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Renewable materials and healthy environments research and innovation centre of excellence

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - InnoRenew CoE (Renewable materials and healthy environments research and innovation centre of excellence)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2020-03-31

The InnoRenew CoE project addresses two main concerns. First, the project addresses the primary aim of the funding mechanism: decreasing the disparity in Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) performance between widening countries and higher performing countries. Second, the project supports the development of renewable materials value chains in Slovenia and abroad, particularly related to buildings, by conducting interdisciplinary research that combines wood and renewable materials science, building engineering, ICT, human health, and data science.

To address these concerns, the project created a new research institute in Slovenia, the “InnoRenew CoE Renewable Materials and Healthy Environments Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence”. The project received complimentary funding from the Republic of Slovenia to construct and equip a new research facility. With the combined support, the InnoRenew CoE will generate knowledge, assist industry in overcoming their challenges, and create a safer, healthier, and more sustainable built environment.

This project is critically important to society for multiple reasons. First, reducing the RDI disparity between widening and high performing countries reduces economic and social disparities. Raising industrial RDI and scientific capabilities in Slovenia will help increase its performance broadly, adding jobs, increasing competitiveness, reducing environmental impact, and improving social wellbeing. Second, the topic of research is important for Slovenia, as the forest sector has significant room for growth and can provide new jobs and a valuable, sustainable resource for the country and its trading partners. Beyond industry, the focus on creating healthy and sustainable buildings for all users will have substantial social, human health, and environmental impacts.

The overall objectives of the InnoRenew CoE project are to establish, develop, and operate a new research centre in Slovenia that complements and extends the capabilities of the consortium partners, contributes to raising the RDI performance of the country, and addresses the needs of society related to renewable resource utilisation and healthy, sustainable buildings.
"Operational activities. The project receives advising and support from its Advanced Partner. In many ways, running the new institute is like running a start-up. Hiring, training, and securing funding are crucial. Acquiring research equipment and the design and construction of a new building to house the institute are also top concerns. The consortium has acquired a unique set of scientific equipment through complementary ERDF funding from the Republic of Slovenia (to support its research goals and to help propel Slovenian science and industry to new levels. In January 2020, construction began on the InnoRenew CoE’s new headquarters in Izola, Slovenia. Construction is expected to be completed in September 2021.
The complementary funding from the Republic of Slovenia allowed 5 other InnoRenew CoE project partners to acquire a significant set of state-of-the-art research devices with new facilities in the future.
As of 31 March 2020, 58 persons were employed by the InnoRenew CoE (41% from outside of Slovenia).

Scientific operations. The InnoRenew CoE research work began with eight pre-planned “start-up” projects designed during the planning stages of the InnoRenew project. Since then, the research work of the institute has expanded and diversified as new research staff bring their own unique knowledge, skills, and networks.
Scientific contributions are key exploitable results for their intrinsic and social good value, but also provide more directly exploitable capacities that can be leveraged to earn more funding nationally and internationally (almost 6 million earned as of March 2020).

Some of the key developments:
- Established new open-access, peer-reviewed journal “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Built Environment”.
- Started a new conference series, the ""InnoRenew CoE International Conference"" series.
- InnoRenew CoE researchers participated in the development of a new PhD programme “Renewable Materials for Healthy Built Environments” and a new Data Science Master’s degree programme at the University of Primorska.
- Achieved its high priority objective to become an attractive environment for visiting scientists (Hosted over 220 international experts and over 60 international students; More than 70 % of SCI journal papers are co-authored with researchers from abroad; InnoRenew CoE researchers are regularly invited to foreign universities to give lectures).

The InnoRenew CoE has expanded its work with industry both directly and through cooperation in research projects funded by agencies (e.g. Slovenia Research Agency, H2020). Direct cooperation with companies has produced the organisations first patent application (European patent application #19204677.9 – 1104) on a new wood modification process."
"The ongoing research activities of the institute and many other accomplishments demonstrate the success of the project so far. In Slovenia’s national scientific tracking system the InnoRenew CoE’s H-index ranks first in biotechnology (Forestry, Wood, and Paper) and fourth in Natural Sciences and Mathematics (Computer intensive methods and methods). The successful competitive funding applications further indicate the increased scientific capabilities not only of InnoRenew CoE, but all InnoRenew partners. With establishment of a new PhD study program at the University of Primorska, Renewable Materials for Healthy Built Environments, ensures the long-term viability of the institute and the field by recruiting and training talented researchers.
As of March 31, 2020 InnoRenew CoE has submitted over 170 national and international proposals. In these proposals InnoRenew CoE collaborated with 64 national and 306 international R&D institutions and industrial partners. The InnoRenew CoE’s first patent was the result of direct industrial collaboration, and will likely lead to licensing the technology to relevant manufacturers. Cooperation with companies in agency-funded research projects has increased the geographical and topical range of companies the InnoRenew CoE collaborates with. This type of collaboration has also pushed operations into higher TRL levels as well, bringing the organisation’s work closer to market readiness.
The InnoRenew CoE’s new conference series, the ""InnoRenew CoE International Conference"" series and its participation in events like the Charm of Wood exhibition, workshops for elementary school students “Let’s explore wood”, and communication to general public will result in increased use of renewable materials.
InnoRenew CoE has been active in preparing national and European strategic documents like the Climate Strategy and Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda 2030 of the European forest-based sector. National and international policy is influenced through representation of InnoRenew CoE employees in national (e.g. Council of Science and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia) and international policy bodies (e.g. Young Academy of Europe), and through participation in policy related actions like the WoodCircus project (H2020 GA # 820892).
Research outputs are archived on the project’s Zenodo community, which can be browsed on the InnoRenew website: https://innorenew.eu/results/ or on Zenodo: https://zenodo.org/communities/innorenew/."
P10/InnoRenew CoE Employees
P10/InnoRenew CoE Employees in 2019