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Slovak Centre of Excellence in Ion Beam and Plasma Technologies for Materials Engineering and Nanotechnology

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SlovakION (Slovak Centre of Excellence in Ion Beam and Plasma Technologies for Materials Engineering and Nanotechnology)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-05-31

The Centre of Excellence (CoE) SlovakION aims to become Eastern Europe’s leading research centre in materials research using ion-beam and plasma technologies. Based on a solid foundation of outstanding scientific research, a number of excellent applied research units are expected to flourish. Positioning SlovakION as a centre for engineering materials and electronics for automotive and electronics applications favouring close collaborations with industry, a unique role within Europe’s ion beam community will be achieved. An ion beam centre that bridges the gap between research and industry in fields such as automotive and smart electronics, which are a core part of Slovakia’s Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization (RIS3 SK), is clearly missing.
Innovation and valorisation will be another key focus area for SlovakION fostering the demand-driven and profitable transfer of cutting-edge research results into economically and ecologically viable and robust industrial innovation. Experiences not only from HZDR and the Dresden scientific cluster, but also innovation processes from all over Europe require a holistic approach to innovation and valorisation of research results.
This deficit represents a unique opportunity for the STU University Science Parks (Univerzitný vedecký park, hereinafter UVP) “Science City” and “CAMBO”, the university itself as well as for the whole Slovak Republic. Based on substantial investments (€42M) supported by the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) program from 2007 to 2013 these contributed to infrastructure and human resources taking part in materials research using ion beam and plasma technologies. The project primarily focuses on further development of the Centre with a second stage follow up in analytical techniques, nanotechnology and advanced materials processing.
Emerging plasma techniques such as the High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HiPIMS) will enable synthesis of materials with novel functionalities for automotive and biotechnological applications. SlovakION will also focus on high-energy ion irradiation and frontier ion beam analysis techniques which are highly relevant for interdisciplinary research (biomedicine, environment or food safety, engineering materials etc.). These techniques are based on the use of specific (radio)isotopes or the implementation of high-resolution chemical imaging techniques. STU has a long lasting tradition in ion-beam research, an accelerator laboratory at STU FEI was operating a 0,9MV home-built electrostatic accelerator. The opportunities with the recently acquired 6MV Tandem and 500kV single-ended accelerators are much wider and currently, a new multidisciplinary group of scientists with diverse backgrounds is being built up around the new labs, which began operating in 2016.
SlovakION in this regards relies heavily on the decade-long cooperation between STU and HZDR, which also contributed substantially to the construction of the new facility. Yet, as expertise in ion-beams and related research was limited to application fields the old lab was able to serve, SlovakION is in the obligation to attract and recruit excellent researchers as well as educate a new generation of scientists and broaden cooperation with other European and worldwide centres.
HZDR will not only contribute with its own experience in proliferating excellent research and develop fruitful technology transfer, but also is able to take advantage of the entire Dresden research cluster including a leading technical university, several thematically linked Fraunhofer institutes as well as a number of public-private partnerships.
In close cooperation with the Slovak government and relevant industrial partners, SlovakION will establish and develop an integrated system for technology transfer and applied research. As a long-term vision, this transfer model will be extended to other areas of research and industrial fields within Slovakia whilst being a role model become for successful public-private partnership in less developed European countries enabling them to strengthen their economic potential.
In order to reach these ambitious goals, the CoE needs a proactive and committed management, autonomy in decision making and governing the centre as well as effective and efficient governance and administration. Experience shows that existing and routinely applied systems are inflexible, bureaucratic and administration centred. Therefore, SlovakION will be set up as a faculty-like unit within the STU with enabling the implementing implementation of best practices from project partners and a modern governance, which fundamentally differs from the existing current structures in public institutions in Slovakia including as well as the traditional structures found at STU.
In summary, SlovakION aims to reach three major objectives:
- Excellence in Science
Develop the centre into a leading and unique transdisciplinary research institution in the European Research Area (ERA).
- Excellence in Innovation
Develop and maintain tight and effective links between research and the industry for an easy and seamless transfer of technology and innovation into industrial implementation.
- Excellence in Governance and Administration
Develop and implement state-of-the-art science management and innovative governance tools.
SlovakION will draw up a clear and distinct strategic research agenda together with setting up a Joint Ion Beam Centre (IBC) with HZDR which will integrate many scientific and organisational functions, but preserve the legal independence of both scientific institutions(SlovakION and HZDR IBC). The goal is to create an even larger and more versatile research institution with similar capabilities but with the addition of a number of complimentary and synergetic specialisations. High mobility and close cooperation will in turn enable career enhancing possibilities for junior scientists by enabling access to a larger variety of scientific fields. Furthering networking and collaboration possibilities with Slovak research institutions, which nowadays is rather weak, is planned and with the vision of eventually setting up a local network of related research institutes (there are another two accelerator labs in the region). SlovakION will be developed towards an European User Facility with open access for national and international users from research institutions and industry.
To attract excellent staff, appropriate recruiting and career development systems will be in place and SlovakION will implement a number of performance-based incentive schemes to motivate its staff. On top of excellent science, the most important ingredient, staff exchange, internships as well as workshops and summer schools organized by SlovakION will reinforce its reputation and establish the position of its research groups within the international scientific community. In addition, visiting scientist positions and a highly attractive special “open chair” position will be announced aiming at attracting a top class scientific leader.
The technology transfer strategy introduces three new concepts in addition to the already available platforms and units. (i) The Innovation Manager, who will coordinate and oversee all intellectual property exploitation related issues as well as cooperation with the industry. (ii) An innovation fund will be set up to support proof of concept projects of SlovakION internal inventors as well as industrial partners’ inventions, which resulting in common IP and revenues. R&D collaboration with industry will be performed by SlovakION. (iii) Thanks to HZDR’s experience in this field, contrary to R&D, standardised analytical and production services based on SlovakION’s infrastructure require the establishment of a new private company. As a result, this company will be founded as joint venture of STU Scientific s. r. o. and HZDR Innovation GmbH. This approach thus enables and secures access for both parties to both infrastructures. It will use SlovakION infrastructure on a contractual basis.
The reorganised management will consist of a board of directors with one administrative director, one scientific director and a chair of the board. Strategic management will be carried out by a supervisory board and an advisory board will provide advice on scientific as well as innovation and industry collaboration issues. The general organisational structure is designed to be reasonably flat, research group leaders will report to the scientific director directly. Junior researchers, having an excellent record showing the potential to become leaders, will have the opportunity to lead their own research groups and will be treated equally. Mentoring and coaching by advanced partners will ensure seamless start-up and operation of the newly established structures and procedures.
One of the SlovakION aims is to spread excellence within STU and the broader region. Communication channels will include various seminars and workshops, among them Café Scientifique, aiming at presentation of the centre and its staff, knowledge transfer, educational activities etc.
It is necessary to point out and raise the synergic effect, which may arise from pooled resources coming from the Horizon 2020 Teaming call and the support of the Slovak Government allocated from European Structural Funds in the amount of €10M. This is a solid guarantee for sustainability of the CoE within the UVP not only during the 6-year project duration but for at least the following 6-9 years as well. With these resources, SlovakION will be able to invest heavily into excellent staff and the education of future scientists in order to fulfil its ambitious goals. SlovakION counts on further sources of funding such as subsidies (scientific impact and project based) from the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic, European funding sources, research and innovation ESIF projects (e.g. PhytoPET and DanuGRAPH projects, in total of ca. €1.8M for SlovakION).
Implementation of this business plan provides an opportunity for the inclusion of CoE SlovakION into networks of excellent European research institutes in the field of materials science including nanotechnologies and advanced materials, this in turn significantly increases the prospects to successfully apply for funding from the challenging European HORIZON 2020, EUROATOM, ESA, Marie Curie and joint transatlantic research activities. With regards to this, it is worth mentioning that the team likely to form SlovakION is preparing projects focused on thin films and new materials design together with HZDR as well as partners from Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, Czech Republic and Austria.
During project duration we have worked out deliverables and reached milestones shown below. Main interest was aimed at Business plan preparation.
All meetings during phase 1 of Teaming project were devoted to Business plan to which we have also submitted minutes as reports.
Submitted deliverables (all reports and all confidential)
D1.1 - D1.4: Project Management, steering and executive meetings (M 3,M 6,M 9,M 12).
D1.5: Project Website (M 2)
D1.6: Business plan (M 12)
D2.1 KPI development plan (M5)
D2.2 Installation of the Scientific Advisory Committee (M6)
D2.3 Short- and long-term research agenda of the new CoE (M8)
D2.4 Facility and human resources development plans (M12)
D2.5 Integration and networking strategy (M12)
D3.1 Status quo analysis (M5)
D3.2 Exploitation and IP guidelines (M8)
D3.3 Innovation Gateway (processes, tools, organisational structure, capacity planning) (M12)
D3.4 Innovation and technology transfer strategy (M12)
D3.5 Implementation plan for innovation and technology transfer strategy (M12)
D4.1 Objectives report and schedule (M5)
D4.2 Comprehensive organisational system of new CoE (M12)
D4.3 Long term funding strategy (M12)
D4.4 Legislation impact report and action plan (M12)

List of milestones reached during project duration:
MS1: Kick-off Meeting. Minutes of the meeting. (M1)
MS2: Project Website operational. (M2)
MS3: Business plan. Approve of the Business plan by the JSC. (M12)
MS4: Approval of the SlovakION research agenda by the SAC (M10)
MS5: Design of status quo analysis approved (M2)
MS6: General agreement on general exploitation strategy reached (M5)
MS7: Implications and conclusions from status quo analysis for future development approved (M5)
MS8: General decision on Business- & Transfer models approved (M6)
MS9: General design of Innovation Gateway approved (M8)
MS10: Internal governance procedures and structure approved (M10)
MS11: Legislation impact analysis and action plan approved (M10)
Main result achieved so far is comprehensive, viable, and effective Business plan which includes detailed and robust plan of action, time schedule of setting up CoE SlovakION and its development over time, its own ogranisational structure etc.
SlovakIONs progress beyond the state of the art is its objectives and proposed organisation structure of CoE for phase 2 of Teaming project. Another parts of this progress are already reached pre-agreeements on Joint Venture Company and Common Ion Beam Centre with HZDR and HZDR-I as well as establishment of innovation and compensation/incentive fund.
The overarching goal is to build SlovakION as one of Europe’s leading ion beam and plasma technology research centres with both an excellent reputation in the scientific community as well as an effective link into the regional and European industry in order to transfer research results into industrial innovation.
Improve the scientific capability of the Slovak Republic by
- creating a leading ion beam and plasma technology research centre;
- strategically putting it on a path to scientific excellence and organisational growth,
- benchmarking it together with the resources and competences of HZDR via a Joint Ion Beam Centre; and
- making it financially sustainable via a mix of public and private sources.

Increase STU’s and as well as Slovakia’s access to competitive funding by
- engaging pro-actively and significantly in proposals for competitive funding on international and the European level, particularly by
- joining forces with HZDR in the Joint Ion Beam Centre also on the level of European funding; and
- engaging in industrial projects not only in Slovakia, thus attracting international resources from purely private or public-private sources.

Support the economic development of the Slovak Republic and the whole region by
- supplying targeted and industrial relevant innovations to the regional and European industry,
- focussing primarily on the automotive and electronics clusters of Slovakia and the surrounding regions. At a later tage, expanding into the field of biotechnology or other enticing fields,
- creating joint innovation network with the industry in a bi-directional transfer of ideas, research interests, industrial tasks for improvement, and even talent; and
- finally achieving profits not only for the companies involved, but also creating significant revenues for SlovakION.

Establish SlovakION as an example and source of experience for other scientific institutions in Slovakia and beyond by
- analysing and documenting SlovakION’s development, as well as
- making its experiences available in a suitable way.

Scientific topics
- Coating solutions and surface functionalization by next generation PIII&D based on HiPIMS technology
- Emerging ion beam analysis techniques
- Ion-beams in transdisciplinary research

Joint Ion Beam Centre
An important success factor for the sustainable development of SlovakION is the continuation of the existing decade-long cooperation between HZDR and STU’s faculty MTF in Trnava. This will now be done on a higher level, leading to a Joint Ion Beam Centre with facilities in Bratislava / Trnava and Dresden-Rossendorf in the second part of the project period. The general approach is to realize a close bilateral collaboration under a joint organizational umbrella following the rules for Integrated EU infrastructure which include common TNA offers, research activities, and networking but will also compass joint innovation transfer and commercialization activities.
The Joint Ion Beam Centre will integrate many scientific and organisational functions, but preserve the legal independence of the two scientific institutions SlovakION and HZDR IBC. The goal is to create an even larger and more versatile research institution with similar capabilities in plasma and ion beam technologies. A number of complimentary and synergetic specialisations will be installed which delivers a clear benefit for the user community. Figures in attachement illustrate complementary and synergetic capabilities of SlovakION and HZDR IBC with respect to their research activities and facility specialisation.
This integration combines complementary research topics, instrumentation and applications and will also deliver mutual backup capabilities for standard ion beam applications (e.g. analysis, implantation) in cases of facility limitations or restrictions due to overbooking. As a result, the overall performance and international conspicuousness will be significantly improved. Besides the improved possibilities for the user community, a high mobility and close cooperation within the Joint IBC advances the individual careers of junior scientist by making available a larger variety of scientific fields.

Innovation fund
SlovakION will maintain an innovation fund for financing proof of concept projects in a range between 10-50k€ focusing primarily on SlovakION research fields. The fund will be managed by IM and will be supported from the SlovakION budget. Later on, it will become self-sustained by revenues from tech transfer. With respect to the already existing IP-guidelines at STU a defined share of STU’s revenues based on SlovakION’s IP exploitation will be under financial control of SlovakION. Detailed payback rules, that ensure long term financial sustainability will be settled within the start-up phase. Apart from share of licence income, payback will also include share of overhead for contract research.
This fund will cover two distinct areas:
- Proof of concept funding including further development (prototypes) and market research needed to reach „marketable” conditions (push approach). Spin off support will be mainly financed using already established platforms e.g. InQb. In special cases, depending on the revenue potential the innovation fund might be used for this support as well.
- Financing testing phase for industrial partners, mitigating their risk. In the first years this will be a channel to present SlovakION and establish its name within the industrial community. (pull approach). Such cooperation is expected to bring joint IP with partners, shares on sales, royalties etc.

Joint venture company Ion DeSk s. r. o.
R&D contracts and R&D collaboration with industry will be performed by SlovakION. Due to the experience of HZDR – contrary to R&D – standardised analytical and production services based on SlovakION’s infrastructure need a different approach. Specific needs of service customers, i.e. liability and warranties, quality management audits and certification, speed, quality and flexibility etc. require the establishment of a new private company that will be able to serve these to customers’ satisfaction. This company will be founded as joint venture of STU Scientific s. r. o. and HZDR Innovation GmbH. HZDR Innovation GmbH. will deliver major share of clients for service contracts within the first years. This approach enables and secures access for both parties to both infrastructures. STU ion-beam services s. r. o. will use SlovakION infrastructure on a contractual basis.
Ion DeSk s. r. o. will be founded in the first year. This step will create conditions for straightforward transfer of HZDR Innovation GmbH. know-how into the functioning of the company of this kind and experience. Both aspects, a well-functioning company practice as well as building a portfolio of customers from industry will thus be effectively implemented

Finally, SlovakION will not only improve the attractiveness of, what initially will be seen as a “very specific” scientific field, but will advance industrial productivity thanks to innovation in the area of surface modification and functionalization. In the long run, SlovakION will also increase the mobility between different levels of academic education, scientific research, industrial R&D, and industrial production.

Long-term impacts
- Scientific excellence
-- Leading research cluster for ion beam and plasma technology
-- Focal point for a vibrant scientific community in the area of materials research and nanotechnology
-- Employing and educating excellent scientists
- Economic impact / innovation transfer
-- Strong stimulus for the regional economy triggering innovative new products and services
-- Successful generation of high-tech start-ups able to conquering relevant markets
-- Effectively boosting regional SMEs with innovative approaches thus making them more profitable
Impact on society:
The co-operation between partners at a European level is necessary to create the critical mass in terms of human and financial resources as well as of excellence competences needed to fully undertake this research and ensure its success. In fact the partners would not be able to establish an equally competent consortium within their own countries, since the complementary expertise of the consortium partners is necessary to cover all aspects of the problems addressed in this proposal & business plan
Employment, structure and competitiveness of EU industry:
The project will contribute strongly to the transformation of the European industry from a resource intensive to a knowledge-based one. Experience from the previous international programming periods proves that various new, highly skilled young engineers and scientists will emerge from the work. This skilled workforce, together with the knowledge stemming from the project activities, will strongly enhance the competitiveness of European industry in comparison to the resource intensive approaches pursued e.g. China, India or Russia.
The scientific impacts will be generated in the following areas:
- Advanced surface engineering of tribology coatings and surface modification, with main focus on the automotive industry,
- Carbon based coatings (DLC and carbon nitride),
- Nanostructured coatings,
- Transparent conductive oxide thin films for solar applications,
- Nanostructured materials for advanced energy conversion and storage devices (converters, batteries and supercapacitors),
- Materials for fuel-cell technologies,
- Hydrogen-storage materials for mobile applications,
- Materials for high-temperature superconductors,
- Analysis methods of thin films and coatings,
- Ion-matter interaction modelling.

Wider benefits
University and education
- The resulting transfers and flows of scientific and technical knowledge at universities, workshops, and summer schools play an important role in the dissemination and advancement of the state of knowledge in a range of related fields. A substantial investment in SlovakION R&D will strengthen a wider knowledge network linked to accelerator and transdisciplinary research and technology.
- Better employment opportunities for scientists, engineers and graduates (higher employability, better potential salaries)
- Increased attractiveness of university and study fields with high benefits for economy and society
- Better inclusion of university and Slovakia in the ERA
- Stronger innovation and research in the selected areas of new materials, ICT, and biotechnology/biomedicine
- International scientific collaboration benefits - the establishment of international frameworks for cooperation and coordination as well as the experience gained by scientists, students, and administrators in collaborations such as the SlovakION R&D effort will substantially aid Slovak scientists as they vie for leadership in the global scientific marketplace.
Economy / Industry
- Better trained workforce in sectors strongly represented in the regional and national economy, and with high growth potential
- Contribution to the competitiveness of the economy and employment level
- Substantial contribution to objectives of the Slovak Smart Specialisation Strategy, and other strategic documents (Europe 2020 strategy, Partnership Agreement 2013-2020, etc.)