December 10th, 2011

Conformity with R&D priorities

Strong interest from industry for novel nano- and other materials technologies drives demand for research in CoE's domain turning it one of the most dynamically evolving fields in science. FP7 bundles all research-related EU initiatives together for attaining EU's goals of growth and competitiveness as outlined in the Lisbon Strategy. The relevancy of the proposed research agenda is reflected in the current EC FP7 calls which coincide with the CoE's research topics (e.g. in total, 12 out of 40 EC FP7 NMP 2011-2012 calls have overlaps with CoE topics). In such environment, synergetic and interdisciplinary approach of CoE for solving fundamental problems of mesoscopic physics has potential for initiating many international collaborative research projects.

The CoE's research agenda has wide spectrum of possible application fields - including materials, energy, and biotechnology which are among the three strategic key technologies defined in the Estonian R&D and Innovation Strategy for 2007-2013. The agenda correlates also with the strategic plans of the universities and is linked to national R&D programs for energy and biotechnology, and with materials technology program (est. 2011).

Impact on R&D and innovation capabilities of enterprises

CoE tightly collaborates with the dedicated structures of applied research such as Estonian Competence Centres (CC). We uniquely link together two CCs- Estonian Nanotechnology CC (ENCC) and CC on Reproductive Medicine and Biology (CCRMB) ENCC and CCRMB are consortia of industrial and science partners for performing common applied research. Expected research results of the CCs are inputs for development of new products by consortium partners. Lately, ENCC has successfully involved companies in traditional sectors (textiles, construction materials) as partners of ENCC. Such partnerships might lead to wider exploitation of R&D results and unlocking the potential of introducing safe nanotechnology-based products with superior characteristics.

Close collaboration between CCs and CoE creates thus additional synergy and supports a new research direction - nanobiotechnology. Particularly, CCs are able to focus on new (nano)materials for biosensors including molecular devices and Lab-on-a-chip systems, and new materials for regenerative medicine based on the results of CoE.

CoE's support to the industrial research is essential because the trial-and-error approach in complex fields such as nanomaterials and plasmonics is prohibitively time and resource consuming. CCs have experienced many problems with scaling-up promising technological concepts with excellent commercial potential from nanoscale to mesoscale to semi-industrial scale. Some of the encountered problems have been generalized and have found a place in the action plan of the CoE. E.g. the development of novel biosensor have been seriously hindered by the lack of fundamental knowledge about energy transport from CNTs to biomolecules causing serious stability and reproducibility issues of the sensors. With help of CoE competence new directions are expected to be found for alternative technologies.

Impact on human resource development

Participating groups have traditionally been successful in combining high level research and education including well-above average number of graduate students and post-docs into their research. The CoE groups have always valued cross-border mobility of both professors and students, implementing special measures for students' mobility with great success, s.c. DoRa programs. Currently there are more than 10 foreign PhD students and post-docs working with the CoE. A similar number of Estonian postgraduates are working with.our foreign partners. The main impact of the CoE to the education is significant acceleration of international collaboration and increased visibility of our universities acting as a pulling center for foreign students, and facilitating mobility of Estonian students. CoE groups have been active also in up-dating university curricula. As the first step of creation an integrated curriculum on nano- and mesosystems the Nanotechnology direction was created at level in 2010 at UT. With help of CoE we plan:

  • develop the Nanotechnology direction further towards meeting international criteria
  • create joint courses at doctoral studies level
  • participate actively in special measures for knowledge transfer (doctoral schools, seminars, short-term visits)
  • facilitate students mobility ("semester abroad" program, joint master and PhD projects).

Concluding remark

The CoE incorporates human resources with relevant skills and experience, equipment and international partner networks sufficient for achieving ambitious scientific goals. Existing partner organizations of the CoE enable effective commercialization of research results for the benefit of sustainable growth and balanced overall socio-economic development.