Inauguration of the Project to Create the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence
‘This centre is a milestone for our scientific community, and I am personally proud of Latvian researchers who have demonstrated their scientific excellence and strong potential for cooperation on this scale,’ the President of Latvia, Egils Levits stated at the opening of the Baltic Biomaterials Centre of Excellence (BBCE).
The BBCE project was solemnly opened on 29 January at the Faculty of Materials Science and Applied Chemistry of Riga Technical University (RTU).
The President of Latvia pointed out that thanks to researchers’ efforts this project has brought 13m euros into the national economy and that this project is one of many to have been developed and promoted by the Government of Latvia and the European Union (EU).
For the next seven years the newly established centre will serve as a platform that will combine the expertise and infrastructure of internationally recognised teams from Latvia, Germany and Switzerland. The President continued by stating that this centre will be a platform of excellence for developing biomaterials necessary for bone regeneration as well as finding new creative applications in biomedicine. ‘Opening the excellence centre will have a positive impact on the growth potential and socio-economic outreach of Latvia. According to current plans and estimates, the total economic impact of the centre will be over 74m euros over the next 20-year period,’ the President said in the opening speech.
He wished all the specialists involved success in implementing this project. ‘I would like to specially thank Project Coordinator Dr Jānis Ločs. Jānis, this project would not have been possible without your passion, your determination and your dedication to science and excellence,’ stated Mr Levits.
The Rector of RTU, academician Leonīds Ribickis also highlighted the great work done by RTU scientists over the years to achieve excellence in the development of biomaterials, which has persuaded the EU to invest in the creation of the BBCE in Latvia. He recalls the great accomplishments of Professor Rūdolfs Cimdiņš and commends the achievements of Professor Līga Bērziņa-Cimdiņa and the team of scientists from RTU Rudolfs Cimdins Riga Biomaterials Innovation and Development Centre. The Rector also pointed out that the Latvian partners involved in the project are very strong, and attested that the best efforts will be made to make the BBCE project successful together with the international partners. Internationally recognised research institutions and industry representatives have joined up for this ambitious project on building scientific capacity – RTU, the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (LIOS), Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU), the RSU Institute of Stomatology, as well as the AO Research Institute Davos (Switzerland), and the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany). The EU funding programme Horizon 2020 has allocated 15m euros to implement the project, which was matched by the state, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and project partners to improve infrastructure.
The Latvian project partners have accumulated considerable competence in their fields: RTU has successfully researched the creation of biomaterials to replace damaged human tissues and organs for more than 20 years, long-term clinical trials have been carried out in close cooperation with hospitals, including the RSU Institute of Stomatology, and LIOS is well-known on a Baltic, European and global level for their development of new medicines. By combining competences it will be possible to ensure a full biomaterial development cycle from the idea-stage in the laboratory to clinical application.
The BBCE will strengthen the biomaterials industry in the region, allow scientists to research, develop and commercialise new biomaterials for bone healing, face, mouth and jaw surgery, orthopaedics and other areas. The project is aimed at acquiring new knowledge that will increase the efficiency and development of excellence in human resources, knowledge, research, technological development and infrastructure. Significant funds will be invested into training scientific and medical staff, in developing scientific expertise and in modernising research infrastructure. In the next few years, the BBCE headquarters will be established at the RTU Ķīpsala Campus based on the RTU Rudolfs Cimdins Riga Biomaterials Innovation and Development Centre. LIOS and RSU research infrastructure will also be expanded.
By increasing scientific excellence, it will be possible to provide more medical services of a better quality, raise funding for research from EU structural funds and other sources, and provide higher-level research services for medical device-, cosmetic-, pharmaceutical- and other industries. It is expected that by combining the forces of RTU, LIOS, RSU and the RSU Institute of Stomatology over the next few years, that a critical mass will be reached to develop the medical device industry. This will be done by promoting the entry of innovative products and services to the market, the growth of local businesses and the attraction of investment from foreign companies.