16.02.2023 - Photonics & Smart materials

Scientists combine forces to innovate in photonics, smart materials and robotics

Latvian research institutes and universities are building a co-creation research ecosystem to commercialise scientific results in photonics, smart materials, microfluidics, robotics, IoT, and related technologies, thereby strengthening innovation and manufacturing capacity for high value-added products.

The “Ecosystem of Smart Materials, Photonics, Technologies, and Engineering” project brings together the Institute of Solid State Physics (ISSP) of the University of Latvia, Riga Technical University (RTU), University of Latvia, Institute of Electronics and Computer Science, Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry, and Rēzekne Academy of Technologies. Using the partners’ competences and scientific contributions, the cluster will implement interdisciplinary research that could become the basis for the development of internationally competitive technologies, products, and services, as well as new economic sectors in Latvia.

Forging close cooperation

“The future belongs to interdisciplinary research and innovation, where physics, biology, medicine, electronics, and information technology meet. I expect that together we will achieve remarkable results and this initiative will continue,” says ISSP director Andris Anspoks.

ISSP, as the leader of the project, sees it as the beginning of a systematic path towards both innovation development and an opportunity for close cooperation between Latvian science institutes and universities. ISSP has established a Nanotechnology Centre with advanced research equipment, which provides new opportunities and directions. Anspoks believes that other institutes and universities should increasingly use it, too. “Together we can do much more, each partner needs to strengthen its unique specialisation and strengths. That’s why we are bringing together ideas that one single organisation cannot bring to life and depend on cooperation,” he says.

Developing commercialisable materials

RTU is involved in several project activities, such as the development of new organs-on-a-chip, a water quality system with sensors, and the validation of new biomaterials and materials that reduce carbon emissions.

“The project is an excellent opportunity to jointly develop practical projects based on the work of Latvian scientists in cooperation with leading Latvian universities and research institutes. As a result, we will obtain practical and applied prototypes and technologies that can be developed by our companies,” said Tālis Juhna, vice-rector for research at RTU.

The partners plan to develop fibre-based technologies for a wide range of applications in pollution, disease, and structural stability monitoring, while combining competences in physics, microtechnology, biology, and medicine, they will develop organ model technologies for testing drug substances. They will also develop commercialisable materials to reduce humanity’s impact on the environment by developing solutions for biopolymers, cryogenic materials, asphalt, hydrogen production, and CO2 recycling, as well as for converting body movement and heat into electricity. In robotics, we plan to develop innovations for industrial solutions and improve the efficiency and security of the Internet of Things.

Latvia in a position to meet the world’s challenges

The project is implemented under the national research programme “Innovation Fund: Sectoral Research Programme” established by the Ministry of Economics. Its aim is to promote scientific research, cooperation between scientific institutes, universities, and industry, to facilitate and support technology transfer, development of innovative and commercialised products and technologies in line with industry needs.

“I am very pleased to see the emergence of an ecosystem of co-creation among the most outstanding research organisations in Latvia. Our researchers’ knowledge and discoveries will be the basis for the development of commercialisable and globally sought-after technologies in photonics, smart materials, microfluidics, robotics, and energy. I am proud that the Innovation Fund, an innovation development programme launched by the Ministry of Economics, provides an opportunity for this to happen. At the moment, all the technologies planned in the project are very promising, but I am looking forward to seeing the results, the model of several organs-on-a-chip (liver, kidney, pancreas), which would be a world first and is very, very welcome in the pharmaceutical industry, so that new drugs can be tested more effectively. I believe that Latvia has the potential to meet the challenges of the world,” said Ilze Indriksone, Minister of Economics.

The “Ecosystem of Smart Materials, Photonics, Technologies, and Engineering” project will run until the end of 2024.

Source: Press release (labsoflatvia.com). Photo: Shutterstock.

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