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Centre for functional and surface-functionalized glasses

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - FunGlass (Centre for functional and surface-functionalized glasses)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-05-31

The FunGlass Centre entered the final phase of the implementation of the largest Slovak academic project within the European Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The main objective of the FunGlass project is creating an internationally recognized Centre for Functional and Surface Functionalized Glass with the help of advanced partners within the Consortium and their leading experts in glass science and technology in Europe. The advanced partners of the consortium are:
- Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Padova, Italy
- Institute of Biomaterials, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
- Institute of Ceramic and Glass, Spanish National Research Centre in Madrid, Spain
- Otto Schott Institute of Materials Research, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany
The research in the Centre is dedicated to the area of glass with special functional properties and functionalization of conventional glasses what should lead to new options for glass utilization in the society.
The project includes a complex set of activities focused on all the basic elements necessary for cutting-edge research - primarily the development of an excellent research personnel base, as well as the installation of state-of-the-art infrastructure, the introduction of supportive management procedures and establishment of transnational cooperation with leaders in the field.
A brief summary of the work done achieved for the period from March 2017 to May 2022:
The center has experienced a period of dynamic growth, when a research group of less than twenty gradually grew to a team of approximately ninety members, in which the majority of scientific workers and doctoral students come from abroad. As confirmed by the director of the center - professor D. Galusek, "Institutions that have the ambition to operate successfully in the international scientific field must be able to attract talents from all over the world". And that is one of the keys to the success of the FunGlass project. Thanks to the influx of brains from abroad, the center has been successfully coordinating the activities of an international project consortium for five years, which meets all the demanding criteria of the European Commission's research agency.

Another important milestone was reached in July 2022, when the reconstruction of the laboratory premises and the installation of new infrastructure were completed (an investment of €8.6 million, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund). The new equipment (whose specifications have been defined with the help of advanced consortium partners) will serve as a springboard for the next phase of the center's expansion. The modernized infrastructure will increase the competitiveness and interdisciplinary approach of the center so that it can expand the portfolio of its research activities, start new collaborations and provide innovative services.
In order to maximize performance while optimizing the use of resources, the Centre has established and implemented rules for the management of advanced research facilities. In addition, in the scope of the “Process Improvement Initiative” a core administrative and operating processes (i.e. recruitment, conference travel, procurement of consumables, performance review…) were mapped, reviewed and, if necessary, redesigned. These measures facilitate efficiency in the management of the ongoing activities of the Centre and shall bear fruit in the orderly and rapid introduction of new facilities into full operation.

One of the most important parts of the ecosystem of the Centre of excellence is its doctoral program. To this end, the Centre has worked closely with advanced partners to improve the content and quality of its curriculum, support the professional growth of students through a wide range of complementary measures, and transform its partnerships into a systematic collaboration in context of the double degree studies. These measures combined with intensive recruitment efforts have resulted in increased interest from graduate students from across the world to earn their doctorate at the Centre.
To facilitate the retention of talent and continuous development of the expertise of its researchers, the Centre runs an extensive program of continuing education. This includes intensive world-class training activities in the scope of long-term (12 months) stays of Centre´s scientists and PhD students with FunGlass advanced partners, short-term training internships (up to 3 months) at various research institutions in EU, visiting scientists program with on-site workshops, semi-annual off-site three-day FunGlass school with complementary skills trainings as well as English competence program focusing on academic writing skills.
As the center has increased its ability to launch international collaboration projects with academic and industrial partners, it also acts as a model of research excellence in the region and an ambassador spreading awareness of EU research and innovation funding through local and national outreach activities. The center systematically screens the possibilities for competitive research funding from national and international sources and continuously prepares and submits grant applications in calls of interest.
The main objective of the final reporting period of the project is to successfully conclude the transformation phase and engage recent investments in infrastructure and human capital to ensure the future sustainability of the Center in line with its updated vision “to become an internationally recognized hub for cutting edge research into innovative glass-based materials, composites and coatings, with a proven ability to contribute to sustainable economic development and serve as a model of research excellence for material science institutions in the Visegrad Four region.”
In terms of personnel, the goal is to stabilize and further develop the existing capacities. To this end, the Centre will continue to implement continuous training activities, with the emphasis shifting to short-term training stays within the wider networks of the Centre, and internal training program (visiting scientists initiative, FunGlass school, training program for operators of advanced research infrastructure). With respect to the doctoral program the Centre intends to fully implement a qualitative overhaul of the curriculum, sustain recent extra-curriculum components, maintain enrollment at the levels achieved in recent years, and strengthen the double degree collaboration with advanced partners.
Operation activities and research/innovation program of the Centre during the coming period will focus on utilization of new research infrastructure to strengthen existing collaborative arrangements and launching new projects. Special emphasis will be placed on cooperation with industry aimed at exploitation of the innovative potential of the basic research projects currently implemented by the Center.
FunnGlass school in Osrblie, Slovakia, October 2021
FunGlass coating team at conference in Madrid, Spain
On-line 14th Solid State Chemistry conference organized by FunGlass
FunGlass researchers and phD students on training at FSU, Jena, Germany