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Centre of Plant Synthetic Biology for Bio-engineering and Sustainable Agriculture

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PASSAGE (Centre of Plant Synthetic Biology for Bio-engineering and Sustainable Agriculture)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

The long-term vision and ultimate goal of PASSAGE Teaming is strengthening excellence and relevance of research at the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) at Masaryk University (MU) in Brno, Czech Republic, through joint venture with the VIB in Ghent, Belgium, an excellence-based entrepreneurial institute focused on translating basic scientific results into pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications.
VIB succeeded in establishing mechanisms to catalyze the biotech cluster in Flanders, and is committed to channel this long-term experience and know-how on technology transfer to CEITEC MU, which will use it to power up the development of biotech industry in South Moravia and create links with companies. In a joint venture CEITEC MU will, among others, gain experience how to foster collaboration with companies and overcome the existing weakness of the biotech sector in South Moravia. Based on the close strategic partnership between CEITEC MU and the leading scientific institution VIB, the resulting joint venture will advance quality of research at CEITEC MU through intensive collaboration on basic and applied research projects, and transfer of advanced know-how in science management and technology transfer. The centre will capitalize on the joint academic expertise and infrastructure to exploit newly emerging field of plant synthetic biology for tackling global challenges of securing sustainable agriculture and plant-based primary production.
During Phase 1 of PASSAGE, all our efforts were concentrated towards completion of the Business Plan of the future joint venture of CEITEC MU and VIB. WP1 provided the Research and Innovation Agenda to be addressed in the Phase 2 project. We kept the basic distinction of three major scientific pillars and concentrated on the development of detailed sub-projects and identification of expertise and infrastructure necessary to successfully implement them. In WP2, we focused on the organizational aspects of the future Centre of Excellence. We laid down the principles of interaction between CEITEC MU and VIB in a Memorandum of Understanding and used the experience of VIB to finalize the application of CEITEC MU for HR Excellence in Research Award. WP3 allowed us to explore the application landscapes for agricultural biotechnology and focus the Research and Innovation Agenda towards relevant targets. WP4 covered the compilation of outcomes from previous work packages into a comprehensive economic analysis and finally a business plan summarizing all aspects of the operation of the joint venture. WP6 allowed raising of awareness about PASSAGE within the local scientific community, as well as outreach towards external stakeholders, including companies and policy makers. Through WP7, we managed the project as a whole, organized Steering Committee and Advisory Board meetings.

The Business Plan for submitted to Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports as part of an application for complementary funding from OP VVV (ESIF operational programme dedicated for Research, Development, and Education). The evaluation result was positive and acknowledge the level of preparedness for the upgrading and the potential of the Centre for bringing in significant benefits for the global society as well as for the regional economy.
PASSAGE Phase 1 allowed us to develop an ambitious programme for upgrading of the Centre of Excellence CEITEC MU and present it in comprehensive form as a Business Plan. During the process, we successfully activated the local and regional agri-innovation environment and enriched it by interacting with international actors. PASSAGE Business Plan described the scope of work necessary to achieve the full potential of the joint venture. We successfully applied to ESIF OP VVV for investment funding to implement the vision, and will submit a proposal for H2020 funding of PASSAGE in November 2018. Only with the two complementary resources in place, we will be able to achieve transformational impact on the regional economy, giving it a new pillar of agri-biotechnologies.
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