the project:
• finalized NIRDTP’s IP and Innovation Plan (IPI Plan) according to Romanian legislation and according to EU organizational and operational rules and regulations, after being presented and discussed with the NANOSENS Management Team;
• finalized the Invention Disclosure Form that initiates evaluation of any proposed invention after being presented and discussed with the NANOSENS Management team;
• studied and assessed the overall needs of the NIRDTP with managing intellectual property and innovation and developed an IPI Capacity Plan that includes: an IPI Capacity Building Plan strategy, IPI management best practices, assumptions, constraints and a process for recognizing, capturing, developing and marketing IP (tech transfer), an innovation framework (and culture), professional and organizational training, knowledge management, organizational IP impact assessments, continuous learning program, IP metrics and R&D partnering (commercialization) programs;
• had frequent discussions with NIRDTP‘s researchers, including the newly recruited experienced researchers, concerning the specific aspects of intellectual property and innovation issues in their usual activities; he presented the current best practices in IPI management and capacity building so management and research scientists are now familiar with how to submit an invention disclosure form and what assessments are being conducted to determine whether a patent should be filed or not and how broadly the NIRDTP may wish to seek protection for the IP in question;
• monitored the results of NIRDTP’s S&T activities in order to identify the patentable ones;
• was involved in the identification of marketable results, to enhance NIRDTP’s technology transfer capabilities.

The IPI Manager had an active participation in the organization and discussions generated during the IP and Innovation Workshops, which were held at NIRDTP Iași on 20-21 November 2014 and 16-18 May 2016, respectively.

A young person responsible for Marketing and Technology Transfer has been hired and paid by NIRDTP on June 1, 2016 which, apart from other responsibilities, will continue the work of the NANOSENS IPI Manager after the end of the NANOSENS project, focusing on:
• managing NIRDTP’s invention disclosure process,
• leading the development of NIRDTP’s IP strategy,
• training NIRDTP’s researchers on IP issues,
• identifying commercial opportunities in conjunction with NIRDTP’s partners,
• training staff in innovation management techniques.

To develop the IPI Capacity Building Plan, the IPI Manager, along with the NANOSENS Management Team, have developed NIRDTP’s IP strategy considering:
• what constitutes an ideal patent portfolio for NIRDTP (taking into account NIRDTP’s SWOT analysis, twinning partners’ feedback);
• the benefits or conditions for co-patenting and/or co-exploitation with NIRDTP’s external collaborators, e.g. academic institutions, SMEs, the twinning partners;
• the practical licensing approaches for NIRDTP’s current and future patents;
• the merits of internationalizing NIRDTP’s current and future patents using the PCT Information Service (Patent Cooperation Treaty);
• the identification of IP management procedures still required by NIRDTP (e.g. clarifying the IPR rights and responsibilities of their researchers);
• the training requirements of IP administration staff and research staff.

The IPI Capacity Building Plan states what is the nature and significance of such a plan, how it is constructed, how it will work, be managed and ultimately whether the designed plan and strategy is successful or not.

The aim of the IP Workshop was to study and assess the overall needs of the NIRDTP with managing intellectual property and innovation and to develop a draft outline of a IP Capacity Plan that includes the following sections: a IP Capacity Building Plan strategy, IP management best practices, assumptions, constraints and a process for recognizing, capturing, developing and marketing IP (tech transfer), an innovation framework (and culture), professional and organizational training, knowledge management, organizational IP impact assessments, continuous learning program, IP metrics and R&D partnering (commercialization) programs.

With the aim to set up the intellectual property and innovation management policy (IPI Policy) corresponding to institutional needs, an Innovation Workshop was organized, apart from the IP Workshop, and consisted of IPI-related presentations/lectures given by recognized Romanian experts in the field: the President of the Romanian Association for Innovation, the Director of Technology Transfer Office from the “Politehnica” University of Bucharest, and the former Director of the Romanian State Office for Inventions and Trademarks (OSIM).

The presentations and discussions of both workshops were linked to aspects related to the IPI plan with the aim to increase the use of research results and protect innovation, innovation management from the conceptual stage of research, role of innovation in society; the environment for innovation, including creation of innovative businesses, innovative clusters, technology transfer support, creativity techniques; innovation - legal and administrative aspects of commercialization.

The added value of NANOSENS research and innovation potential of NIRDTP Iași was assessed from several perspectives: patent applications, project proposals submitted and contracted, contracts and contacts with business representatives. For example, during the last three years a number of 8 patent applications have been submitted, one of them being international application, a number of more than 20 national and international projects have been submitted, and 6 business-related contracts and 6 business related contacts with international partners are in progress.

The implementation of the IPI Plan is expected to further enable NIRDTP to:
• strengthen competitiveness of NIRDTP;
• promote the use of “Knowledge” created by NIRDTP;
• develop the human resource in support of IPI.

The developed IPI Capacity Building Plan was intended to establish best practices for training and understanding how to develop significant IPI Policy for the benefit of the public using best practice approaches.

The IP Workshop was held on November 20-21, 2014 and it was hosted by the National Institute of Research and Development for Technical Physics (NIRDTP) in Iași, with the aim to set up the intellectual property management policy corresponding to the institution’s needs, including:
• legal implications;
• administrative implications (including impact of state law and Community rules, regulations and acquis); and
• economic implications.

A total number of 36 participants - 2 from the Romanian State Office for Inventions and Trademarks (OSIM) - have attended the NANOSENS IP Workshop.

The objectives of the IP workshop were:
• to give participants a better overall understanding of how a IP Management Policy can assist NIRDTP in doing better science;
• to give participants a better understanding of intellectual property, its protection, and its commercialization;
• to help participants assess the relevance and implication of these concepts and principles, and the current trends; and
• to address legal, administrative and economic implications of IP issues.

Specific attention was given to aspects related to the national, European, and international patent application rules – legal, economic and administrative implications (including impact of national law and Community rules, regulations and acquis). Aspects of patent filling strategy have been addressed taking into account the following key considerations: what is, the routes to be followed, impact of developments in enforcement IP strategies.

The topics of the presentations were well developed and the speakers made important contributions for awareness of issues related to the Intellectual Property. The meeting provided the opportunity for effective exchanges of information, experience and views.

The Innovation Workshop was held on May 16-18, 2016 and it was hosted by the National Institute of Research and Development for Technical Physics (NIRDTP) in Iași. The Innovation Workshop had 3 main focus areas:
• to increase the use of research results and to protect innovation (including technology domains, product and service design techniques, innovation management from the conceptual stage of research);
• legal and administrative aspects of commercialization;
• the environment for innovation, including creation of innovative businesses, innovative clusters, technology transfer support, creativity techniques.

48 participants have attended the meeting. Specific attention was given to aspects related to increase the use of research results and protect innovation, innovation management from the conceptual stage of research, role of innovation in society; the environment for innovation, including creation of innovative businesses, innovative clusters, technology transfer support, creativity techniques; innovation - legal and administrative aspects of commercialization. The topics of the presentations were well developed and the speakers made important contributions for awareness of issues related to Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights. The meeting provided the opportunity for effective exchanges of information, experience and views both during the sessions.

The objectives of the Ex-Post Evaluation activity of the NANOSENS project were to:
• address the weaknesses, opportunities and threats identified in the SWOT analysis for NIRDTP;
• establish a NANOSENS Evaluation Board (comprised of international, independent experts appointed by the Commission) to ex-post evaluate the overall research quality and innovation capability (including management and infrastructure) of NIRDTP with regard to sensing applications for biomedicine;
• produce a NANOSENS Evaluation Report and NANOSENS Road Map Report to help define specific goals and activities for NIRDTP over the following 5+ years after project completion.

The NANOSENS Evaluation Board, comprised of three international, independent experts appointed by the Commission, evaluated the overall research quality and innovation capability of NIRDTP. The Ex-Post Evaluation Report was presented during the final meeting of the project, in front of the Steering Committee, helping NIRDTP produce a successful Road Map Report.

In each of the two evaluation visits (July 2015 and July 2016, respectively), the performance of NIRDTP in terms of its innovation orientation, international position, scientific/academic position, education and governance system, was evaluated in order to ensure its research quality and innovation capability following the implementation of the NANOSENS project.

The first visit was aimed on collecting data on the Institute and to introduce the experts to the current state of the project and to provide them with all necessary documents and information for preparation of first draft of the Ex-Post Evaluation Report. They got acquainted with the research directions, infrastructure and human resources of the institute, along with its organization system.

The second visit had the main target to fine-tune the Ex-Post Evaluation Report prepared during remote work via discussions with the staff and gaining additional knowledge on the entity. The evaluators had extensive discussions with the NANOSENS employed experienced researchers as well as with permanent members of research staff, young researchers, and PhD students.

From the assessment of the individual work packages, the evaluators concluded that the NANOSENS project conformed well to the DoW and achieved its objectives.

Along with the overall increase in scientific visibility, research quality, innovation capability, strategic research partnership and major improvements in human potential, NIRDTP has reached several key achievements following the implementation of the NANOSENS project, such as:
• enhanced research expertise through newly employed people;
• better identification of research priorities;
• better research infrastructure;
• strengthening of international collaboration;
• better visibility resulting from the dissemination activities;
• better links with industry;
• better integration with the national research strategy.

They concluded that this project has given to NIRDTP the opportunity to upgrade and acquire its own state-of-the-art equipment. This, combined with the scientific expertise gained as a result of the successful twinning actions, has allowed the NIRDTP researchers to effectively approach scientific and technological topics situated at the forefront of scientific knowledge.

This, as a result, is expected to increase NIRDTP’s scientific prestige. Finally, the scientific recognition will facilitate another major component of this project, namely the reintegration of Romanian scientists working abroad in academic positions and in industry.

It has been recognized that the research topics approached in this project are at the forefront of the scientific research and multidisciplinarity, addressing a broad range of issues ranging from fundamental physics to nanotechnology processes and microscopy techniques. Scientific results generated, have been published in various journals and they were communicated in various scientific events. In addition, the added value derived from the recruitment of seven experienced researchers and one intellectual property and innovation manager will lead to the increase of the research and innovation potential and expertise of NIRDTP through the increase of its human potential.

The final visit, which took place in November 2016, was devoted to the completion and presentation of the Ex-Post Evaluation Report and to discuss its outcome with the Steering Committee members. The rapporteur of the External Experts Team has presented the main points from the Evaluation Report.

The experts have particularly remarked the following achievements:
• two Romanian NANOSENS Experienced Researchers have been employed by NIRDTP after the completion of project;
• the degree of satisfaction of these researchers was high;
• the very good effort in promoting NIRDTP researchers work;
• good collaboration with the twinning partners;
• the employment of a new, dedicated person as Marketing and Technology Transfer manager; and
• excellent management.

They have also identified some issues which still need to be addressed and strengthened such as:
• better relations with industry;
• better participation in the H2020 Framework Programme utilizing the networks and links established throughout the execution of the NANOSENS project;
• better motivation of the young researchers to prepare new proposals for national grants or grants from the industry to create new leaders and build new research groups.
They also noticed the difficulties encountered by NIRDTP in relation with the national research authority due to insufficient and discontinuous funding.

In summary, the following challenges have been identified by the experts’ team and solutions have been proposed to address them:
1) As some of the innovative research conducted in the Institute has significant commercial interest, the enhancement of the industrial collaboration should be pursued. Interest from external actors has improved during the last 6 months as a result of a very successful implementation of the dissemination activities.
2) Increase the participation in the H2020 Framework Programme utilizing the networks and links established throughout the execution of the NANOSENS project.
3) Increase the engagement of Ph.D. graduates in the submission of EU/National Projects. This will in turn help in developing new leaders in the Institute and expand the scientific areas.

The experts team concluded that:
“Overall, the NANOSENS Project has contributed positively to the development of the Institute facilities, human resources and infrastructure. Their scientific work is of very high standards and comparable to other international Laboratories. It has potential to reach even higher levels upon the successful implementation of the above recommendations, which are the result of a large consensus between the external experts and the Steering Committee members”.

Based on the SWOT Analysis of the Institute after the execution of the project drafted by the experts’ team, NIRDTP produced a NANOSENS Road Map Report, which contains specific agreed goals and activities for the research centre over the following 5+ years, whose implementation will further enhance the institute capacity to attract more funding, its international visibility, and, most importantly, the quality of its scientific output.

The NANOSENS Project has contributed definitively and essentially to the development of the NIRDTP’s facilities, human resources and infrastructure.
Potential Impact:
The research topics approached in this project were at the forefront of the scientific research and multidisciplinary, addressing a broad range of issues ranging from fundamental physics to nanotechnology processes and microscopy techniques. Scientific results generated have been and will continue to be published in various journals and communicated in various scientific events. All these will contribute to the further improvement of the scientific environment in NIRDTP, spurring new research ideas, and giving new opportunities of scientific collaboration with the strategic partners and other scientific groups in European projects.

The NANOSENS project also helped to address the main priorities identified in several recent Romanian government strategy and policy reports: the National Strategy for R&D and Innovation, the National R&D policy, and the general strategy of NIRDTP.

There was a strong synergy between NANOSENS and projects funded through structural funds. Thus, NIRDTP has finalized relatively recently the project entitled Euroregional Advanced Research Centre for Sensors and Sensor Systems based on Magnetic Micro and NanoMaterials (MAGNESENS) (Contract no. 255/28.09.2010) - www.phys-iasi.ro/magnesens/, which received an EU contribution of 4.5 million euro. The project envisaged mainly the procurement and updating of the research infrastructure at NIRDTP to the current state of the art in electron microscopy and clean room facilities. Moreover, NIRDTP is currently a member in the consortium which includes the National Institute of Research and Development of Materials Physics from Bucharest and other research and higher education institutions from Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara, which is preparing an application for a new project to be submitted to the next call for projects to be financed by structural funds. This proposal aims to establish a national cluster of research infrastructure with key regional points in Bucharest, Iași, Cluj-Napoca and Timișoara, the main academic and research centers of Romania, taking advantage of the recently upgraded research facilities and equipment of all the consortium members, as well as of the expertise of their research staff.

This will contribute to both regional and local development, by making the infrastructure acquired with structural and EU funds (NANOSENS) and the knowledge of NIRDTP staff available to other regional and local players, e.g. regional and local SMEs and large companies with interests in the sensing industry, as well as to other local and regional research and academic institutions.

The opportunity to upgrade and acquire its own state-of-the-art equipment, combined with the scientific expertise gained as a result of the twinning actions, will allow the NIRDTP researchers to effectively approach scientific and technological topics situated at the forefront of scientific knowledge. This will highly increase NIRDTP's scientific prestige, which will become an attractive research environment.

These factors will facilitate another major component of this project, namely the reintegration of Romanian scientists working abroad in academic positions and in industry. This will be also helpful in reducing the negative effects of the brain-drain.
List of Websites:
http://nanosens.phys-iasi.ro/

Contact Details:
Prof. Dr. Horia Chiriac
National Institute of Research and Development for Technical Physics
47 Mangeron Boulevard, 700050 Iasi, Romania
Tel: +40 232 430680
Fax: +40 232 231132
E-mail: hchiriac@phys-iasi.ro

Related information

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INSTITUTUL NATIONAL DE CERCETARE DEZVOLTARE PENTRU FIZICA TEHNICA-IFTRA
Romania
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