The proposed pilot lines should address the development, upscaling and demonstration in relevant industrial environments of reliable materials and manufacturing processes to obtain nanostructured surfaces with antimicrobial, biocompatible, anti-adhesive properties.
They should use existing pilot lines as a starting point for development, incorporating new materials and methods and/or instrumentation with real time characterization for measurement, analysis and monitoring at the nanoscale to characterise relevant materials, process properties and product features.
The aim is to increase the level of antimicrobial effectiveness, robustness and repeatability of such industrial processes; to optimise and evaluate the increased performance of production lines in terms of productivity and cost-effectiveness; and finally to assess the functionality and performance of the new materials/products.
Proposals should address the complete research-development-innovation cycle and obstacles remaining for industrial application, and involve a number of relevant materials producers and users, also considering the needs of SMEs.
Specific aims of the proposed actions could be
- The fabrication of new antimicrobial surfaces, or the improvement of existing ones via the application of surface coatings, or the modification of the surface architecture, in order to eliminate or substantially reduce the extent of bacterial attachment on these surfaces are foreseen. A multi-functional approach should be followed for the development/modification of the nanostructured surfaces ((i.e. prevention of adhesion combined with killing of microorganisms and evt. combined with smart sensing functionalities)
Technology transfer should be prepared through technology services at affordable costs, facilitating the collaborating with EU SME and large industries, and the rapid deployment and commercialisation of the new technology, including for example industries or municipalities located in deserted zones or islands etc.
Non-technological aspects key for the marketing of such products (e.g. standardization, regulatory issues, user acceptance, HSE aspects, LCA) need to be considered.
Activities are expected to focus on Technology Readiness Levels 4 to 6, and target Technology Readiness Level 7. This topic addresses cross-KET activities.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 5 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Infections by pathogenic microorganisms adhering on various surfaces kill worldwide more people than any other single cause.
These diseases are of particular significance in hospitals (surfaces/furniture, medical devices/implants, surgery equipment, health care products and hygienic applications) as well as in water purification systems, textiles, food packaging and storage, domestic appliances, etc.
Alternatives to antibiotics to control infectious biofilms are required, due to the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. The increasing demand for superior quality medical devices and improved sanitation calls for the development of nano-enabled surfaces with antimicrobial functionality.
Nanotechnologies for water treatment units in industrial environments is another example where innovation is required in addressing environmental factors, decisive for industrial competitiveness.
Also food safety issues are of increasing public health concerns. Protection and preservation of food by using active and intelligent packaging materials is a promising route to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks and reduce food waste caused due to early spoilage.
Addressing these challenges calls for the industrial upscaling of manufacturing processed for generation of nanostructured and/or functionalised antimicrobial surfaces and biomaterials having anti-biofilm activity, and eventually including smart sensing and environment dependent functionalities. Technologies that are affordable and industrially robust are required. This should ensure the further integration of the nano-enabled multifunctional materials into practical large-scale applications, and drastically exceed the current use.
Societal challenges in the healthcare, water and food processing fields are addressed. Medical and healthcare are obvious markets, but it is also expected to see contributions to solving other social challenges such as sustainable solutions for availability of clean water or improving on food safety.
Improved hygiene in hospital environments and prevention of cross-infections will show economic and social benefits of scale, resulting from such reduced needs for treatment of infectious diseases acquired during hospitalization.
Adding anti-microbial, anti-adhesion functionalities to water treatment equipment or food packaging is another potential area where benefits can be derived from reduced operational costs and increased water or food quality.
The aim is to facilitate the manufacturing and use of these surfaces and their production, and establish process control and characterization approaches for an industrial production. Direct benefit to the involved industries should be demonstrated in the form of reduced costs and full consideration of environmental and safety legislation.
Enhanced manufacturing capacities in Europe and/or enhanced market opportunities for European enterprises. These impacts should be addressed in particular in the outline of the business case and exploitation strategy to be submitted with the proposal. The expected content of this outline is further detailed in the LEIT introduction, section 6.
The impact should be presented at three levels:
- Impact on the consortium materials producers and users, and other involved industries, demonstrated in the form of reduced costs and full consideration of environmental and safety legislation.
- Other existing or new materials manufacturers, describing the expected impact from further integration of the nano-enabled multifunctional materials into practical large-scale applications with producers outside the consortium,
- Global impact in form of direct or derived benefits from competitive advantage of the new materials in products.
The impact will also be improved by a contribution to training and knowledge dissemination for building an educated workforce.
Overall the action is expected to help driving the demand in Europe as well as support the penetration of new markets worldwide. This should include clear benefits to manufacturers, including SMEs, and new entrants into the market should be expected.