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Bottom-Up generation of atomicalLy precise syntheTIc 2D MATerials for high performance in energy and Electronic applications – A multi-site innovative training action

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ULTIMATE (Bottom-Up generation of atomicalLy precise syntheTIc 2D MATerials for high performance in energy and Electronic applications – A multi-site innovative training action)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-09-30

The “graphene rush” has triggered a great interest in the design and fabrication of synthetic 2D materials (S2DMs) excelling in their chemical and physical properties for future emerging technologies addressing numerous societal needs, such as faster and better performing electronics, as well as energy storage and conversion. To match the societal benefits of being at the forefront of new technological and scientific developments, the EC requires a highly skilled scientific and technical workforce that can efficiently finalize the shift to a true knowledge-based society.

ULTIMATE is providing to 15 talented young researchers a well-structured training in the burgeoning field of S2DMs by developing their knowledge and understanding on: i) how to generate novel atomically precise 2D materials with defined structure and composition, and ii) how to best exploit their unique and tunable properties for electronics and energy applications. This training-through-research requires an intersectoral approach by specialized and skilled scientists from different (sub-)disciplines including molecular modeling (TUD), organic, macro-/supramolecular synthesis (TUD, DWI, AMU), production of S2DMs (Graphenea, TUD, UNISTRA, IIT), hierarchical self-assembly (UNISTRA, KU Leuven, DWI, CNR), surface and interface studies (KU Leuven, EMPA, IBM, UNI GRAZ, CNR, APE, IIT, UNISTRA), photochemistry and photophysics (UNIME, DWI, UNISTRA, IIT), device fabrication and characterization (IIT, TUD, UNISTRA), and other skills, as well as a strong commitment to the training of young talents with the ultimate goal of achieving scientific breakthroughs in this very topical area of science and technology.

The ULTIMATE network is strengthening the EC training efforts by delivering 540 person-months of unprecedented cross-disciplinary and supra-sectoral training that is carefully structured in local, network-wide, and beyond-network training activities, as well as complementary and transferable skills.
The work carried out during the first reporting period of ULTIMATE (months 1–24) includes:
- Design and theory of new functional molecular building blocks.
- Functional building blocks and bulk synthesis of S2DMs.
- Self-assembly of S2DMs at surfaces and interfaces: the non-covalent approach.
- Reactivity in 2D: the covalent approach.
- Nanoscale studies of the properties of S2DMs by scanning probe microscopy techniques.
- Micro- and macro-scale studies of the properties of S2DMs.
- Electronics and energy applications.

In terms of training:
- The training program of ULTIMATE has been designed to provide the Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) with a highly multidisciplinary training.
- 2 Workshops, 1 School, and 1 International Conference have been organized.
- All ESRs have established with their supervisors a personal career development plan comprising their training needs and scientific objectives.

In terms of dissemination, communication, and public engagement activities:
- 36 articles have been published in high-impact scientific journals (average impact factor: 15+), including 85+% of collaborative publications, 4 cover pages, 1 cover profile, 2 hot papers, 1 very important paper, 6 hot topics, 5 society/special/themed collections/issues/volumes, 305+ citations and 25 press releases and highlights.
- ESRs have reported their results through as many as 16 oral and poster presentations in 5 international conferences.
- A website dedicated to the ULTIMATE (http://ultimate-itn.eu/) has been launched and is fully functional since day one of the project.
- Social networks – Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook – are actively being used to promote the dissemination of results and to increase the visibility of the project. ULTIMATE has achieved 725+ followers, 90+ tweets, 1,260+ likes and 270+ retweets on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ultimate_itn) 415+ connections, 90+ posts, 760+ likes and 55,000+ views on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ultimate-itn/) and 90+ posts, 215+ likes and 11,100+ people reached on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ultimate.itn).

In terms of coordination and management of the network:
- 1 Kick-off Meeting, 3 Progress Meetings, and 1 Mid-Term Check Meeting have been organized.
- 15 ESRs – including 25+% of women – have been recruited by the various beneficiaries.

Overall, the progress of research and training activities has been very successful in all aspects in the first 2 years of ULTIMATE.
The major aspects of the impact of ULTIMATE can be summarized as follows:
- Training of ESRs in fundamental science and technology of S2DMs and devices.
- Training of ESRs in complementary skills.
- Improvement of career prospects and employability of ESRs.
- Promotion of gender equality in science.
- Establishment of new collaborations among partners.
- Strengthening of pre-existing collaborations among partners.
- Enhancement of public-private sector collaborations in terms of research training.
- Reduction of the current fragmentation of the European research efforts in the field of S2DMs.
- Structuring doctoral/early-stage research training at the European level.
- Strengthening of the European Research Area by close interactions among top-level teams.
- Enhancement of the European innovation capacity and competitiveness.
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