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Research to Soar with EAGLE Project
October 26, 2012   
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The development of new technology for the production of nanomaterials and closer cooperation with the European Research Area are among the main aims of a project undertaken by the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physics in Warsaw.

The project is called EAGLE and its full name is European Action Towards a Leading Center for Innovative Materials. It involves the establishment of research and development capacity in materials engineering.

The Institute of Physics is one of the beneficiaries of the Research Potential program available as part of the European Union’s 7th Framework Program. Next year the institute will receive almost 5 million euros from this source for its EAGLE project.

The EAGLE project is coordinated by the institute’s director, Prof. Leszek Sirko, and the key researchers are Prof. Tomasz Dietl, Prof. Krystyna Jabłońska, and Prof. Ewa Jędryka.

The Institute of Physics aims to develop new materials and nanostructures for application in industry. The main goal of the EAGLE project is to develop and modernize research infrastructure, tools and processes for chemical and structural characterization of new materials. A variety of analytical techniques will be developed, both those already used at the institute and those used in other research facilities in Europe. New equipment will also be bought and new research jobs will be created.

The project also involves the development of new computer techniques for designing materials and modeling their functions. This branch of materials engineering requires the researcher to have a good idea and be able to efficiently use computer tools to predict the properties of the material—before it enters the lab. This approach is much cheaper and often more effective.

Funding from the Research Potential program is expected to enable the Institute of Physics to achieve five objectives:

1) increase its know-how and research potential by working and exchanging staff with other European institutions;
2) modernize its laboratories and purchase new research equipment and modernize existing equipment.

3) establish mechanisms for collaboration with industry. This involves both the transfer of technology developed at the institute, including patents and inventions, and the preparation of expert reports for various industries. This also involves the creation of new technology, institutions and companies.

4) better integrate into the European Research Area. According to Aleksander Wittlin, a spokesman for the institute, this involves taking advantage of large research installations such as powerful X-ray sources, including synchrotrons, neutron sources, and strong magnetic field laboratories.

Better cooperation will enable the institute to contribute to developing future research projects in the EU, in line with the guidelines of the EU’s 7th Framework Program and the Horizon 2020 program.

5) promote the project in Poland and abroad. The two main target groups are industry/the business sector, which should be made aware of the benefits of working with the institute, and young people at high schools and universities, some of whom will become researchers in the future.

“There’s been a growing interest within the business sector in new technologies and the results of research conducted in the science sector,” said Wittlin. He added that the Institute of Physics began working with the business sector in the 1970s, though that collaboration was based on completely different economic rules in those days. Today cooperation with industry is “a bit more difficult but far more promising,” Wittlin said, and involves the setting up of special spin-off businesses.

According to Wittlin, foreign companies with a presence in Poland are interested in boosting their research and development capacity and have a number of well-developed R&D operations in this country. “For example, Motorola has a laboratory in Cracow, Intel maintains intensive contacts with various research institutions, including the Institute of Physics,” Wittlin said. “U.S. companies are increasingly interested in working and opening their laboratories at research centers. Some groups of researchers at the Institute of Physics have very good level of cooperation with Japanese laboratories that involves technology transfer. We also work with Polish companies, mainly industrial research institutes, such as the Institute of Electron Technology and the Institute of Electronic Materials in Warsaw.” However, effective technology transfer requires the involvement of venture capital, which is still difficult to access on the Polish financial market, Wittlin said.

Karolina Olszewska
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