Despite its standing at home, the UoP-FoB has always harboured ambitions to become a major player on the international stage.
“Our main goal for the last 20 years has been to establish a high-quality, European-standard research centre at the University of Plovdiv,” says Professor Ivan Minkov, coordinator of the BioSupport project. “BioSupport has been a breakthrough in this respect.”
One of the driving factors behind this expansion beyond Bulgaria’s borders has been the project’s focus on training and education through co-operation. “Altogether, about 60 researchers from the university have benefited from short-term and long-term secondments to European partner institutions,” adds Prof. Minkov.
As well as using the European Union’s FP7 funding to allow staff to benefit from high-level training, a large part of the EU contribution has been spent on new, modern and large-scale equipment. Another substantial amount was used to employ a number of experienced international experts and five highly qualified Bulgarian researchers.
The research undertaken on the BioSupport project to improve the resistance of crops to disease and adverse environmental conditions, and thus increase production, has since gained international recognition and offers of partnerships from around the world. The creation of doubled haploid plants, which can help plant breeding substantially, has been a particular success due to its implications for crop production and food supplies. As such, a number of research institutions in Europe, the United States and Asia have expressed a desire to be involved in future projects.
“Our new friends in Europe, the USA and Asia are recognising the fruitful interaction of the Biosupport partners and are increasingly seeing this project as a bridge between leading institutions in different countries worldwide,” Prof. Minkov says.
Much of this can be credited to the publicity the project has gained on a global scale. “The aims and results of the project were made public in two articles in the Journal of International Innovation,” Prof. Minkov says, adding that these articles were then distributed to over 38 000 stakeholders across Europe, the US and International Co-operation (INCO) countries.
The success of the BioSupport project has already made Prof. Minkov look to the future with an eye on further funding to continue working on the theme, for example through a new project for the FP7 Knowledge Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) call in 2013, and collaboration with some Max Plank Institutes, the John Innes Centre and several other universities also in the pipeline.