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ICMAB researchers granted with 6 Proof-of-Concept projects in the last AEI call

The selected projects will receive more than 670.000 € all together to develop proof of concept’ for different technologies.

01 December 2021
One of the laboratories at ICMAB.
One of the laboratories at ICMAB.

The Proof-of-Concept R&D Projects are granted by the Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) to promote and accelerate the technology transference of knowledge and scientific results in order to provide added value to projects that have received their previous funding.

ICMAB has received funding for 6 different projects, out of the 7 that were presented (86 % success rate). That situates ICMAB in a remarkable position, as the average success rate of this call was of 37 %, and boosts the ICMAB technology transfer to another level. Moreover, These are the awarded projects:

Advanced fabrication of hybrid supercapacitors (AFHYS)

Ángel Pérez and Eniko Gyorgy - 92.000 €

Valorisation and transfer of the technology methods related to the fabrication of hybrid superconductors by means of CVD and laser processing techniques.

The AFHYS project adds value to the results of the previous RETOS 2017-2020 project, "Advanced manufacturing of nanocarbon-based hybrid electrodes for applications in supercapacitors", in which two innovative techniques were developed in order to improve the manufacture of hybrid electrodes formed by vertical graphene nanowalls coated with pseudoactive nanostructures through techniques based on plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition and laser processing.

This research is of interest to companies devoted to the fabrication of electronic devices and industrial power, since it offers a potential profitable and scalable technique for the manofacturation of high performance supercapacitors. Once the technology is further developed, it could open interesting opportunities for companies related to electric grid management and electric transportation. The technical development within this project will advance its technological maturity from TRL 3 to TRL 5/6.

A big focus of this project falls on the training of the members of the two groups that are working on it, experts in the growth of nanocarbon electrodes using plasma techniques (ENPHOCAMAT-UB) and laser processing (LPR-ICMAB).

According to IP Ángel Perez, from the Laser Processing Group: “the training of the researchers in industrial standard methods, technology transfer and business allows them to consider "real world / economic" variables in their research activity, moving it closer to the companies' interests. On the other hand, the elaboration of a development / business model as well as technology transfer activities, to be carried out in the frame of this project, will also help to put in contact the ICMAB researchers and industrial stakeholders for further collaboration.

Plasmonic supercrystals for enhanced optical spectroscopies (SCOPE)

Agustín Mihi - 115.000 €

Explore the marketable properties of novel SERS-CD substrates based on plasmonic supercrystals.

In most cases, complex plasmonic nanostructures exhibiting chiral response and intense near fields are fabricated using electron beam lithography limiting the active areas, or involve processes and materials not compatible with wafer-based technologies, which complicates the transition of this technology to the market.

The SCOPE project aims to exploit the near fields found in plasmonics supercrystals to produce Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) substrates that can be also used to enhance circular dichroism (CD), a phenomenon that produces preferential absorption of left- or right- handed circularly polarized light through the electronic transitions in chiral biomolecules. This proof of concept will continue their previous research in which a template induced self-assembly of gold colloids under a pre-patterned elastomeric molds into 2D lattices was demonstrated.

The intense near fields responsible for the SERS sensing in these supercrystal structures can also produce a boost in the molecular chirality signal, providing easy detection of chiral molecules using portable spectrometers. These substrates will facilitate the periodic recognition of enantiomers by optical means. "The SCOPE project aims to show the commercial feasibility of this innovation, advance its Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from 2/3 to 5 and build a convincing business case that will generate interest from the industry" says IP Agustín Mihi, from the NANOPTO Group. 

New nanoparticles for image guided surgery in ovarian cancer (NANOIMOC)

Nora Ventosa and Jaume Veciana, in collaboration with Sergio Martínez Román and Margarita Romeo Marin and their teams at the Hospital Universitari Germans Trias i Pujol, and Olga María Conde Portilla, from the Universidad de Cantabria. - 149.000 €

Exploit new fluorescent nanoparticles of clinical interest to address the medical need related to guided-surgery of ovarian cancer.

Fluorescence-based image-guided surgery (IGS) has shown great potential to enhance the precision of tumor tissue removal intraoperatively, which is nowadays the most relevant factor for disease prognosis in various cancers, and in ovarian cancer in particular. Despite its potential, the massive adoption of fluorescence-based image-guided surgery into the clinical standard of care still faces several challenges, including a high probability of tumor-positive surgical margins (PSM) due in part to the lack of available photoestable and bright fluorescent probes that allow the identification of even micrometric regions of tumor tissue with high sensitivity and selectivity.

The NANOIMOC aims to face this unmet clinical need exploiting new fluorescent nanoparticles developed under the project MAT2016-80826-R (MOTHER). These nanoparticles emit at Near Infrared Regions (650-900nm), and are interesting for IGS due to its deeper tissue penetration. As contrast agents, these nanoparticles show an improved brightness and stability in body fluids and increased selectivity, and have surface functionalization capabilities.

"To demonstrate the feasibility in the clinical context, we will perform usability tests together with surgeons of the Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol (Badalona, Barcelona), to evaluate the precision of tumour margin detection, in particular for ovarian cancer, with the new fluorescent nanoparticles under operation room conditions. This collaboration can bring these probes to a TRL4 from the current position at TRL2" explains IP Nora Ventosa, from the Nanomol-Bio Group. 

A compact/portable, cost-effective, and versatile equipment to characterize the thermal properties of materials (COVEQ)

Sebastián Reparaz, Mariano Campoy-Quiles, and Riccardo Rurarli - 103.000 €

Demonstration of a fully automated, compact, and cost-effective setup which can be operated with no previous knowledge on thermal transport.

After building a laboratory scale set up that provides unique capabilities to address thermal transport, the COVEQ project aims to push this technology from its current position in TRL3-4 to a TRL6-7, through the demonstration of a fully automated, compact, cost effective set up that can be operated with no previous knowledge on thermal transportation. It should also be able to address thermal anisotropy with high resolution and precision in a contactless fashion, overcoming the limitations of current commercial setups.

"The final result of this project is an automated demonstrator that overcomes the limitations imposed by the presence of the metallic transducer to accurately obtain the thermal conductivity, as well as avoiding time consuming and expensive sample processing stages related to the transducer deposition" explains IP Sebastián Reparaz, from the NANOPTO Group. 

This demonstrator will be less than a third of the price of current commercial solutions, and the exploitation of these results, through Intellectual Property protection and direct contact with potential end users, would be the basis for the creation of a spin-off dedicated to the development of advanced and innovative solutions for thermal transport analysis. 

Valorization of animal fat waste through sustainable photoredox catalysis (FATPORCA)

Rosario Núñez, Francesc Teixidor and Clara Viñas, in collaboration with M. Isabel Romero from the Universitat de Girona (UdG) - 109.000 €

Eliminate an environmental problem, through the recovery and valorization of animal fat waste from the meat industry.

The objective of the FATPORCA project is to add value to some of the byproducts of the meat industry using environmentally friendly methodologies in order to offset the climatological consequences of the treatment of enormous amounts of fat waste. To achieves this, the project focuses on the oxidation of fat acids via photoredox catalysis using metallacarboranes as catalysts in water.

In this way, lower molecular weight chemicals can be obtained to create building blocks from which products of industrial interest can be derived. For this purpose, the aim is to develop a new working methodology with regard to photooxidation reactions using metallacarboranes as photoredox catalyts, which will mean an important innovation in the treatment of animal fats because these will be converted into value-added products, such as diols, epoxides, among others which are precursors to produce lubricants, polymers, etc.

This technology can be of interest to any industry that produces animal fat as waste, but it can also be applied to vegetable oil recycling, and to low value vegetable oil to produce chemicals of high added value.

This project demonstrates that it is possible to promote basic research to higher TRLs with time. This occurs when a research group masters a subject and carves out a niche market to position for a more focused business" says IP Rosario Nuñez, from the Inorganic Materials & Catalysis (LMI) Group.

To do so, the process have to be carried out on a large scale. This project aims to develop a scalable small plant that can treat 500 gr of pork fat or oil. The results of this pilot plan will be communicated to the OTRI for a market analysis and to start establishing contacts with interested companies and institutions.

Low-cost and rapid point-of-care bio-sensor for diagnosis (CARESS)

Marta Mas-Torrent - 109.000 €

Detection of hepatitis B antibodies in saliva.

CARESS builds upon a previous project which demonstrated the appealing properties electrolyte-gated organic field-effect transistors (EGOFETs) offer in the field of Point-of-Care diagnosis. Such diagnostics are generally faster, cheaper, and more efficient, but there are many limitations that hinder their use and production. OFETs provide many useful characteristics, like large area processing at low cost, with modest energy consumption and on flexible substrates, and EGOFETs in particular are useful for sensing needs due to the fact that these devices can operate in water, so they can be directly adapted for the development of biochemical sensors.

However, despite their high potential as sensing platforms in the field of diagnosis and healthcare, some unsolved problems are actually hindering their technological transfer mainly related to their electrical stability, which makes them poorly reliable, and the fact that current devices are not fabricated with techniques compatible with up-scaling.

The aim of CARESS is the development of more advanced POC tests based on EGOFETs fabricated employing low-cost techniques compatible with high throughput processes. Since the read-out is an electrical signal, the response will be very fast and easy to read and integrate. Additionally, a portable device will be fabricated embedded in a compact chip and with an appropriate electronic layout to maximize sensitivity. This type of “lab-on-a-chip” assays are highly appealing in POC diagnosis since they need low sample volumes and they are simple and cheap, easily enabling any test to move to a POC format.

The opening of these proof-of-concept projects gives the researchers the possibility to progress towards the development of real products, which, at the same time, forces them to make an effort to better understand the market needs" says IP Marta Mas-Torrent, from the e-MolMat Group. As part of the project, researchers will be studying the best intellectual property rights (IPR) strategy and performing market analysis to identify the most appropriate market niches, financial needs and stakeholders.

Logos for the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Financiado por la Unión Europea, Plan de Recuperación, Transformación y Resiliencia, Agencia Estatal de Investigación,

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