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CONSOLIDATION OF THE EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR NANOSTRUCTURED POLYMERS

Final Report Summary - ECNP-GROWTH (CONSOLIDATION OF THE EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR NANOSTRUCTURED POLYMERS)

Executive Summary:
During FP6 the European Commission has promoted the generation of Networks of Excellence in practically all the scientific sectors. Many of these new instruments have generated durable integration structures (DIS) that are now autonomous and integrated in many different forms in the European Research Area.
ECNP, the European Centre for Nanostructured Polymers, born from the European Network of Excellence NANOFUN-POLY on Multifunctional Nanostructured Polymers and Nanocomposites existed as autonomous (sustainable, self-standing, durable) organization since 2006 with an intense program of activities that have allowed this DIS to continue the mission of the networking partners initiated with NANOFUN-POLY. Through this project, ECNP intended to expand its own activities focusing on the interaction with European industries to promote and perform the transfer of the knowledge produced in the Network. Although this Support Action was presented originally only by ECNP, its partners formally confirmed their own commitment to participate actively in this project through their inclusion as beneficiaries and third parties.
The main concept of this CSA-Support Action was to provide support for the preparation, organization and follow-up of a series of activities aiming to promote and increase the interactions between ECNP and the European industry of the polymer nanotechnologies sector. The CSA followed-up the financial viability that would consolidate the ECNP as a DIS adapting its Road Maps if necessary.
During the three years of this project ECNP and its partners have organized and realized a series of activities to address the European Industrial needs in terms of research projects, technical services, life cycle assessment, training, use of infrastructure and technology transfer. These tools have been implemented in the ECNP action plan that has fulfilled the project milestones in terms of increasing its financial viability.

Project Context and Objectives:
This CSA project addressed the consolidation through expansion towards the industry of the European Centre for Nanostructured Polymers - ECNP - which was established in 2006 by the European Network of Excellence NANOFUN-POLY (FP6 2004-2008) and continues operating in coordinating research, dissemination and technology transfer activities performed by the ECNP itself and by its quotaholders. ECNP-Growth is focused on the specific field of multifunctional nanostructured polymers and nanocomposites.
The main objective of NANOFUN-POLY was to generate a Network of Excellence designed to become the European organisation on Multifunctional Nanostructured Polymers and Nanocomposite Materials. This objective was reached through a trans-disciplinary partnership of 120 scientists combining excellence in different scientific areas, where the synergy of international excellence and multidisciplinary approaches led to an integrated development and spreading of knowledge in innovative functional and structural polymer-based nanomaterials and their sustainable technologies.
Applications that have benefitted from NANOFUN-POLY first and then from ECNP concerned strategic industrial sectors which can be competitive only by using advanced technologies: optoelectronics and telecommunications, energy, packaging, agriculture, building construction, automotive and aerospace, biomaterials, etc.. So, ECNP has become a reference actor in its own field represented by more than 120 scientist sharing a research map discussed periodically, a virtual lab offering research infrastructure to partners and external users from academia and industry and a dissemination and training program constituted by periodic Conferences, Short Courses and a Master and a PhD programme.
The project ECNP GROWTH was developed to consolidate ECNP offering a realistic financial plan to expand the different activities by ensuring coverage of industrial technologies relevant to the main application sectors addressed by ECNP. As expected, this support action improved the coordination and interaction with the industry in research and innovation on polymer nanotechnologies and generated a more robust critical industrial mass of the durable integrated structure of ECNP, leading to a better Financial Viability of ECNP. This in turn lead to a better structuring of the European Research Area and a preparation of ECNP for the Innovation Union. So, the CSA-SA activities realized in the project concentrated on establishing a way of working with the industry including an analysis of industrial needs, the establishment of industrial ECNP expertise and skills. ECNP Road Maps were established for the following topics:

• knowledge transfer based on participants’ knowledge portfolio's at conferences and workshops with industrial researchers, visits to selected industries and via staff mobility and exchanges with the industry
• the commercial use of research facilities/tools/platforms by the industry,
• training industrial researchers and stages of master and PhD students in the industry
• and R&D and other innovation projects with the industry.

The industrial activities consolidating the Financial Viability (FV) were conducted outside the CSA. Annually the FV was checked and, if needed, the Road Maps were adapted. In order to facilitate the above reinforcement, an elaboration of the electronic ECNP communication tools took place during the project to support interactive working between the teams involved in ECNP on the one hand and external users on the other hand. Many ECNP quotaholders, including the coordinator INSTM, participated actively in all the proposed activities. INSTM, ECNP and other ECNP quotaholders contributed in this project within a coherent management framework closely connected to the current ECNP management structure.
Overall objectives: In summary, the main objective of the CSA ECNP-GROWTH was to ensure the extended participation of relevant industrial partners into the activities of ECNP and its partners providing and achieving the financial viability for the lasting consolidation of the ECNP. Partial objectives included the analysis of industrial needs in terms of innovation, research, training, access to infrastructure and services and the specific preparation of ECNP and its partners to respond to the industrial needs identified and to establish Road Maps that provided the financial viability required for the ECNP consolidation.

Project Results:
This CSA was not focused on research activities and no financial support for research was granted. Therefore no direct S&T results/foreground were produced in this project.
Potential Impact:
The Support Action ECNP-GROWTH clearly addressed the objectives of the thematic NMP.2011.4.0-5 Support to Networks of Excellence with durable integrated structures. In fact it was focused on the consolidation of the ECNP born in 2006 as a durable integrated structure (DIS) as a main output of the European Network of Excellence NANOFUN-POLY (2004-2008). The construction of the European Centre for Multifunctional Nanostructured Polymers and Polymer Matrix Nanocomposites (ECNP) acting as a Virtual European Laboratory to promote and manage research, training, education and spreading of excellence in a very important sector of knowledge has already determined a strong impact in reducing fragmentation contributing to the construction of the European Research Area. In fact, from the beginning, a strong impact on this sector was obtained as, due to the dimension, geographic extension and multi-disciplinarity of ECNP Partnership. Many research projects in the field of nanostructured polymers and nanocomposites were developed and are being developed by our Network.
The consolidation of ECNP through the promotion of interactions with the European Industry was the immediate objective of this Support Action. The continuous interaction of ECNP and ECNP Quota holders with industries was the main tool to analyse whether new projects addressing industrial needs in terms of research, infrastructure use, training and technical services are necessary, valorising ECNP capabilities and improving its financial viability and increasing its own critical mass.
The level of communication outside ECNP is strongly increasing thanks to this Support Action. The participation in meetings and workshops, newsletters and the web were the main communication tools. The high impact of these activities was obtained in terms of an increase in the awareness of industry of the new opportunities offered by these innovative technologies.
Relevant interest in polymer nanosciences and nanotechnologies as new tools for developments in the European industrial sectors as well as for the creation of new nanotechnology-related industries has arisen only in the last decade. During that time, new methods for synthesis (combinatorial chemistry combined with high rate characterization methods, controlled radical polymerisation, supramolecular chemistry, etc.), processing (surface patterning, self-assembling, intercalation, etc.) and characterization techniques operating at different scales (atomic force microscopy, scattering techniques, etc.) were developed. The availability of these tools in ECNP and partners and the necessity to further develop and spread knowledge to propose environment-friendly strategies, required for the production of polymer-based nanocomposites and their transformation has justified the creation of a research consortium by networking well-recognized inter disciplinary European research teams in ECNP. So, this Support Action on polymer nanotechnologies positively affected the critical mass of ECNP researchers and consolidated its durable structure.
ECNP and ECNP Quota holders already contribute to the generation of knowledge in the scientific and technological sectors related to polymer nanotechnologies that must be integrated in order to answer current industrial needs and to produce the necessary basis for further development. Specifically, ECNP has a tracked record of breakthrough knowledge in the synthesis, processing and characterization of new nanostructured polymers and nanocomposites. Knowledge regarding these topics is generated through the execution of integrated trans-disciplinary research programmes combining expertise from different topics. So, the main result of this CSA is the consolidation of ECNP through increased activities with European Industries as demonstrated by the continuously increased portfolio of new research and technical development projects.
As the project has not produced specific research results the exploitation is only referred to better coordination activities in terms of new projects developed with industries that have positively afffected the ECNP financial viability. Regarding dissemination the main activities developed include:

- web site: www.ecnp-growth.org
- web site of virtual lab: http://www.ecnp.p.lodz.pl/index.php?file=kop2.php
- six newsletters
- ECNP leaflet
- Organization and Participation to dissemination events:
- Short Course, Prague, Check Rep., 22-23.04.2012
- First Industrial Advisory Board Meeting, Prague, Check Rep., 25.04.2012
- Industrial Workshop, Valencia, Spain, 4-7.10.2012
- Industrial workshop, Dresden, Germany, 07.11.2012
- Summer Industrial School, Oyonnax, France, 10.07.2013-11.07.2013
- Short Course, Dresden, Germany, 15-16.09.2014
- Industrial workshop, Dresden, Germany 18.09.2014
- Industrial workshop, Rome, 27.01.2015

List of Websites:
http://www.ecnp-growth.org/
contacts: José M. Kenny, President of the ECNP Board: jose.kenny@unipg.it
Debora Puglia, ECNP Director: debora.puglia@unipg.it