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Nanoscale Phenomena and Structures in Bulk and Surface Phases

Final Report Summary - NANOPHEN (Nanoscale Phenomena and Structures in Bulk and Surface Phases)

The NANOPHEN project implemented by the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (IPC-BAS) was established in response to a specific Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) call: 'Promotion of co-operation with Associated Candidate Countries: reinforcement of the Associated Candidate Countries' research capacities' (FP6-2004-ACC-SSA-2) targeted especially at Rumania, Bulgaria and Turkey. The call was related to the EU programme of 'Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area' (ERA). The aim was to identify poles of scientific excellence in these countries, whose research activity is related to one of the basic priorities of FP6. The basic characteristics of these poles had to be:
(i) respectable history of scientific achievements;
(ii) present state-of-the-art related to high level of research activities and availability of excellent researchers.

The strategic objective of the NANOPHEN project was to improve and reinforce the research capacity of IPC-BAS in the field of nanoscale phenomena in bulk and surface phases so as to foster the impact of nanotechnologies on the national scientific and economic development. The project has aimed to enhance collaboration with similar Member State (MS) institutions and the formation of stable networks as well as improving the participation in ERA and particularly in Framework Programmes' (FPs) initiatives. The initiative also helps in the formation of a critical mass of highly qualified young researchers with multidisciplinary scientific skill and in improving the technical level of key scientific equipment in IPC-BAS. This will enlarge the scope and efficiency of experimental techniques, which are widely used for collaborative research with MS partner laboratories.

The objectives were achieved thorough the enhanced exchange of scientists and expertise through research visits at leading European institutions in the field and invitation of European expert scientists and the organisation of international scientific events. These have included three international workshops, two international expert meetings and one international conference. The project has also created new job opportunities and better working conditions.

This has involved intensive practical training for young researchers based on the organisation and implementation of a unique pilot program for coupled multidisciplinary training and fundamental knowledge on nanoscale phenomena and the upgrading of key scientific equipment in IPC-BAS.

The support actions implemented within NANOPHEN resulted in increasing the quality and scope of IPC-BAS research activities in the field of nanoscale phenomena adding new value to the national scientific potential in the thematic priority of the NANOPHEN project. The support actions also opposed the negative trend of age-misbalance in science and brain-drain of Bulgarian young researchers and increase of their competence. In addition, it elaborated a new concept for coupling multidisciplinary practical training and fundamental knowledge in the field of nanoscale phenomena and structures. Increased visibility of IPC-BAS scientific activities at the European level intensified networking and increased participation in the national and European competitive funding programs.

The basic result of the implemented actions is that IPC-BAS has moved significantly to the point of conversion into a high-level European research and advanced-training centre in the field of nanoscience and nanostructured materials.

Key moments in the NANOPHEN activities included the organisation and implementation of a unique pilot program for coupled multidisciplinary training and fundamental knowledge of nanoscale phenomena. The implementation of this program resulted in increased competence and expertise of the core team of young researchers build at IPC-BAS and contributed to the stabilisation and development of the human resources, so as to ensure the long-term development of IPC-BAS as a research centre on a European level. In addition international scientific events were organised, they involved three International Workshops, two International Experts Meetings and one International Conference. These events play an important role in intensifying the contacts of IPC-BAS researchers with similar European research institutions, in identification of important new trends in the specific scientific field of research, particularly in (i) nucleation and growth phenomena in crystal and amorphous materials; (ii) interfacial phenomena in colloid systems; (iii) knowledge-based multifunctional nanomaterials with direct industrial utilization.

In general Nanophen implementation has been focused on gaining access to unique equipment and the performance of joint complementary and interdisciplinary research. The project has organized three International workshops and one International Conference focused on the thematic priorities of IPC-BAS in NMP, namely (i) nucleation and growth of crystalline and amorphous materials; (ii) interfacial phenomena in colloidal systems; (iii) knowledge-based multifunctional nanomaterials with direct industrial application.

The actions funded by FP6 through the project Nanophen have created a completely new scientific background in IPC-BAS and have started out and stirred a whole series of other initiatives that have created an entirely new and inspiring scientific environment in the Institute. Never before has staff been so active in searching for and establishing new contacts and collaborations with EU research groups, in submitting project proposals within the EC FP6 and FP7, and in participating in various scientific forums. The efforts for networking with Member States scientific institutions and the further integration of IPC-BAS in European Research Area has continued and intensified with the progression of FP7 calls.

Setting into operation of the newly bought equipment units is one of the most important outcomes of the project. It resulted in a new quality of the material resources of IPC-BAS. The elaboration and implementation of all the elements of the Pilot Program for coupled multidisciplinary training and fundamental knowledge on nanoscale phenomena has strengthened the human resources in IPC-BAS. The efforts in this direction will be continued by diversification of the approaches for attracting and keeping back talented young researchers. One immediate aftermath is the already gained significant funding from the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science aimed at sustainable development of the career prospects of young researchers and PhD students in IPC-BAS. This three year project is targeted at keeping the standards of education through research and active participation in EU scientific forums and schools already established by the project Nanophen.

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