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Enhancing the scientific capacity of the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy at Sofia University as leading regional research and innovation centre in the area of advanced functional materials

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Materials Networking (Enhancing the scientific capacity of the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy at Sofia University as leading regional research and innovation centre in the area of advanced functional materials)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2019-08-31

The goal of the TWINNING project Materials Networking is enhancement of the scientific and technological capacity of the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy at Sofia University (FCP-SU) and raising the research profile of the Faculty and its staff in the field of advanced functional materials. This goal was attained via networking with three World-wide leading partnering organisations (POs) – Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, University of Cambridge, UK (DMSM-UCAM), Max-Plank Institute of Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany (MPI-P) and Faculty of Chemistry, University of Barcelona, Spain (FC-UB).
FCP-SU is a leading research centre in functional materials in Bulgaria but the networking and collaboration with three excellent research organisations, global leaders in this research field, has further developed the FCP-SU’s potential to become European-wide known centre with increasing research and innovation contributions and achievements.
The activities realized during the project Materials Networking lifetime were as follows:
1) Activities that allowed enhanced and intensive research cooperation among the project POs
These aimed to create opportunities for effective networking between the Faculty’s researchers and their colleagues from the three POs to discuss joint research activities, new collaborations and research topics of mutual interest:
- 4 workshops and 4 summer schools on Advanced Materials were organized in order to better acquaint the FCP-SU researchers with the research environment of the world renown POs; two of the summer schools were organized in DMSM-UCAM, Cambridge, UK and MPI-P, Mainz, Germany.
- Exchange of researchers that aimed to enhance the competences of the FCP-SU researchers as well as to enhance the research cooperation with the three POs, which included:
33 outgoing visits of the Faculty’s researchers to the three POs (7 at the MPI-P, 22 - at the FC-UB and 4 at the DMSM-UCAM) with total duration of 23.7 person-months.
17 short term staff exchange aimed at networking to allow MC members and leading researchers from FCP-SU to get acquainted with the environment and work conditions in the POs.
17 incoming visits of scientists from the three POs to FCP-SU (7 from FC-UB, 5 from DMSM-UCAM, and 5 from MPI-P).
4 visits of experts in project and administration management from the POs (2 from DMSM-UCAM, 1 from MPI-P, and 1 from FC-UB).
The results from the performed activities are:
34 joint papers
7 joint research proposals submitted to H2020 and ERC (two ERC Proof of Concept were successful).
27 new collaborations established between researchers from the 3 POs and FCP-SU (6 with DMSM-UCAM, 9 with MPI-P and 12 with FC-UB).
2) Activities that allowed for strengthening the Faculty’s leading position as a European-wide known research centre in functional materials and increasing the research production and scientific impact of the FCP-SU
These include the Faculty’s researchers participation at conferences to increase the visibility of the Faculty’s research at the world science scene. In total, 87 conference participations of Faculty’s researchers to conferences were carried out, financially supported by the Materials Networking project.
Significant achievement of the Materials Networking project is the increase in the quality of the research performed in FCP-SU. During the project lifetime, the average impact factor of the papers published by the Faculty’s researchers - participants in the project steadily increased as follows:
3.39 (1st year), 2.978 (2nd year) and 4.087 (3rd year), the average IF for the 3 years being 3.5.
These values are much higher than the planned at the beginning of the project ones. The impact of the project could be also seen by the increase of the number of publications in journals with IF>10: 5 papers were published in journals with IF>10 for the 1st reporting period with an average IF of 17.69 and 7 for the 2nd reporting period with an average IF of 18.67. Thus, the quality of the researcher performed in FCP-SU has increased as proven by these numbers as a result of the successful realization of the Materials Networking project.
3) Activities that aimed at increasing the attractiveness of the Faculty for researchers and students from around the World including also the Bulgarian research diaspora World-wide
The project allowed for keeping and enhancing the cooperation between the researchers from the FCP-SU and Bulgarian scientists working abroad. 23 papers out of 287 (8%) published by the FCP-SU’s researchers - participants in the Materials Networking project for the project lifetime involve Bulgarian scientists working abroad. The Faculty has also become an attractive centre for young researchers as well as students coming from abroad to improve their research skills.
4) Activities that allowed for generating synergies between the Materials Networking project and other projects for research, innovation and competitiveness
The Materials Networking project was the tool that boosted the Faculty’s researchers’ activities in the field of advanced functional materials as during the project, the number of research proposals in this field submitted to H2020, COST actions, the Operational Programme Science and Education for Smart Growth, Bulgaria and to the Bulgarian Science Fund, increased notably.
The Materials Networking project corresponds to two out of four thematic priorities of the Bulgarian Smart Specialization Strategy (RIS3-BG), namely “Mechatronics and clean technologies” and “Industry for a healthy life and bio-technology”. These are the two thematic priorities where all applications of the Faculty for the Bulgarian operational programmes were submitted – participation in proposals for 3 Centres of Excellence and 3 Centres of Competence.
5) Activities that allowed for increasing the innovation potential of the FCP-SU
The innovation potential of the Faculty’s researchers was also strengthened which is seen by the increased number of collaborations with industry – in total 65 for the 3-year lifetime of the project. Although the numbers of the patents and patent applications that were planned at the beginning of the project were not attained, the Faculty’s researchers have gained knowledge in this area and this resulted into 3 patent applications and 1 patent issued during the project.
The Materials Networking project was successful as most of the planned achievements (KPI) were successfully reached and some of them even surpassed. The most important achievement was the significant increase in the average impact factor of the papers published by FCP-SU’s researchers which is a strong proof of the enhanced research quality. The joint papers with researchers from the three partnering organizations and the joint proposal submissions are another proof of the project success. Thus, the Materials Networking project activities resulted into significantly enhanced quality of the research publications of the FCP-SU, increased visibility of the Faculty at international level, strengthened research cooperation with the three world-leading partner institutions, and increased project activity of the Faculty's researchers in the field of the project.
The main outcome, expected after the end of the project, is the further continuation of the FCP-SU researcher’s achievement in order to ensure sustainable development after the project accomplishment.