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The implementation of research potential of the Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry in the European Research Area

Final Report Summary - WOOD-NET (The implementation of research potential of the Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry in the European Research Area)

Executive Summary:

The project's objective was to improve the research capacities and to reinforce the scientific and technical potential of the Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry (LSIWC) in its scientific excellence with the aim of unlocking its capacity and make it accessible for the European Research Area (ERA) and third countries. The project promoted the exchange of know-how and experience and the formation of strategic cooperation partnership among the related leading European research centres. It activated the dissemination of scientific information and joint results; expanded the involvement of young researchers in the scientific environment. The project embraces 10 thematic priorities (TP), which represent both traditional branches of wood science and integrating with other sciences, including also biorefinery and sustainable use of biomass resources approaches.

The cooperation with 67 research organisations took place during the three years of the project realisation. The exchange of experience covered 25 countries, including both 21 ERA countries, i.e. old and new European Union (EU) countries, associated to ERA countries and four International Cooperation Partner Countries (ICPC). The research activities of foreign researchers during a long-term stay (one month and more) were an essential component of the project realisation. During 3 years, the LSIWC staff participated in 62 international scientific conferences, symposia, seminars etc. This covers all TP and involves both young and senior researchers of LSIWC. The scientific output of the project WOOD-NET in the form of publications has increased both quantitatively and qualitatively during these three years and resulted in 142 publications. Alongside with 129 materials of the scientific conferences, also 21 peer-reviewed journal articles, one monograph and two collections of conference materials are issued.

Two scientific events were organised within the project: the Fifth European Conference on Wood Modification ECWM5 (20 and 21 September 2010, Riga, Latvia, http://www.ecwm5.lv/) and the second workshop 'Green Chemistry and Nanotechnologies in Polymer Chemistry' (5 and 6 May, 2011, Riga, Latvia). The first of them brought together 120 participants from 30 countries; 30 oral and 29 poster presentations were offered, but the proceedings book contains 60 peer-reviewed articles of participants. Thirty participants from eight ERA and one ICPC countries took part in the workshop with 26 oral and three poster presentations and a book of abstracts with 27 abstracts was issued.

The established and maintained contacts and closed cooperation agreements of LSIWC with foreign research centres form a network around LSIWC as an ERA centre of excellence in the field of wood sciences. This will be a base for further sustainable international cooperation also after the realisation of the WOOD-NET project. The network established within the WOOD-NET project and visiting activities promotes the coordination of the scientific output of the research activities carried out based on the national or other international scale funds, reaching the proposed scientific goals. The realisation of the project expressed as the synergy with the outcome from the previous Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) and forthcoming Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) projects, projects financed by EU structural funds, nationally financed research programmes and projects, as well as from other research, educational and organising activities fulfilled by the Institute in cooperation with other research centres. The results of the research activities of the Institute and partners will help in initiating innovations, spin-ups and other intersectorial activities.

Project Context and Objectives:

The project's objective was to improve the research capacities and to reinforce the scientific and technical potential of the LSIWC in its scientific excellence with the aim of unlocking its capacity and make it accessible for the ERA and third countries. The project promoted the exchange of know-how and experience and the formation of strategic cooperation partnership among the related leading European research centres. It activated the dissemination of scientific information and joint results and expanded the involvement of young researchers in the scientific environment. Fifty one institutions as provisional cooperation partners from 24 countries were predicted. The project embraces 10 TP connected with the LSIWC research priorities. The TP represent both traditional branches of wood science (TP1-TP8) and integrating with other sciences (TP9-TP10), including also biorefinery and sustainable use of biomass resources approaches (TP4, TP6-TP8).

The project was based on such a multidisciplinarity approach and offered it as a unique value for partners and ERA and manifested itself in:

1. viewing of wood from different aspects - living (growing) wood; wood as a material itself and its usability; wood as a raw material for processing by different technologies (cellulose, fibre etc.), wood as an energy resource;
2. cellulose-containing biomass along with wood as a research object;
3. combining of wood as a raw material with other materials;
4. a variety of the represented science branches: chemistry (organic, analytical, physical, macromolecular), physics, biology (botany, microbiology), technology science and environmental science;
5. from fundamental research to applied research; technologies, innovations;
6. sustainable utilisation of wood and other cellulose-containing biomass resources.

The increased multidisciplinarity, new ideas, new methods and new research subjects will be both the results of the project implementation and also factors, which will be taken into account during the project realisation as objects of co-ordination efforts. Essential from the co-ordination viewpoint will be:

1. attracting of the attention of the scientific community in ERA in the appropriate fields and subfields and involving of new partners from the academy and industry sectors;
2. exchange of experience during the visits of senior researchers, training of young researchers;
3. acquisition and upgrading of research equipment and laboratory installation, with attention to specialised needs of these fields;
4. purposeful dissemination of scientific information (organising of workshops and conference, summarising of research results in publications, reviews and monographs).

The activities of the project involved regular exchange visits of experienced and young researchers (meetings, discussions, experiments and analyses on LSIWC and partners' equipment), joint consideration of the results and preparation of publications and projects for the EU, international and national scale funding; acquiring of new research and analytical equipment and upgrading of the existing one; the realisation of public relations to inform the EU and national scientific community and the whole society.

Project Results:

All the TP had been involved in some steps within the activities of the project during the second year. As the most essential achievements of each TP, the realisation of the following activities should be mentioned:

TP1: 'Understanding of the impact of environmental factors on the changes in the structure of coniferous tree (Gymnospermae) wood cell wall in optimising biomass industrial processing processes': Close cooperation with colleagues from the University of Zwolen (Slovakia) and the Faculty of Wood Technology of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (Poland), mutual visits of researchers (14), involvement of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (28, including nine proceedings and 12 peer-reviewed articles).

TP2: 'Investigation of wood durability and other properties improving (upgrading) mechanisms by non-biocidal methods' and TP3: 'Biological wood damage of cultural heritage sites: organisms, biodeterioration, prevention' - the greater part of their activities is realised jointly:

1. the active cooperation with the Department of Wood Biology and Wood Products of the Georg-August University (Goettingen, Germany), mutual visits of researchers, the series of the visits of the LSIWC young researcher V. Biziks allowed to realise the examination of the bio-stability and the investigations of the mechanical strengthening properties of hydrothermally modified grey alder and other softwood samples using partners' research capacities;
2. a series of visits of Dr Uwe Noldt and Dr Guna Noldt from the Institute of Wood Technology and Wood Biology (HTB), Johann Heinrich von Thunen-Institute (vTI) (Hamburg, Germany) and Dr Mitko Karadelev (Institute of Biology, Faculty of Natural Science and Mathematics, Skopje, the Republic of Macedonia), started during the First year and continued in the second and third years, allowed to realise the in-depth inspection of objects of cultural heritage (churches, manor houses, old furniture, art objects, wood-engraving etc.) in several cities and all regions of Latvia and to study the durability and biological damage of wood materials in such objects. The final report 'Survey of wood-destroying insects in Latvian wooden cultural heritage churches and museums with focus on Eastern Latvia' was presented and discussed at the end of the project;
3. the active cooperation with the Durmishidze Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology (Tbilisi, Georgia), mutual visits of researchers, the elaboration of research works of Dr Nino Tsiklauri 'Determination of enzymatic activity of wood inhabiting fungi' and Dr Mikheil Asatiani 'Evaluation of Higher Basidiomycetes potential to produce hydrolytic and ligninolytic enzymes in submerged cultivation in synthetic medium (SF) and in fermentation of agro-industrial wastes' during their stay in LSIWC; these joint research activities allowed to introduce the new methods of fungi analysis and cultivation in LSIWC;
4. the research works 'Instrumental methods for wood structure and properties studies' and 'Investigation of biocides according to Biocidal Products Directive (BPD) for wood protection' of young researcher Errj Sansonetti from the Department of Chemistry of the University of Perugia (Italy);
5. the two meetings of the international researchers' group on 'Wood modification' allowed to inform the leading specialists in this field about the research capabilities of LSIWC and to discuss the possible cooperation of the leading research centres of ERA in the field of wood modification as well as the possible cooperation with LSIWC;
6. organising of The Fifth European Conference on Wood Modification ECWM5, 20 and 21 September, 2010, Riga, Latvia;
7. cooperation and networking with other partners, mutual visits of researchers (73);
8. involvement and training of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (21, including 11 proceedings and four peer-reviewed articles).

TP4: 'Wood molecular-, nano-level and composite materials research and biological re-engineering of plant cell walls for chemicals and energy': Close cooperation with colleagues from the Department of Environmental Protection, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Lithuania) and the University of Naples 'Parthenope', Italy; Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry NRC (Italy), mutual visits of researchers (21), involvement of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (four, including three proceedings).

TP5: 'Delignification of fast growing deciduous trees yielding (obtaining) new and improved products':

1. close cooperation with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institute of Chemical Technologies (Karlsruhe, Germany), the Pagora University, Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble (France) and the Laboratory of Wood and Paper Chemistry, Abo Academi University (Turku, Finland), also with other research institutions from Germany, Sweden, Finland, mutual visits of researchers (21);
2. the research work 'Impact of tree properties on the characteristics of papermaking fibre' of the young researchers Sabine Robert from the Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble (France) during her stay in LSIWC;
3. involvement of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (11, including seven proceedings).

TP6: 'Development of biorefinery by the thermochemical conversion of biomass': Close cooperation with colleagues from the Department of Environmental Chemistry of the Institute of Materials and Environmental Chemistry, Chemical Research Centre (Budapest, Hungary) and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) (Petten, the Netherlands), mutual visits of researchers (19), involvement of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (seven, including four proceedings).

TP7: 'Development of novel and improved products, including hybrids, originated from lignocellulosics and polyphenolics plant biomass processing waste for increasing sustainability of agriculture and forestry':

1. active cooperation, visiting, research and training activities in foreign research centres: the Faculty of Science of the Tallinn University of Technology, (Estonia); the Faculty of Chemical Technology of the Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania); the National Botanical Garden of Ukraine (Kiev, Ukraine), also in the research institutions in Spain and Portugal. It provided the acquaintance with new experimental and analytical methods (supercritical fluid extractions, new methods of chromatography etc.);
2. visiting in LSIWC and participation in research activities of foreign researchers from the Materials Science Institute of Madrid (Spain), the Institute of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry (Moscow, Russia), the Faculty of Science of the Tallinn University of Technology and from the research institutions in Spain, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Portugal, Germany;
3. the research work 'Study of sorption activity of lignocellulose regarding to oil products in water media' of Dr Tatsian Nevar from the Research Institute for Physical Chemical Problems of the Belarusian State University (Minsk, Belarus);
4. cooperation and networking with other partners, mutual visits of researchers (67);
5. involvement and training of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (30, including 17 proceedings and two peer-reviewed articles).

TP8: 'Knowledge-based biomass polymeric products with multiple functions':

1. close cooperation with colleagues from the Klaipeda University (Lithuania), the 'Gheorghe Asachi' Technical University of Iasi (Romania), the 'Petru Poni' Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry (Iasi, Romania), the Department of Chemistry of M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University (Russia) and the State Scientific Institution 'V.A. Belyi Metal-Polymer Research Institute of National Academy of Sciences of Belarus' (Gomel, Belarus);
2. cooperation and networking with other partners, mutual visits of researchers (35);
3. involvement and training of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (19, including 10 proceedings).

TP9: 'Environmentally friendly rigid polyurethane foams as an energy saving material':

1. close cooperation with colleagues from the research institute SYNPO (Pardubice, Czech Republic), the University of Economics and Technology of Budapest (Hungary) and the National Institute of Chemistry of Slovenia (Ljublan, Slovenia) and the Department of Chemistry of the University of Athens (Greece);
2. organising of the second workshop 'Green Chemistry and Nanotechnologies in Polymer Chemistry', 5 and 6 May, 2011, Riga, Latvia;
3. cooperation and networking with other partners, mutual visits of researchers (15);
4. involvement and training of young researchers, the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (12, including three proceedings).

TP10: 'Development of process control systems: functional state mathematical modelling, programming and optimisation of bioreactor's design both for solid state (including composting) and submerged fermentations':

1. close cooperation with colleagues from the Centre of Biomedical Engineering of the Bulgarian Academy of Science (Sofia, Bulgaria) and the Durmishidze Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology (Tbilisi, Georgia);
2. the research work 'Studies of Sacharomyces cerevisiae fed-batch fermentation' of young researcher Viachaslau Hrynko from the Institute of Physical Organic Chemistry of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Minsk, Belarus);
3. cooperation and networking with other partners, mutual visits of researchers (six);
4. the presentation of research results at representative international conferences and publications (nine, including three proceedings, 3 peer-reviewed articles and the monograph: Viesturs U., Simeonov I., Pencheva T. et al. Contemporary approaches to modelling, optimisation and control of biotechnological processes - Sofia, Prof. Marin Drinov Academic Publishing House, 2010, 242 p.).

The cooperation with 67 research organisations took place during the three years of the project realisation. Therefore, the common number of the involved partners is comparable with the 51 partner institutions envisaged by the work plans. The exchange of experience covers 25 countries, including both 21 ERA countries (old and new EU countries, associated to ERA countries) and four ICPC countries. The research activities of foreign researchers during a long-term stay (one month and more) became an essential component of the project realisation: two experienced researchers and four young researchers realised research works during their stay in LSIWC.

During three years, the LSIWC staff participated in 62 international scientific conferences, symposia, seminars etc. This covers all TP and involves both young and senior researchers of LSIWC. The scientific output of the project WOOD-NET in the form of publications has increased both quantitatively and qualitatively during these three years and resulted in 142 publications. Along with the 129 materials of the scientific conferences (79 of them - proceedings and proceedings issued in the form of peer-reviewed journal articles), also 21 peer-reviewed journal articles, one monograph and two collections of conference materials are issued. Several joint publications together with partner institutions' researchers are currently under preparation.

LSIWC researchers, after the participation in conferences, also after visits and research activities in foreign research centres, inform colleagues during the nearest weekly meeting of the scientific staff of LSIWC. The visits of foreign researchers in LSIWC, as usually, included also joint seminars with the research staff of LSIWC, where visitors informed about the research organisation and their own research field, methods and results. Also the visits of LSIWC researchers included similar presentations within the host institutions.

The organisation of The Fifth European Conference on Wood Modification ECWM5 (20 and 21 September 2010, Riga, Latvia, http://www.ecwm5.lv/) continued the series of the premier events dedicated to all global wood modification technologies, bringing together research organisations. One hundred and twenty participants from 29 ERA and ICPC countries took part in the Conference. 30 oral and 29 poster presentations were offered during the two day event. The Proceedings book, issued in both paper and compact disc (CD) versions of the Conference was edited by the members of the Conference scientific committee and contains 60 peer-reviewed articles of participants.

The second workshop 'Green Chemistry and Nanotechnologies in Polymer Chemistry' (5 and 6 May 2011, Riga, Latvia) represented the most promising and fastest growing areas of polymer chemistry in the last decade. Thirty participants from eight ERA and one ICPC countries took part in the workshop. Twenty six oral and three poster presentations were offered during the two day event. The book of abstracts contains 27 abstracts of presentations.

The purchasing of new research and analytical equipment and upgrading of the existing one was one of the main targets of the project. Three positions of new equipment were purchased and installed: the particle and molecule size, zeta potential, molecular weight measurement system; the materials testing machine; the laboratory reactor. The upgrading of the existing equipment involves 13 positions: chromatographical and spectroscopical equipment, a weathering testing unit, a data processing system etc. This research equipment is and will be utilised in the research activities in all other thematic priorities.

The separate section of the portal of LSIWC (see http://www.kki.lv/index.php?lang=en&id=87) provides the dissemination of information about WOOD-NET as the FP7 project and contact data, its most significant activities and achievements and the results (including the list of publications) of the project implementation and cooperation possibilities within the project. The public relation activities of the project also include the preparation of the of the project presentation leaflets in Latvian and English as well as the issuing of the article - Andersons B., Kokorevics A. Improving Latvia's wood research capabilities. - International Innovations (ISSN 2041-4551), 2011, Issue Food, N 1, pp. 83-85, which informs about the most significant achievements and the results of the project implementation during the first 30 months.

Potential Impact:

The established and maintained contacts and closed cooperation agreements of LSIWC with foreign research centres form a network around LSIWC as an ERA centre of excellence in the field of wood sciences. This will be a base for further sustainable international cooperation also after the realisation of the project WOOD-NET. The network established within the WOOD-NET project and visiting activities promotes the coordination of the scientific output of the research activities carried out based on the national or other international scale funds, reaching the proposed scientific goals. These activities resulted in scientific presentations at international conferences and publications in internationally recognised journals and monographs.

The realisation of the project by LSIWC will improve its research and network capacities to a higher quality, reinforce and unlock its scientific potential; facilitate the high level scientific productivity and favour the existing scientific excellence:

1. raise and mobilise the human potential - the exchange of experience during the visits of senior researchers, organisation and attendance of workshops, seminars and conferences, also training of the young staff of the institute and researchers from other research centres;
2. provide up-to-date research environment for both the staff of the Institute and researchers from other research centres in Latvia and abroad - the contribution in material resources by acquisition and upgrading of research equipment;
3. integration and developing strategic partnerships within ERA and establishing of international research groups, consisting of ERA and third country (ICPC countries) researchers - intensifying of networking activities and facilitating of communication between the research centres;
4. spreading of excellence and disseminating knowledge, the transfer of knowledge not only in the academic sphere, but also to industry.

The realisation of the project WOOD-NET expressed as the synergy with the outcome from the FP6 and FP7 projects (Biocore FP7-241566, Forbioplast FP7-212239; expert in the advisory group for the FP7 Theme 'Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and Biotechnology'), other EU research and development (R&D) projects, i.e. participation in eight and heading of one Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) actions; member of the COST Domain Committee 'Forests, their Products and Services'; three 'Wood-WisdomNet', projects, projects financed by EU structural funds - LSIWC coordinates five European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and participates in three ERDF and one European Social Fund (ESF) research projects, internationally (International programme 'Matera', Nordic regional project 'Centre of Advanced Research') and nationally financed research programmes and projects, as well as from other research, educational and organising activities fulfilled by the Institute in cooperation with other research centres. The results of the research activities of the Institute and partners will help in initiating innovations, spin-ups and other intersectorial activities.

The impact to the regional social and economic development will be indirect and will express through the increasing capacity of the institute to be involved in new research projects and collaboration with industry, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It allows the involvement of new employees as researchers in the realisation of research projects, but the realised innovations through intersectorial collaboration strengthen the regional economic development.

List of Websites:

http://www.kki.lv/index.php?lang=en&id=87

Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry (LSIWC), Dzerbenes st. 27, Riga LV-1006, Latvia; tel.: +37-167-553063; e-mail: koks@edi.lv

Project leader: Dr Bruno Andersons, tel.: +37-167-552554; e-mail: bruno.andersons@edi.lv

Project technical manager: Dr Arnis Kokorevics, tel.: +37-167-553591; e-mail: arniskk@edi.lv