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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PlantaSYST (Establishment of a Center of Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology for the translation of fundamental research into sustainable bio-based technologies in Bulgaria)

PlantaSYST Report Summary

Project ID: 739582
Funded under: H2020-EU.4.a.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PlantaSYST (Establishment of a Center of Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology for the translation of fundamental research into sustainable bio-based technologies in Bulgaria)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The overall objective of project PlantaSYST is to establish a Center of Plant Systems Biology and Biotechnology (CPSBB) in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and hence to enforce it as a leading plant science research center in Bulgaria with world-class standards.

The strategic objectives of the CPSBB are:
• Highest research quality and productivity in the field of plant systems biology and biotechnology (up to the highest international standards).
• New products for the Bulgarian and the global market (breeders, farmers, end-users).
• Retaining and re-gaining the best specialists in the fields of plant science and bioinformatics.
• Educating next-generation researchers in the fields of plant systems biology and biotechnology.
• Establishing an excellent service-orientated management structure, effective innovation management, and intellectual property mechanisms. Establishment of a high-level education and training structure, as well as public services mechanisms.
• Bringing sectors together (policy, science, industry) for social and economic development. Clustering with other research institutes, universities, industry and regional authorities in Plovdiv.

Overall, the newly established CPSBB will increase Bulgaria’s research and innovation potential, significantly enhance the capacity of the Bulgarian science in the fields of plant systems biology and biotechnology, and stimulate the local scientific, economic, and social development in Plovdiv.

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

In the first reporting period (months 1 – 15), CPSBB continued to develop and upgrade its organizational structure. Significant progress has also been made regarding infrastructure development, scientific activities and publications, increasing international visibility, and international cooperation.

Organizational structure
Since the start of PlantaSYST Phase 2 project (01.03.2017), an immense progress was made towards the project implementation, regarding its organizational structure. The organizational structure is now fully established and the core CPSBB personnel has been already employed. The employment of personnel followed a competitive recruitment procedure, previously described in the grant agreement, which purpose has been to select the best candidates for the respective positions. CPSBB has now fully functional Administration department, Technical Support Unit, IT department, and several research departments: Bioinformatics and Mathematical Modelling, Molecular Stress Physiology, Plant Cell Biotechnology, Plant Development, Plant Metabolomics, and Vegetable Breeding. Next to the research departments, two service-oriented departments were established as well: department Technology Transfer and department Funding.

Infrastructure development
According to the initial plan in the PlantaSYST Grant Agreement (GA Deliverable No 2.2.CPSBB Campus and Building), a new CPSBB building and campus shall be constructed with co-funds from the Bulgarian Government. The Bulgarian Government, through the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), is fully committed to financially support the PlantaSYST consortium and CPSBB, in particular. The PlantaSYST Coordinator, Dr. Tsanko Gechev, has had several meetings with the Minister and with other officials from the MES; as a result of this, CPSBB was included in the Bulgarian National Roadmap for Research Infrastructure 2017 – 2023. Through this channel, CPSBB and PlantaSYST will receive periodically funds for improving its infrastructure.
Next to that, the Bulgarian MES, through its Executive Agency Operational Program “Science and Education for Smart Growth”, will launch a call dedicated to Teaming winning projects (i.e. PlantaSYST). This grant will be for constructing the new CPSBB building and campus, as well as for large equipment, as initially planned.
In the meantime, as a back-up plan to provide space and facilities for the newly established center, CPSBB signed an agreement with Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute (MVCRI, a PlantaSYST partner) to use one of the MVRCI buildings. The building is used now exclusively by CPSBB, without paying any rent in the next 10 years. The building has been adopted to accommodate all the administrative and technical personnel of CPSBB, as well as the research departments. The building has offices, laboratories, a seminar room, technical facility rooms, including climate rooms and plant growth chambers.

Scientific activities and publications
CPSBB, with the cooperation of the PlantaSYST partners and the international partners, is currently conducting high-level research that has already resulted in a number of quality publications. Some of the highlights include publications in high-ranked journals such as Cell and Biotechnology Advances.

Enhancing international visibility of CPSBB: Events organized by CPSBB and international cooperation.
The PlantaSYST consortium and CPSBB have organized several events and outreach activities, which disseminated project results and enhanced the visibility of CPSBB. Below we list some of the major events (conferences, symposia, workshops and other meetings) organized/co-organized by CPSBB:
PlantaSYST Kick-Off Meeting, Plovdiv (Bulgaria) 25– 26.04.2017.
Workshop Molecular Breeding and Bioinformatics, Plovdiv (Bulgaria) 14– 15.08.2017.
Plant Innovation Workshop, Plovdiv (Bulgaria) 28– 30.09.2017.
European Researchers’ Night 2017, Plovdiv (Bulgaria) 29.09.2017.
3rd International Confe

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 PlantaSYST project succeeded in establishing CPSBB, a new Center of Excellence (CoE) in Plovdiv, which is already gaining international visibility through its high impact publications and international collaboration. The connections with other research entities will help both the CPSBB long-term sustainability and the scientific development of the region. The project is of significant socioeconomic importance of the region, as more jobs are created and the region becomes more internationally recognized.

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