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Capacity Building at InBIO for Research and Innovation Using Environmental Metagenomics

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - EnvMetaGen (Capacity Building at InBIO for Research and Innovation Using Environmental Metagenomics)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-12-31

The overall goal of EnvMetaGen project is to expand the research and innovation potential of InBIO in the area Environmental Metagenomics. It aims to strengthen the research potential of human resources, lab facilities and next-generation genome sequencing equipment, addressing and supporting the emerging research line in environmental metagenomics regarding applications in biodiversity conservation, invasive species control, ecosystem services assessment, and environmental (bio)monitoring, and firmly strengthen the communication, dissemination and exploitation of InBIO’s research and innovation in this emerging field.
EnvMetaGen is important for society as it is predicted to contribute to the regional and national smart specialization strategies, as the overall objectives are to develop tools and approaches to foster environmentally sustainable development, and strengthening innovation and knowledge transfer activities, raising the international and national network of collaborations and partnerships, in close collaboration with local and global industrial partners, as well as with governmental agencies.

Main conclusions and achievements of the EnvMetGen ERA Chair action related to main Project Objectives:

- Recruitment of experienced an experienced team & research group, & a prime eDNA laboratory deployment
- Improved innovation capacity and performance at InBIO in the field, attracting new research collaborations and partnerships
- Reinforcement of InBIO as an active player in the ERA through strong partnering networks and internationalization
- Applied research with the key application domains/priority societal challenges
- Enhancement of environmental metagenomics as a mainstream tool
- Implementation Triple-Helix model and the Corporate Affiliates Program
Summary of work carried out during the reporting period and main results

Secondments and Researcher Exchange (WP3)
6 Secondments and 6 Junior Researcher Exchanges have been concluded with European and worldwide institutes during the period.

Horizon 2020 training related outputs (WP3):
A TEAMING proposal (BIOPLOLIS) and an ERA Chair (TROPIBIO) proposal were approved and initiated by InBIO. Moreover, entitled EuropaBON was also approved and initiated (InBIO partner)



Building of partnering Networks (WP3)
A large number of networking activities performed and expanded, e.g. with Metabarcoding.org DNAqua-Net EU COST Action, LTER – Europe and ILTER, BOL – Barcode of Life, GBIF and the BOLD database, LifeWatch ERIC, University of Montpellier/AGROPOLIS International, EMBL-EBI, UNESCO and USDA Forest Service (USA).

Deployment of an eDNA laboratory and Building capacity for eDNA analysis (WP4)
The Publicly available Field, lab and computational protocols developed during the previous reporting period by the EnvMetaGen team have been extensively used and cited research community in the field.

Development of technical skills and best practice (WP4)
7 field work activities & training courses have been performed.

Corporate Affiliates Program (WP5)
The establishment of a Corporate Affiliates Program was achieved & engagement with a wide range of business corporations were made.

Communication and Dissemination Plan (WP6)
The C & D plan was further developed & specific actions were outlined (in the final Technical report) to reassure further dissemination and exploitation of the EnvMetaGen results beyond the conclusion of the project.

Media Clipping and InBIO and EnvMetaGen impact (WP6)
Media attention in both national and international journals regarding 6 events and published results.

Participation in Workshops and Conferences (WP6)
EnvMetaGen Team members have participated and given both oral and poster communications at 26 of workshops and conferences.

Organization of Conferences/Seminars, Meetings, Workshops and schools (WP6)
Conferences/Seminars:
10 conferences and seminars were organized by the EnvMetaGen team.

Meetings and Workshops:
Two Round-Table meetings, 3 Workshops, 1 Spring School and 1 conclusive EnvMetaGen meeting were organized.

Publications – Open Access (WP6)
32 Open Access scientific papers were published directly supported by EnvMetaGen. 2 additional papers have been submitted and 15 additional publication manuscripts are being produced.

Communication, Dissemination & Exploitation for the entire project duration
These activities focused on maximizing the impact of the EnvMetaGen project output, as well as more widely regarding the output from InBIO, at the regional, national and international levels, spanning over a range of activities for dissemination of knowledge, networking, and raising international awareness of their research and innovation potential and achievements.
The Communication and Dissemination (C&D) Plan was one of the initial key outputs and was revised halfway through the project so that the C&D strategy and activities were fully adjusted to the project needs and objectives. The Plan was also adjusted to take into account the synergies with those of the BIOPOLIS/TEAMING project, and the integration into this long-term Teaming project.
The EnvMetaGen team has been very active with regards to participation and organization of workshops, conferences, seminars schools, as well as networking and partnership buildup in the area of Environmental Metagenomics.
Impact and societal implications of the EnvMetaGen project at the conclusion and beyond:

Increased Attractiveness of InBIO
This was achieved through conference participation and organization, meeting and school organization and media coverage, in combination with extensive research exchange and successful networking. The establishment of a research group (CompBio) and the production of very relevant scientific data and results in the field also strongly contributed.

Boost of Research Excellence
The implementation of an international standard reference eDNA lab and the establishment of the CompBio research group, soundly embedded in the strong research networks and collaborations established on a national and international level, brought together a critical mass of top level researchers in the field of Environmental Metagenomics.

International Research funding
Through the implemented training of relevant EnvMetaGen team members and other InBIO staff in competences regarding project applications and management, additional EU funded project have been achieved (Teaming, ERA Chair, and CSA Funding Scheme), thus demonstrating the improved position of InBIO as an active player in the ERA, and further assisting the institute in joining consortia of European and International excellence.

Alignment and Synergies related to the Smart Specialization Strategy
The EnvMetaGen ERA Chair project has in the scope and to ensure sustainability by increasing societal impact, established collaborations with the private, public and governmental sector in areas involving the agri-food sector, forests, water and environment, as well as industrial and technological areas. This has resulted in the establishment of Bilateral Agreements and a Corporate Affiliates Program.
EnvMetaGen - Water sampling