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CREATE Report Summary

Project ID: 666295
Funded under: H2020-EU.4.c.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CREATE (The CREAtion of the Department of Physical Chemistry of Biological SysTEms)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The CREATE project is targeted at development at IPC of a new chair - Department of Physical Chemistry of Biological Systems led by a reputable world-class scientist (ERA Chair holder). The project predicts a number of measures to be taken by the new leader, aimed at extending research excellency of IPC into the new field (physical chemistry inspired by biology). The new research field is coherent with regional and national strategies.

IPC has a solid research record in both - fundamental and application-oriented researches on sensors, new materials for nanotechnology, and chemical functionalization of nanomaterials. IPC efforts and excellency in conducting researches were appreciated by professional investor, who set up 2 spin-off companies with IPC. It proves that IPC brought to perfection analytical methods, used for researching physical and chemical systems. However, development capacity of these methods in abovementioned fields has almost run out. Therefore, based on analysis and discussions with major stakeholders, IPC decided to refocus on researching biological systems. The assumption underlying the CREATE project was in particular to develop applied research. Therefore, implementation of abovementioned plan required finding reputable expert in biology and establishment of the new department focused on applications of developed techniques in biological systems.

Therefore, preliminary action under the CREATE project was to recruit an outstanding scientist capable of:
- indicating research directions of modern quantitative biology studies within physical chemistry and advising on possible links of physical chemistry and biology,
- enhancing IPC researchers to contribute to the new interdisciplinary research field,
- establishing cooperation with international scientific units on partner basis.

The CREATE project was aimed to bring essential know-how to IPC but also spread excellence through science-science and science-business cooperation platform. For this reason, communication and dissemination measures under the CREATE project were designed to ease integration with ERA and transition into Horizon2020 through:
- setting up conditions for open dialogue with authorities on science problems,
- favouring business-science cooperation,
- stimulation of cooperation between research units.

The society is ultimate beneficiary of the project as a recipient of improvement of socio-economic environment. Additionally, some direct measures were addressed to the society.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"From the beginning of the project all actions were carried out according to the plan. In the first reporting period (15 months) the most important step towards proper implementation of the CREATE project was recruitment of an ERA Chair holder. The selection proceedings (WP1) was transparent and was carried out by the international Selection Committee, mainly ERC grant holders.

For this position Professor Maciej Wojtkowski was selected, a world-widely renowned scientist active in the field of biomedical imaging. His research interests focus on optical coherence imaging and microscopy applied to biomedical imaging. He has had significant impact on the design and development of Fourier domain Optical Coherence Tomography (FdOCT) technique, commonly used in ophthalmic and cardiologic diagnosis. The FdOCT method and instrument for in vivo retinal imaging was firstly developed by Prof Wojtkowski and his colleagues from the Medical Physics Group at Nicolaus Copernicus University Poland in 2001. Prof Wojtkowski has also contributed to the development and construction of three clinical prototypes of high speed and high resolution OCT instruments, which were immediately applied for diagnostics in ophthalmology clinics: in Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz (Poland), New England Eye Center, Boston (USA), and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (USA).
Professor Wojtkowski is an author of more than 160 publications, including 90 full papers in peer reviewed journals. During his academic career Maciej Wojtkowski held short internships in Vienna University, and University of Kent. He also worked for two years as postdoctoral fellow in joint project of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New England Eye Center.

Prof Wojtkowski started with establishment of the Department of Physical Chemistry of Biological Systems (WP2). Taken actions focused on acquisition of team members and equipping of the new lab. During the first reporting period 4 researchers were recruited and the lab infrastructure for optical imaging was purchased. Additionally, a series of measures – aimed at strengthening potential of the new chair and extending its influence upon IPC society – were taken, such as:
- in-house networking aimed at establishing cooperation of the ERA Chair holder with most dynamic research groups of IPC (WP2 & WP3);
- initiation of mentoring and tutoring measures towards IPC society (e.g. cyclical lectures on interdisciplinary emerging researches, series of open lectures ""Innovation source"") (WP3 & WP5);
- securing supplementary funding (WP4).

The activities of the ERA Chair holder were supported by newly established Project-Support-Office and the Advisory Board consisting of distinguished researchers, representatives of business, and authority (WP7). Adopted promotion measures were aimed at an increase of recognition of the ERA Chair holder and his team, as well as promotion of a new field of studies introduced to IPC (WP6).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The CREATE project is dedicated to unlock, develop and extend research potential of the Institute. The actions aimed at implementation of the above-mentioned objectives of the CREATE project will influence the progress beyond the state of the art and socio-economic surrounding in many ways. The first and the foremost, acquiring the ERA Chair holder and establishment of new IPC specialization at the border on chemistry/physics and biology/medicine will significantly improve the research potential of the IPC, and as a result will contribute to national and regional economy by strengthening their innovative potential. Additionally, acquiring researchers from the outside of the European Union will have the positive influence on the whole European economy. Activity of the ERA Chair holder will enhance integration with international organizations, incl. ERA institutions, and will enable creation of new generation of scientists, eligible for ERA. The CREATE project will also exert the socio-economic environment by easing open access to IPC infrastructure (through e.g. expansion of research infrastructure ELAD database by register of patent applications and obtained patents, as well as IPC fields of expertise) and to IPC scientists (e.g. through participation of local communities in open days organised in IPC).
In particular, under the project, new tools for eye imaging based on the optical coherence tomography will be developed. Therefore, the new expertise of IPC will have direct effect on society, and its health.

Thanks to this project, namely through the establishment of new high-quality research group and a number of structural changes will touch on the other research groups of IPC and quality of their studies.

Inclusion in the Advisory Board of the CREATE project representatives of business and authority will influence linkage improvement between government, market and academia, which will also have a positive socio-economic impact.

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