The use and control of nano-structured materials is of great importance for the development of new environmentally friendly materials, more efficient energy sources and biosensors for medical analysis. The European Noblesse project is boosting a Polish academy's capabilities to research these developments.
© Fotolia, 2012
Nanotechnology is helping to considerably improve, even revolutionise, many technology and industry sectors. Such is the scope for the development and application of nanotechnology that nano-structured materials are in high demand. To meet this demand, nano-science institutes need to rise to the challenges that modern society presents.
This is one of the driving forces behind the Noblesse project which aims to establish the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC-PAS) as an integrated partner and respected participant in the European nano-science community.
The IPC-PAS already has a strong research record in both fundamental and applied studies of physiochemical processes, but the Noblesse project is expected to reinforce its research potential and give it an edge in this exciting but competitive field.
Through a combination of newly purchased, state-of-the-art equipment – financed by EU FP7 funding – and a programme of recruitment and training, Noblesse promises to position IPC-PAS as a leading research centre in Europe and beyond.
By facilitating the exchange of know-how with the wider scientific community, and with equally important public and potential business partners, the IPC-PAS is positioning itself as an integral part of a network responsible for sharing scientific interests between leading EU research centres and potential applications with industry.
The project has already made great strides towards bringing new nanotechnology applications to the market place and in promoting the career development of a team of young, dedicated researchers in the field.
"In the first year of the project, we filed 49 patent applications, 25 of them abroad – most of which are nanotechnology patents," says Professor Robert Holyst, the project coordinator. "I am not aware of any institute in Poland filing more patent applications than us at the moment.
"We have also established two spin-off companies, thanks to the valuable influence of our advisory board members from industry," he adds. Tomasz Tuora, who is on the advisory board of the Noblesse project, is the main investor in Scope Fluidics Ltd and Curiosity Diagnostics Ltd, Prof. Holyst explains. "While the Noblesse grant did not promise to set up spin-off companies in the Institute, we did promise to collaborate and develop ties with industry," he says.
According to Prof. Holyst, the two companies plan to make products for the medical sector and have each employed between 10 and 20 scientists to develop new nanotechnology applications.
The creation of spin-off companies from IPC-PAS is unlikely to end there if an application for a €1.3 million-grant from the NCBIR, the Polish funding agency for applied research, is successful. "We are currently applying for this grant to develop and later commercialise the SERS (surface enhanced resonance spectroscopy) platform for molecular diagnostics," Prof. Holyst explains. "If we are successful in our application, we'll establish a new spin-off company for this purpose."
While the research-industry interface is booming, Prof. Holyst acknowledges that strong partnerships and the integration of the IPC-PAS into the European Research Area community would remain important factors in the Noblesse project.
These will no doubt lead to the further promotion of the Institute and involvement of its staff in EU projects and international collaboration, he concludes.