Dr Begoña Benito, new director of the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute

Benito, a cardiologist specialising in hereditary disorders that cause arrhythmias and sudden death, will head the VHIR after having worked in healthcare, research and teaching at the Vall d’Hebron Campus.

Dr Begoña Benito Villabriga is to take over the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) after combining work in healthcare, research and teaching at the Vall d’Hebron Campus in recent years. She holds an undergraduate and doctoral degree in Medicine from the University of Barcelona, specialising in Cardiology at Hospital Clínic in Barcelona.

In her statement, Dr Begoña Benito said, “It is a true privilege for me to have this opportunity to direct the research centre of a referral hospital such as the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital. Thanks to the work of all the professionals and managers who have preceded me, VHIR is ideally positioned to successfully face the coming years, which will see the commissioning of the new building to help meet many of the current and future challenges in biomedical research.”

During her career she has focused on the field of arrhythmias, taking a special clinical and scientific interest in the study of hereditary disorders causing arrhythmias and sudden death. To complement her knowledge in this field, she has trained in basic and experimental research and in clinical and interventional management of arrhythmias at a number of leading centres, including the Montreal Heart Institute in Canada and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard University in Boston.

Prof. Eugenio Coccia, new director of the Institute for High Energy Physics

The Governing Board of the Institute for High Energy Physics (IFAE) has appointed Prof. Eugenio Coccia as the new director, with effect from 15 November 2022.

Dr Coccia is an experimental physicist specialising in astroparticle physics. His research has focused on the study and detection of gravitational waves and on the development of very low temperature technologies for fundamental physics experiments.

A suma cum laude graduate in Physics from the University of Rome (1980), in Edoardo Amaldi’s group, he was a post-doctoral researcher and later a fellow at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN, 1981-1985). He was also a researcher (1985-1987) and professor of Physics (1988-2016) at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, alternating several periods of research activity at CERN, the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory in Leiden and the National Nuclear Physics Institute (INFN) Laboratory in Frascati.

He was director of the INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory (2003-2009) and founding director of the Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI) School of Advanced Studies, where he has been director until now. He is an honorary member of the Academia Europaea and a fellow of the European Physical Society.

Eugenio Coccia will be the fourth director of the IFAE, succeeding the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) research professor Ramon Miquel, director since 2015 who will remain at the IFAE as principal investigator in the observational cosmology research group. The previous directors of the centre were Matteo Cavalli-Sforza (2008-2014) and Enrique Fernández, its founder and first director (1991-2008).

The appointment of the new director is the result of an international selection process coordinated by the CERCA Institute and involving the IFAE External Scientific Advisory Board.

Gemma Domènech i Casadevall, new director of the Catalan Institute for Cultural Heritage Research

She will succeed Joaquim Nadal, who will remain as a seconded researcher.

The Board of Trustees of the Catalan Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (ICRPC) has appointed Gemma Domènech i Casadevall as the new director of the centre, at a meeting held on Tuesday 27 September in which representatives of the Generalitat de Catalunya Ministry of Research and Universities and Ministry of Culture and the University of Girona (UdG) took part as Institute trustees. Domènech, a researcher at the ICRPC since 2009, holds a PhD in Art History, teaches Museology and Heritage at the UdG, and has written over a hundred publications specialising in the uses of heritage and memory. Between 2019 and 2021 she was the Generalitat de Catalunya Director General for Democratic Memory.

The appointment follows an international selection process coordinated by the CERCA Institute, with the participation of the ICRPC’s External Scientific Advisory Board. Gemma Domènech will be the third director of the centre, succeeding Dr Joaquim Nadal i Farreras, who has completed his term of office and will stay on as a researcher attached to the ICRPC, and Dr Gabriel Alcalde, the founding director.

Dr Gemma Domènech

The ICRPC, created in 2006 by the Generalitat de Catalunya and the University of Girona, is part of the CERCA Institute and promotes and implements basic research, transfer, training and socialisation of knowledge, to provide society with the elements of analysis of its heritage and its current and future social relations. Domènech will be one of the four women directors at the 41 CERCA research centres in Catalonia.

 The ICRPC would like to thank Dr Joaquim Nadal for the great work he has done in his eight years leading the centre.

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

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

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