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Maximizing Synergies for Central European Biotech Research Infrastructures

Periodic Report Summary - SYNBIOSIS (Maximising synergies for Central European biotech research infrastructures)

Project context and objectives:

The SYNBIOSIS project, coordinated by the South Moravian Innovation Centre, is a multi-side project facilitating European cooperation to improve research-driven clusters in the field covering the intersection between biotechnology, life sciences and information and communication technologies (ICT).

SYNBLOSIS is a project of sharing and exchanging experience between regions with a similar focus and setting up a model of cooperation between academic and commercial sphere in transfer of knowledge and technology. The project has brought together two research-driven clusters - Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) (Italy) and South Moravia (Czech Republic). The main motivation was the fact that both regions concentrate on biotech infrastructures and related research fields including bioinformatics, computational biology and biomedicine. SYNBIOSIS has received almost EUR 940 000 under the 'Regional' priority of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) as the first ever project coordinated from the Czech Republic. The project goal is to establish transregional actions resulting in a joint action plan that will respond to the needs and opportunities identified, and will fuel research-driven economic growth in both regions.

The two partner regions - South Moravia (Czech Republic) and FVG (Italy) - share an interest in these particular research areas and in building outstanding research infrastructures and their integration at both regional and transregional levels. While the Italian region has highly reputed research infrastructures in place (e.g. the Free Electron Laser FERMI@Elettra, credited by European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) as one of the strategic scientific infrastructures in Europe, and the bionanotechnology facility BINASP funded under the FP6, both located in AREA Science Park), South Moravia is in the process of designing new research infrastructures (e.g. Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) and FNUSA - International Clinical Research Centre (ICRC) of St. Ann's Faculty Hospital) that will be funded primarily from European Union (EU) Structural Funds.

SYNBIOSIS consortium involves the following seven partners:

Project coordinator:
- South Moravian Innovation Centre, ZSPO, Czech Republic, http://www.jic.cz

Partners:
- Masaryk University, Czech Republic, www.muni.cz
- CEITEC Cluster - bioinformatics, ZSPO, Czech Republic, http://www.ceitec-cluster.com
- Consorzio per l'AREA di Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica di Trieste, Italy, http://www.area.trieste.it
- Consorzio per il Centro di Biomedicina Molecolare SCRL, Italy, http://www.cbm.fvg.it
- Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste SCPA, Italy, http://www.elettra.trieste.it
- APE Research SRL, Italy, http://www.aperesearch.com

SYNBIOSIS project goals are to:

(a) link and valorise the research infrastructures located in the two regions and strengthen collaboration with the relevant business sectors;
(b) increase collaborations, search for complementarities and synergies to better absorb European Structural Funds;
(c) share knowledge to optimise design and implementation of the infrastructures to be built in South Moravia to increase their economic relevance and impact on the local economies;
(d) develop partnerships with other Central European regions with a similar profile and interest;
(e) exploit experiences of other EU regions in opening research infrastructures to interaction with the business sector.

Project results:

Activating regional scene

- kick-off meeting in Brno, September 2009,
- reciprocal VIP excursions to Trieste and Brno, January - February 2010,
- transfer of contacts and information, January - February 2010,
- meeting with management and coordinators of CEITEC project (Masaryk University),
- meeting with regional stakeholders Brno and Trieste.

Outcomes:
- regional executive platforms involving stakeholders including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in both partner regions has been activated.

Opening the network to advanced bioregions:
- meeting with clustering biotech projects EPISODE and BIO-CT in Brussels, January 2010.

Study visits to advanced BioRegions:
- BioRegion Heidelberg, April 2010,
- BioRegion Genopole at Évry and Paris, May 2010,
- Vienna Region, September 2010,
- study visit to Bologna, February 2011.

Outcomes:
- internationalisation of partnership, e.g. fostering strategic partnership of CEITEC Masaryk University with EMBL Heidelberg and with ELETTRA,
- collaborative platform extended to advanced partner regions and SYNBIOSIS open network established.

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and EU benchmarking:
- evaluation of regional performance based on quantitative and qualitative indicators,
- valorisation of the regional system.

Outcomes:
- web-based directory with documents gathered within the desk research on research policies, research agendas and research infrastructures, see http://directory.synbiosis.org
- state-of-play workshop in Trieste, September 2010, involvement and feedback from the SYNBIOSIS expert advisory board.

Fostering collaboration and good practice transfer:
- Czech-Italian Summer school and Brokerage event in Brno, June 2010,
- participation of 6 companies and research centres from FVG region,
- industry-academia secondments in Trieste, January - February 2011,
- 15 researchers and managers of South Moravian companies, JIC and Masaryk university were hosted in partner institutions in Trieste and Udine.

Outcomes:
- 'industry meets academia' brochure with profiles and offers of collaboration,
- identification of further joint activities based on secondments in Trieste, e.g. research fellowship in Brno,
- book of abstracts of International Summer School with proceedings,
- brochure of International Brokerage Event with profiles of 8 Czech and 4 Italian biotech companies and 12 Czech and 2 Italian research teams,
- good practice handbook with 14 European good practices described by expert advisory board,
- good practice workshop in Vienna, May 2011 - presentations and 3 round table discussions with expert advisory board and 30 participants.

Joint action plan towards integration:

- workshop to create joint action scenarios in Brno in March 2012,
- 2 follow-up workshops with regional with decision makers and stakeholders in both regions in April and June 2012.

Outcomes:
- 9 joint action scenarios created and verified,
- 8 joint action plan actions of mutual interest defined in the fields of technology transfer, success to research infrastructures and research and development (R&D) internationalisation, feedback from expert advisory board.

WP5: Dissemination and information management (M1 - M36)
- clustering with Episode and BIO-CT, May 2011, Siena (Italy),
- biocluster cooperation across Europe - July 2011, Évry Genopole (France),
- SYNBIOSIS international conference in Brussels, May 2012,

Outcomes:
- the SYNBIOSIS project public website (see http://www.synbiosis.org online),
- project results disseminated on regional, national and European levels, i.e. at the WIRE conference, at the SYNBIOSIS final conference in Brussels etc.,
- final article about SYNBIOSIS outcomes issued in research media.

Potential impact:

The above mentioned outcomes contributed to the expected impact of the project which can be divided into three levels:

Locally the project strengthened the triple helix approach, i.e. intensified collaboration among regional authorities, businesses and research organisations active in the field of biotechnology, bioinformatics and biomedicine. The project activities contributed to the design of technology transfer systems in both partner regions and it is expected that through the joint action plan they will have an important impact on the design of investments in research infrastructures. In concrete terms this was achieved by collecting and analysing good practice and organisational models in respect of providing access to public research infrastructures to external users.

Regionally, in the sense of a larger cross-border region, the project maximised benefits of existing and planned research infrastructures in the partner regions and built lasting relationships within the Central European region. The desired increase of synergies, complementarities and avoidance of duplicities in research infrastructures and equipment is more feasible within the interregional partnerships that share a degree of geographical proximity. The semi-permanent network of relevant partners (public research organisations, business clusters and regional authorities / public intermediary bodies) was established as a part of the project activity. Within this network, the results and experience of the project were shared and disseminated.

At EU level the main results were facilitation of networking, clustering activities and dissemination of information generated and collection of information on good practice in opening research infrastructures to businesses and users in general. The impact of the project took the form of networking with other relevant regions. The SYNBIOSIS consortium collected through the study visits information about good practice in opening the research infrastructures in the field of life science to business sector in some of the most advanced regions. This information was not only used in the partner regions to improve the design of local policies and projects, but was also further disseminated to other Regions of Knowledge projects and to regions where there is a potential that such know-how could be used, especially to Convergence regions in Central Europe which aspire to develop research infrastructures with the support from Structural Funds.

Coordinator contact details: Dr Zlatuše Novotná
South Moravian Innovation Centre
U Vodárny 2
616 00 Brno
Czech Republic
Email: novotna(at)jic.cz

List of websites: http://www.synbiosis.org