Summary: Preparation, aim, objectives

The NANOPHEN project implemented by Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (IPC-BAS) was advanced in response to a specific FP6 call: "Promotion of co-operation with Associated Candidate Countries: Reinforcement of the Associated Candidate Countries' Research Capacities" (FP6-2004-ACC-SSA-2) targeted especially at Rumania, Bulgaria and Turkey. The call was related to the EU program of "Integrating and Strengthening the European Research Area". The aim was to identify poles of scientific excellence in these countries, whose research activity is related to one of the basic priorities of FP6. The basic characteristics of these poles had to be (i) respectable history of scientific achievements; (ii) present state-of-the-art related to high level of research activities and availability of excellent researchers. The basic idea was that the presence of these features guarantees the most efficient stabilization of such institutions and the European support will guarantee an immense impulse to their progressive development in the next 5 - 10 years ensuring the effective integration in structure of the European Research Area.

The analysis of the state-of the-art of Institute of Physical Chemistry by the moment of the project preparation has shown the following:
- IPC-BAS has very good achievements in the field of nanosciences, nanotechnologies and new materials and processes (NMP), and in particular in the trends of: (i) nucleation and growth of crystalline and amorphous materials; (ii) interfacial phenomena in colloidal systems; (iii) knowledge-based multifunctional nanomaterials with direct industrial application;
- IPC-BAS has unique and original experimental instrumentation (for the investigation of surface forces at liquid interfaces, for the studying the initial stages of electrocrystallisation and crystallisation of proteins, etc.)
- IPC-BAS has a group of eminent senior research scientists.

Three major problems have been identified:
- a constant lack of adequate funding of research activities;
- although IPC-BAS has had diverse scientific instrumentation, most of the setups had not been renovated in the past 18-20 years and have been morally and physically outdated;
- a strong tendency of "brain-drain" and age-misbalance has persistently developed, exhausting the human potential of the Institute.
Therefore, the basic aim of the project was to target these major issues.
Starting off this state-of-the-art, the strategic objective of the project NANOPHEN was to improve and reinforce the research capacity of the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in the field of nanoscale phenomena in bulk and surface phases so as to foster the impact of nanotechnologies on the national scientific and economic development.

The project aimed at:
-enhanced collaboration with similar MS institutions and formation of stable networks
-improving the participation in ERA and particularly in FPs initiatives
-formation of a critical mass of highly qualified young researchers with multidisciplinary scientific skills
-improving the technical level of key scientific equipment in IPC-BAS and thus enlarging the scope and efficiency of experimental techniques, which are widely used incl. for collaborative research with MS partner laboratories

The objectives were achieved by:
-enhanced exchange of scientists and expertise through research visits at leading European institutions in the field and invitation of European expert scientists;
-organisation of international scientific events: three International Workshops, two International Experts Meetings and one International Conference;
-creating new job opportunities and better working conditions
-intensive practical training for young researchers based on the organization and implementation of a unique Pilot Program for coupled multidisciplinary training and fundamental knowledge on nanoscale phenomena;
-upgrade of key scientific equipment in IPC-BAS

The support actions implemented within NANOPHEN resulted in:
-increasing the quality and scope of IPC-BAS research activities in the field of NMP
-adding new value to the national scientific potential in the thematic priority of the NANOPHEN project
-opposing the negative trend of age-misbalance in science and "brain-drain" of Bulgarian young researchers and increase of their competence
-elaborating a new concept for coupling multidisciplinary practical training and fundamental knowledge in the field of nanoscale phenomena and structures
-increased visibility of IPC-BAS scientific activities at the European level, intensified networking and increased participation in the national and European competitive funding programs.

The basic result of the implemented actions is that Institute of Physical Chemistry at Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has moved significantly to the point of conversion into a high-level European research and advanced-training Center in the field of Nanoscience and Nanostructured Materials.