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Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BBCE (Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-03-31

The overall objective of the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence (BBCE) is to establish a joint Centre of Excellence for the development of advanced biomaterials with a clear scientific and economic impact. BBCE is based on the long-term strategic cooperation between Latvian core partners: Riga Technical University, Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, Rīga Stradiņš University and LLC Rīga Stradiņš University Institute of Stomatology, on the one hand, and advanced partners: AO Research Institute Davos, Switzerland and Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, on the other hand.

The BBCE research direction is targeted towards improving the quality of life of the ageing European population. As reported by the World Health Organization, musculoskeletal conditions are the largest contributors to disability worldwide and especially in the high-income countries (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/musculoskeletal-conditions). Musculoskeletal disorders affect people of all ages and are typically characterized by pain, limitations in mobility, dexterity, and functional ability, thus severely reducing the quality of life. The lack of biomaterials suitable for tissue replacement and regeneration is the major obstacle in the treatment of many musculoskeletal disorders. Development of such materials and their translation to the clinic is urgently needed.

The activities of BBCE will improve the existing expertise and infrastructure of the BBCE core partners, ensure knowledge transfer from the advanced to core partners, and strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration. The major goal is to achieve excellence in the development of biomaterials for bone tissue regeneration, solutions for biomedical applications, and to streamline the “bench to bedside” process. In the long term, the expected impact of the BBCE project Teaming Phase 2 will be achieved by acquiring a ‘critical mass’ of high-level scientists and establishing fruitful collaborations between the BBCE core partners and industry (including SMEs) to bring innovative products to the market.
A brief summary of the work performed and results achieved for the period from 01/01/2020 to 31/03/2021:

1) The BBCE core partners redistributed their internal human resources and structured them into 6 Scientific Focus Groups (SFGs):
1. Calcium Phosphates and Composites;
2. Drug/ion/cell Delivery;
3. Materials in vitro;
4. Kinetics and Stability of Drug Delivery Systems;
5. Preclinical Evaluation of Biomaterials;
6. Clinical Evaluation of Materials and Personalized Implant Development.

2) The capacities of the established SFGs were enhanced by the recruitment of 8 experienced researchers, 8 postdocs and 10 PhD students from around the world through an open and fair recruitment process. The recruitment resulted in 45% male and 55% female researchers from 9 countries.

3) Training programs were developed and launched. Six virtual training events (total duration of 22 days) with more than 230 participants and one summer school (5 days) with more than 25 participants every day were organised by the BBCE advanced partners.

4) Internal training activities for the recruited personnel were carried out on-site at the BBCE core partner institutions. The training included scientific literature search and analysis, writing review articles, training in the use of laboratory equipment, established methods and technologies.

5) 30 BBCE researchers participated in national and international conferences, promoting the integration of the BBCE staff and Early Stage Researchers into the international scientific community. The BBCE research staff is also actively involved in planning and organizing international scientific conferences (e.g. RSU International Student Conference (ISC 2021), 22.03.2021 Riga, Latvia; RSU conference "Knowledge for use in practice 2021", 25.03.2021 Riga, Latvia; “ScSB 2021”, Scandinavian Society for Biomaterials and European Society for Biomaterials, Riga, Latvia, 14.06.2021).

7) The BBCE staff (including PhD students and Postdoctoral researchers) submitted 32 national and international grant applications, thus gaining significant experience in project writing skills.

8) BBCE core partners participated in 3 online industrial partner networking events and had 8 visits to enterprises to establish links with the industry.

9) BBCE is committed to a continuous upgrade of the core partner infrastructure. In the first 15 months, 1 040 076 EUR of public and private investments into infrastructure was ensured. Synchronisation of the investments in infrastructure with relevant training increased the efficiency of infrastructure and human resource exploitation.

10) The Quality Management Plan (QMP) was developed and the implementation of the internal Quality management system (QMS) has started.

11) Consortium has developed a Dissemination & Outreach Strategy that targets specific audiences through various activities and dissemination channels and tools. Communication with the general public was carried out via 7 press releases, project implementation updates in social media (Facebook, Twitter and Researchgate), homepage (bbcentre.eu) 15 TV and radio interviews, and participation in multiple local events.

12) BBCE established an External Expert Advisory Board composed of internationally recognised researchers, industry representatives, and national policy makers.
The BBCE is steadily moving towards achieving excellence in all dimensions and impacts listed in the work program. Compared to the year 2019, the first implementation year of the BBCE project had a significant positive effect on the core partners: the average impact factor of the scientific publications increased by 38%, with two publications in the top 10 scientific journals of the field; the number of research grant applications rose to 32; the attracted amount of competitive research funding was 3.02M EUR; 8 international PhD students and postdocs were recruited. It is estimated that the results will further improve in the upcoming years.

The consortium has started to build visibility and reputation of the BBCE through a wide range of activities. As an outcome, 10 new international collaborations have been established, 11 international researchers attracted and 19 first stage students were involved in the BBCE Scientific Focus Group activities.

BBCE quickly adapted to the travel restrictions caused by COVID-19 pandemic. Several planned visits were rescheduled, however training sessions that did not require hands-on experience were conducted remotely, which allowed for a significant increase in the number of participants.

The development of the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence will further contribute to innovation and research performance in Latvia and EU by establishing new collaborations with industry, developing new materials, processes, and technologies.
BBCE opening ceremony on January 2020
BBCE Logo
BBCE Infogram