UP will receive 27.5 million euro for research into biotechnology and nanotechnology

Both science centres in the Holice complex were successful in the “Excellence in Research” call. Photo: Faculty of Science archives
friday 1. december 2017, 7:59 – Text: Martina Šaradínová

Palacký University will receive approximately €27.5 million over the next five years from the Operational Programme “Science, Research and Education”. In the major grant competition “Excellence in Research”, UP has confirmed its prominent position in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology, with two of its representatives – the Centre of the Haná Region for Biotechnology and Agricultural Research (CRH) and the Regional Centre of Advanced Technology and Materials (RCPTM) – placing in the 15 best projects by Czech scientific workplaces.

The money will allow both workplaces to carry out cutting-edge research, make themselves more visible globally, make new contacts, and acquire additional important experts and equipment. “Success in the first round of the programme is wonderful news for the university, proving its scientific excellence in Czechia. For the Olomouc Region, this means that our outstanding research infrastructure will continue to attract motivated young scientists into the future. Such an influx of young people is of fundamental importance for development in the region,” said Rector Jaroslav Miller.

Plants for sustainable global development

The Haná Region Centre, which brings together scientific teams from the Faculty of Science and the Olomouc workplaces of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Crop Research Institute, reckons that the project entitled “Plants as a Means of Sustainable Global Development” will have expenses totalling nearly €14.2 million. The scientists here want to arrive at new knowledge and techniques which will allow them to breed economically significant crops with higher yields and greater resistance to adverse climatic conditions, especially drought.

“The goal of the project is to gain knowledge about growth and yield regulators, formation of characteristics, and stress adaptation of plants – which are the main food source for humanity. We are able to verify the results of laboratory research in the areas of genetics, molecular biology and biochemistry fairly quickly in grow rooms, greenhouses and finally even in the field," said CRH Director and Dean of the Faculty of Science, Ivo Frébort.

The project will bring new instrumentation, including the newest generation of DNA sequencers, a fluorescent microscope with super high resolution for studying plant cell nuclei, and a drone helicopter with a scanner which can evaluate the speed and extent of biomass growth in field conditions. It will also strengthen ties to partners in top scientific centres in Great Britain, Sweden, Spain, France, the USA, and Saudi Arabia.

Nanotechnology for the Future

The RCPTM project entitled “Nanotechnology for the Future” is counting on the development of nanotechnology with major societal impact in the areas of improving the quality of the environment, human health and renewable energy sources. Scientists will also look into the development of new super-functional materials with unique magnetic, optic, and catalytic properties, and the use of nanomaterials for water treatment, environmental protection, production and storage of hydrogen power, and in biomedicine.

“Success in this call for grants confirms the position of RCPTM as one of the leading European institutes carrying out nanomaterials research, with expected intense participation in European projects. At the same time, the project improves our position in already existing large scientific collaborations, for example in the CERN European particle physics laboratory and the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. The research programmes will be carried out not only by Czech scientists, but also those from the USA, Hong Kong, and Italy. In addition, the project foresees the involvement of 12 new top scientists, mostly from abroad,” revealed the RCPTM director, Radek Zbořil.

Project costs are estimated at €13.2 million. Purchasing of unique technology – such as a high resolution scanning electron microscope with a focussed ion beam, making possible detailed study of the internal structure of materials – will make up an important budget item. “RCPTM, which for example already has at its disposition the most powerful transmission electron microscope in the country, can become a leading European microscopy centre,” added Zbořil.

Two projects at one faculty

Both scientific centres work together and are closely linked to the Faculty of Science. “I’m very happy that our faculty will host two supported projects from this call. I consider it an extraordinary result. New directions in research and methodological approaches will also benefit further development of our contemporary fields of study for students,” said Frébort.

One hundred and thirty Czech research teams competed in the “Excellence in Research” call for €235 million. The top 15 projects in the first round will divide over €200 million. In the list , which was published by the Czech Ministry of Education, other bodies which received two projects were Charles University and Czech Technical University in Prague, and institutes at the Czech Academy of Sciences. Realisation of the projects will start next spring and will continue until the end of October 2022. The selection commission will also assess the remaining applications which were not included in the first part of the list. They include two other projects by Palacký University.