CERCA delegation to visit Finland

The aim of the trip is to establish partnerships and new projects with R&D institutions in the country.

From Tuesday to Friday, a delegation of centres led by Lluís Rovira, director of CERCA, will visit different research and innovation bodies associated with the Finnish Government.

The Catalan delegation, made up of directors and researchers from Agrotecnio, the International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE), the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG), the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), the Forestry Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia (CTFC), the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA) and members of the Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda will meet on Wednesday with representatives from the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (LUKE), the Institute for the Environment (SYKE) and a delegation from the University of Lapland and the Geology and Mining Institute (GTK). On Thursday, they will attend a reception at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and will meet with the European Forest Institute (EFI), the Centre for Research and Technology (VTT), the GTK, Business Finland and the Finnish Research Academy.

The meetings, all of them with a high technical and institutional content, are expected to raise awareness of the importance of the research activity conducted by the participating centres, as well as the Catalan research and innovation ecosystem, which seeks to become a benchmark in Europe.

The trip is part of the agreement signed between the CERCA centres and LUKE last March, through which the CERCA Institute seeks to open up the research and innovation potential of the Catalan system of centres to potential new partners with whom there is currently little or no relationship. The visit is also expected to open the door to new partnerships between institutions for the next European Commission calls for proposals in 2023 and 2024.

CERCA centres and the Natural Resources Institute of Finland sign a partnership agreement

The agreement signed this week with the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (LUKE) is aimed at submitting European projects jointly to Horizon Europe calls for proposals, especially in the fields of life sciences, bioeconomy, forestry, agri-food and ecology. CERCA centres and LUKE will also work on research data management policies, technology transfer and other cross-cutting issues affecting research and innovation management.

The agreement includes the possibility of opening mobility programmes for research staff, co-organising workshops and symposia on topics of mutual interest and, especially, exchanging experiences in research assessment.

A CERCA delegation plans to visit the LUKE facilities in Finland in the near future, and Finnish researchers plan to do the same before the end of the year.

The LUKE is a research institute whose aim is to promote the bioeconomy and sustainable use of natural resources, linked to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

CERCA centres support Ukrainian research

The CERCA system of Catalonia’s research centres currently includes 42 centres employing around 12,000 people. It is now a European leader in research and innovation excellence.

The CERCA system opposes all forms of war to resolve disagreements between people, countries or regions. There is no rational justification for loss of human life through war.

We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in so many deaths and numbers of displaced people, forced to leave their lives and their country behind.

Furthermore, this war is also a direct threat to the lives of people in Ukraine’s scientific community and the future of Ukrainian science.

The CERCA centres support the initiatives promoted by other European research institutions and we intend to carry out various actions to support them, to prevent a lost generation of scientists in this country.

Dr L. Maria Lois, appointed director of the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics

L. Maria Lois will succeed José Luis Riechmann as Director on 1 February

The Board of Trustees of the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) has appointed the scientist L. Maria Lois as the new director for the centre. The appointment was made at the Board of Trustees meeting in December after an international selection process coordinated by the CERCA Institute, with the participation of the CRAG External Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr Lois, who will take up her post on 1 February, is a researcher at the centre and a senior scientist at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

She will be the third director of CRAG, succeeding José Luis Riechmann, who made director at the beginning of 2013 and will remain at CRAG as head of the research group, and Pere Puigdomènech, who was the founding director. Lois will be one of the few women directors among CERCA research centres in Catalonia and the Severo Ochoa centres of excellence in Spain.

Further information

CERCA Institute presents the 2021 Pioneer Awards

Graphene material for retinal implants, muscle fibre 3D printing, low-cost biosensors for disease detection, advances in the recording of neuronal activity, a new method for modelling faces and biotechnology applied to personalised medicine were the projects awarded in the eighth such awards.

The Pioneer Awards recognise recent PhD graduates who have aimed their research towards industrial or commercial results.

Today the CERCA Institute held the 2021 Pioneer Awards ceremony with the participation of winners, institutions and partner companies. Luis Rovira, director of the Institute, highlighted the quality of the work presented and the real interest shown by several companies, including negotiating a patent.

The winners of the 8th Pioneer Awards are:

Dr Damià Viana Casals for the thesis “EGNITE: Engineered Graphene for Neural Interface”
The Jury considered that the thesis, which describes a microelectrode technology based on EGNITE, a porous graphene material that provides a stable and high-performance bidirectional neural interface, has optimal applications in neural therapy, among other fields, a high impact potential and a technological readiness level (TRL) that is very close to market.

Dr Rafael Mestre Castillo for the thesis “Hybrid bio-robotics: from the nanoscale to the macroscale”
The Jury considered that the thesis, on the development and application of muscle tissue-based bioactuators and biorobots and the improvement of their manufacture using 3D printing technologies, could have a major impact on several sectors and applications.

Dr Patricia Ramírez Priego for the thesis “Low-cost point-of-care biosensor device for clinical diagnosis in developing countries”
The Jury considered that the thesis, which has fully developed an innovative portable biosensor for the rapid diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) directly in urine samples, could have a major social impact, especially in developing countries, and a clear commercial opportunity.

Dr Eduard Masvidal Codina for the thesis “Graphene microtransistors: in wide-bandwidth technology for recording brain field potentials”
The Jury considered that the thesis, which develops flexible neural interfaces based on graphene transistors (gSGFETs) and studies their use for recording neural activity, comparing them with current cutting-edge technologies, demonstrates an implementation of the technology with a major impact on its area of application.

Dr Gemma Rotger Moll for the thesis “Lifelike Humans: Detailed Reconstruction of Expressive Human Faces”
The Jury considered that the thesis, which develops new techniques to achieve the automatic creation of detailed and realistic synthetic character faces (CGI) using low-cost setups, has a direct application for the current and future world of entertainment.

Dr Ariadna Montero Blay for the thesis “Engineering Mycoplasma species for biotechnological and biomedical applications”
The Jury considered that the thesis, which explores how different mycoplasma species can be exploited biotechnologically or in the field of biomedicine, opens the door to new approaches in the field of personalised medicine.

Each prize is worth 1,000 euros, granted by the CERCA Institute and the participating organisations, which this year were the Mobile World Capital Barcelona The Collider programme, the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRI), the Chamber of Commerce and the Caixa d’Enginyers bank.

The jury was made up of Melba Navarro, technology transfer expert at the International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE); Nadia Pons, director of the Health Entrepreneurship Program at the Barcelona Medical Association; Núria Martí, director of Innovation at Biocat; Manuel Palacín, director of the Mobile World Capital Barcelona The Collider programme; Julià Manzanas, RBDM Southern Europe with AREOPA Group International and president of the Catalan Association of Economists Knowledge Economy and Innovation Committee; and Joan Sansaloni, head of the Industrial and Intellectual Property unit at ACCIÓ.

You can view a video of the event here.

TECNIO association created to promote technology transfer in Catalonia

It brings together the 59 research groups that have been awarded the TECNIO seal by ACCIÓ, which includes the Catalan universities, the CERCA Institute and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

The Catalan Minister for Business and Labour, Roger Torrent i Ramió, and the Catalan Minister for Research and Universities, Gemma Geis, took part in the presentation of the initiative on Monday afternoon

All the Catalan universities, the CERCA Institute and the CSIC have formed a new association, presented on Monday, to promote technology transfer and links with the business world through their research groups and centres with the TECNIO seal. The initiative is supported by the Generalitat de Catalunya through the Ministry of Business and Labour’s agency for business competitiveness, ACCIÓ.

The new “TECNIO Association” is made up of the 59 research groups that currently hold the TECNIO accreditation granted by ACCIÓ, a seal that identifies technology developers in Catalonia to facilitate connections with companies. The new association will receive 300,000 euros in funding from ACCIÓ over the next three years to strengthen the market vision of these agents and bring them closer to companies.

The aim of the new body is to bring together and raise the visibility of activity by research groups with the TECNIO seal, to foster collaboration between them and promote them as an instrument for connecting to businesses and government agencies. The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the University of Barcelona, the University of Girona, University of Lleida, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech, Pompeu Fabra University, Ramon Llull University, Rovira i Virgili University, the University of Vic–Central University of Catalonia, the CERCA Institute and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) are part of the project with the aim of accelerating knowledge transfer from research laboratories to society.

The presentation ceremony for the new association, which took place on Monday afternoon at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), was attended by the Catalan Minister for Business and Labour, Roger Torrent i Ramió, the Catalan Minister for Research and Universities, Gemma Geis, the Director General for Industry and CEO of ACCIÓ, Natàlia Mas, the Director General for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Lluís Juncà, the director of the UAB, Javier Lafuente, and the president of the TECNIO Association, Nora Ventosa

During his speech, Torrent stressed that this partnership “will allow us to take a further step in building partnerships between companies and research agents in Catalonia to ensure that knowledge generated in universities is transferred to the productive sector. This translates into incorporating more differential technology in companies, more business R&D and, in short, more competitiveness and impact on the market,” he stressed.

For her part, the Catalan Minister for Research and Universities explained that “Catalonia’s major challenge is to improve its capacity for innovation so that this becomes one of the main driving forces of the economy. We must put talent at the service of the country’s transformation, in order to develop a more innovative business fabric that raises competitiveness, and the centres with the TECNIO seal of quality are a good model to follow.”

The TECNIO centres

The 59 groups with the TECNIO seal are technology developers recognised by the Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGUAR) that conduct applied research in differential technologies and have the capacity to transfer it to the market through R&D projects with companies, patent licences and the creation of technology-based start-ups. These research groups specialise in different areas, mostly from within Catalan universities. They are distributed throughout the country and are active with both SMEs and large companies in Catalonia and Europe.

This accreditation, which began in 1999 with the launch of the Xarxa IT and is periodically renewed, identifies the most qualified research groups with experience in business projects to provide easier access to them for companies and thus boost technology transfer in Catalonia. For example, between 2016 and 2019, the accredited centres obtained 300 million euros in total income and 90 million euros in RDI contracts from companies. In addition, 61 patents emerged from their applied research which were transferred to companies and 17 spin-offs were created.

Among other actions to boost the market impact of these research groups, since 2018 ACCIÓ has allocated more than 8 million euros to the INNOTEC line, targeting R&D projects developed jointly between companies and TECNIO research or university groups in areas such as ICT, biotechnology, photonics, manufacturing, new materials and nanotechnology, among others.

Link to press release

Incorporation of the 157 spin-offs from CERCA centres into the Flintbox technology catalogue

The new CERCA System Technologies catalogue is displayed on the Wellspring platform

The CERCA Institute has collected data on 58 products and 157 spin-offs from CERCA centres on the Flintbox platform. This is one of the leading marketplaces for commercialising technologies, especially in the US and Asian markets.

What is Flintbox?
Flintbox, a technology from the transfer expert Wellspring, enables us to organise a catalogue of technologies from CERCA centres. It also gives us access to the AIM Marketplace of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM, a worldwide network of tech transfer offices), aimed at the North American and Asian markets.

We are developing the catalogue in conjunction with the centres. We maintain the files for spin-offs and projects that have received support from the Gínjol patent fund while the transfer manager for each centre manages all other technologies they may have.

How many files are there right now?
At the moment we have two complete catalogues. One contains the 60 projects of the Gínjol patent fund and the other the 157 CERCA centre spin-off companies, and we are also working on a new catalogue of scientific platforms. All of them can be viewed in the “Portfolios” section.

The spin-offs are linked to ACCIÓ’s StartupHub Catalonia database, which we are also working with, so the two databases will be complementary.

What is the plan for incorporating the centres’ portfolios?
We are currently working with the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) to incorporate their catalogues as a pilot scheme. Once we get the go-ahead, this will be extended to the rest of the centres.

How is the information updated?
Each catalogue is maintained by the person in charge at each centre. We do this in the case of spin-offs and Gínjol projects, although the centres can update the data whenever they wish.

The portfolios of each individual centre will be maintained by their transfer units. Each file has its own person in charge, a sort of product manager. The final aim is to work together on organisation while distributing maintenance.

In the working group set up with the centres, we have jointly decided on the basic organisation of the information. We are now working on the categories and keyword ontology, which is an on-going project.

What can we expect?
We have implemented an idea that was activated a few years ago on paper but was difficult to maintain. This tool makes it easier. The idea is simple: a catalogue of CERCA Centre Technologies.

Access the Flintbox portal

Dr Marga Nadal, new director of the Girona Biomedical Research Institute

Dr Marga Nadal has been appointed by the Board of Trustees of the Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI) to the post of institution director. Dr Nadal, currently Director of Strategy at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), will replace Dr Jordi Barretina and will join the institute in March.

More information on this link.

Barcelona Centre for International Affairs and Parc Taulí, new CERCA centres

Today’s CERCA Board of Trustees agreed on incorporating the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (IBEI) and the Parc Taulí Research and Innovation Institute (I3PT) as CERCA centres.

The incorporation of these two centres comes after an intensive assessment process, which ended favourably.

Furthermore, at the end of December 2020, the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute was also incorporated as a CERCA centre, thus increasing the list of CERCA centres to 42 institutions.

Catalan universities and research centres consolidate the implementation of equality plans and action protocols on violence against women

New actions have been put in place to assess the impact of the pandemic and avoid bias in recruitment.

Figures continue to show that the presence of women is decreasing at the higher levels of the career ladder.

The Women and Science Committee’s manifesto calls for universities and research centres to be spaces free of violence against women.

Catalan universities and research centres are consolidating their implementation of gender equality plans and prevention, detection and action protocols to tackle gender-based violence. Coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, on Wednesday 25 November the Inter-University Council of Catalonia (CIC) and the CERCA Institute, through the CERCA system Women and Science Committee and Diversity Committee, released the map of gender equality in knowledge institutions in Catalonia.

In the case of the 12 Catalan universities, all have equality plans and action protocols that include the entire university community, also covering cases of LGBTphobia. All of them have specific units dedicated to promoting gender policies and the universities periodically renew their equality plans, in place since 2006, to adapt them to new realities.

Likewise, within the framework of the Women and Science Committee, the CIC has promoted several working groups to further progress in areas such as parity in collegiate bodies and coordination on gender violence, and to analyse new realities such as the impact of COVID-19 in the university and research community.

With regard to CERCA research centres, they all have HRS4R accreditation, which includes a gender plan that, in 92% of cases, is implemented by a unit specifically for promoting gender equality policies. Protocols are in place in 82% of the centres. The CERCA Institute promotes a number of different actions, such as the Equal Opportunities and Diversity Management Plan, which is made available to the centres to tailor it to the characteristics of each institution.

One notable recent action aims to prevent bias in the recruitment of research staff. A video produced in collaboration with the Women in Science Programme of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) explains to male and female teachers on assessment panels regarding the scientific data and theory that demonstrate bias in educational assessment. This often subconscious bias is particularly detrimental to women.

According to the latest data collected by the Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat) for 2018, 59.5% of personnel employed in R&D-related activity are men. The weight of the male presence increases by a further two 2 points with regard to researchers.

In the case of the CERCA system, the data show that the imbalance in scientific careers starts just after PhD level. While women represent 55% of staff in the centres at the pre-doctoral stage, the percentage drops to 27% among group leaders in later stages.

More data and the press release from the Secretariat for Universities and Research