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Millions From Research Potential Program
October 26, 2012   
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A total of 33.3 million euros will go to Poland’s best research centers under the Research Potential project launched as part of the European Union’s 7th Framework Program.

The Research Potential project is the largest funding mechanism for the development of research across the European Union. The EU has earmarked almost 54 billion euros for this purpose in the 2007-2013 period. Over the past four years, 13 Polish research centers have received over 34 million euros in funding under the Research Potential project. In the latest round of co-financing, a fifth of the winning projects were projects submitted by Polish research institutions, which received co-financing worth 33.3 million euros from the total amount of 140 million euros set aside by the European Commission.

The Polish beneficiaries of the Research Potential project are the University of Warsaw’s Department of Physics; the Medical University of Warsaw; the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw; the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdańsk and the Medical University of Gdańsk; the Wrocław University of Technology; the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Technology in Cracow; the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physics; and the Medical University of ŁódĽ.

Of these institutions, the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology received funding for the second time.

Of the eight beneficiaries, the PhoQuS@UW project by the University of Warsaw Department of Physics was rated the highest. The project, coordinated by Prof. Konrad Banaszek, aims to strengthen the research potential of the University of Warsaw Department of Physics in the area of photonics and sciences related to quantum physics. The PhoQuS@UW project is expected to help strengthen the department’s collaboration with 12 leading European research centers (including those in Barcelona, Heidelberg, Munich, Oxford, Paris, and Rome) through an intense research exchange program.

There are plans to hire staff to conduct research in the hottest topics such as biomedical optics, attosecond-scale physics, environmental optics, and quantum metrology. Complementary investment in research apparatus will enable experimental research in the most promising fields. Mechanisms will also be introduced to support innovation and collaboration with hi-tech industries in the region.

Secrets of zebrafish

In a new project in Poland, transparent zebrafish will be bred by the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IIMCB) in Warsaw, where the fish will be used as a model organism in research on neurodegenerative diseases. After becoming a beneficiary of the Research Potential project as part of the EU’s 7th Framework Program, the institute bought modern equipment for fish research and hired top researchers experienced in such work. The project, called FishMed, is headed by Prof. Jacek KuĽnicki.

Project manager Urszula Białek-Wyrzykowska, Ph.D., says the institute is the first institution in Poland to officially introduce the zebrafish into biological research on a large scale.

“Licensed breeding of the fish will be launched at the institute; the fish will be used as a model in many types of research,” says Białek-Wyrzykowska. “At its early stages of development, the zebrafish is transparent. By genetically modifying its cells and staining selected proteins it will be possible to observe what happens with this protein from conception through successive cell divisions and further development of the fish. This is an interesting model used in world research for years. Our scientists have suggested that they could use this organism to create different models of human diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases.”

The laboratory for breeding the zebrafish is almost ready; its opening is scheduled for October. The laboratory will be headed by Małgorzata Wiweger, Ph.D., who worked on a similar project in the Netherlands. The FishMed project will get under way in December. The research will be conducted in collaboration with leading international research teams from Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.

The project also includes activities related to the development of an innovation strategy and the protection of intellectual property rights at the research facility. A Technology Transfer Department (BioTech-IP) has operated out of the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology since 2010 and has proven successful. The department will be strengthened through training and participation in international trade fairs, where the institute’s innovative potential will be promoted. Within the next three years the institute plans to hire experts on various aspects of technology transfer on a short-term basis.

Under the Research Potential project, professional public relations support is also available to institutions. In the case of the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, this mostly involves promoting research outside of the scientific community, for example by contacts with organizations bringing together patients. Researchers working at the institute want more people to be aware that they are involved in promising research on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s disease.

Molecular biotechnology for health

The Center of Molecular Biotechnology for Healthy Life (MoBiHealth) project being carried out by the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdańsk and the Medical University of Gdańsk aims to establish the most modern mass spectrometry laboratory in Poland’s northern Pomerania region. Other aims of the project are to facilitate an international exchange of scientists and joint projects with the best research centers in Europe.

The coordinator of the project is Prof. Krzysztof Bielawski from the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology, who is working on the project together with a group of other researchers from the faculty. They are aided by the Pro-Science.eu consulting firm set up by a group of faculty graduates.

“The grant we have received is designed to support the faculty’s international research activities and increase the participation of our researchers and Ph.D. students in the European Research Area and in international research,” says Bielawski.

MoBiHealth is a multi-faceted project that covers several areas. One of these is the purchase and upgrading of research equipment. For around 1.5 million euros, a cutting-edge mass spectrometry laboratory will be built in the Pomerania region. The project also involves an exchange of researchers and Ph.D. students, the organization of conferences, workshops and other projects carried out in collaboration with leading European research centers in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Greece. Moreover, a strategic plan will be developed for a system of intellectual property management and protection and to enhance the faculty’s capacity for innovation.

Network intelligence

Meanwhile, the Wrocław University of Technology plans to establish what is known as a Network Intelligence Center to support the development of innovative, advanced information technologies and their implementation in companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses. The center will be established as part of the European Research Center of Network Intelligence for Innovation Enhancement (ENGINE) project financed under the Research Potential project. Przemysław Kazienko, Ph.D., a Wrocław University of Technology researcher working at the Faculty of Information Systems, says the Network Intelligence Center is the main goal of the ENGINE project. The center will be established on the basis of existing research groups operating in two Wrocław University of Technology faculties—the Faculty of Computer Science and Management and the Faculty of Electronics.

The European Research Center of Network Intelligence will be a strong, international research center of a high scientific standard, with international acclaim and capacity for knowledge transfer and collaboration with industry. There are plans to hire seven renowned professors from abroad at the center. They would come to Wrocław for a year or two years to conduct advanced research and support innovation in companies together with their Polish colleagues. The project will sponsor the travel of Polish researchers to 16 leading research centers in Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Ireland and Finland, as well as the visits of experienced researchers from these centers to Wrocław. In total, over 100 visits will be organized. Poland will host a number of scientific conferences in the field, and researchers from the Wrocław University of Technology will take part in top international meetings.

Karolina Olszewska
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