Interbio, driving innovation in Southern Europe
Twelve collaborative projects in innovation have been generated among several organizations of Bordeaux, Catalonia, Lisbon, Toulouse and Valencia. As an example, the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and the Lisbon Institute for Chemical and Biological Technology, have joined forces to develop nanotechnology tools to study single molecules.
Interbio is a cooperation project carried out by five European regions with ERDF funds from the European Commission under the Interreg program. Bordeaux (France), Catalonia (Spain), Lisbon (Portugal), Toulouse (France) and Valencia (Spain) are participating in the Sudoe area (South-West Europe) interregional program that aims to drive sustainable growth and development in the zone by boosting innovation projects. The Interbio project aims to:
- Promote transnational interdisciplinary research.
- Foster mutual use of technology resources.
- Drive public/private collaboration to promote transfer of research findings.
Biocat coordinates Catalan participation in the project, in collaboration with a scientific committee made up of representatives from the Barcelona Science Park, Autonomous University of Barcelona and UAB Research Park. The main driving force behind the project and the activities carried out under its framework has been Catalonia and Midi-Pyrénées (Toulouse), two regions that have been collaborating for some time to drive competitiveness in the Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion —through the Southern Europe Biocluster (BSE). The work carried out previously by members from these two areas has been a benchmark and a guarantee for their proposal to participate in the Interbio project and for including other members in the network with a view to exchange and collaboration.
The Interbio project, approved and initiated in 2009, has led to many positive synergies for the scientific community as a whole and has become a solid tool for exchange and a meeting place for these five European territories. Over the past year and a half, a participative dynamic has been established allowing for fruitful networking, which has led to collaboration projects, training seminars, a quarterly journal and website, and interregional socialization events for researchers and businesspeople from the sector.
“As time goes on, coordination is improving among the members of the project,” explains Nerea Alonso, Projects Director of the Biocat Department of Innovation, “with more fluid communication and a growing sense of belonging and cooperation in the network.” Participants include cluster promotion organizations, territorial development bodies, research institutes and universities, which share coordination tasks for the various work packages that make up the project, from network positioning, interdisciplinary research and platform mapping, to promoting technology transfer in the industry and communicating the network’s achievements and highlights to the scientific community.
The coordinated action of the network members leads to scientific and partnering activities, courses, symposia, etc. The agenda began in 2009 with the first scientific event under the Interbio brand, a meeting on nanotechnology in Bordeaux. In 2010, collaboration allowed the group to provide fifty mobility grants, start up the platform-mapping project and organize a variety of noteworthy events:
NOTEWORTHY NETWORK ACTIVITIES
• Forging Partnerships (Valencia): eleven researchers from the BioRegion of Catalonia attended the workshop entitled Chemical design and drug discovery and Regenerative medicine and stem cells.
One of the activities in which the Interbio community participated in 2010, the 2nd Biotechnology and Healthcare Euroregional Meetings (organized by the neighboring BSE network), was a key moment for reinforcing innovation links with these territories, thanks to the partnering component of the event. As a result, the Interbio website shows up to 12 projects offered by members. A good example of this is the joint proposal of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the Lisbon Institute for Chemical and Biological Technology, which have joined forces to develop nanotechnology tools to study unique molecules, thus advancing knowledge on the key interactions among molecules created in biological processes.
Some 15 activities (workshops, meetings, courses and symposia) make up the agenda that Interbio has carried out between November 2009 and May 2011. One of the other projects is the network for mapping and sharing technology platforms. The idea is to identify the platforms and technology available in each member territory, and put them to work as a network, with a scientific committee to study their needs, structure collaborations and exchange, and draft specifications for joint organization. Biocat is extending and intensifying this mapping process in Catalonia with the aim of making research and exchange among users of these platforms more fruitful.
The project will continue through June 2012, with more activities, increased mapping of the platforms, and the promotion of collaborative research and transfer to industry. Noteworthy activities include:
Third Summer School on Medicines (SSM3)
First Interbio Week
In September, the Summer School on Structural Biology will be held in Lisbon and in November, the second Interbio Research to Business meeting in Valencia, with participation from nearly 20 organizations, including companies, researchers, technology transfer offices and technology platforms. In 2011, Biocat is offering 50 mobility grants to incentivize participation in these events.
The results of this experience have been so positive that the European Commission could decide to continue this collaboration framework, in line with the concepts of territorial cooperation Europe is committed to in order to promote innovation in the immediate future.