FunGlass evaluates its first year of activity

The FunGlass project was launched 12 months ago

Researchers of the Alexander Dubcek University of Trencin research centre of excellence are working closely with leading European institutions in the field of glass science and technologies on the FunGlass project.

Twelve months ago the launch of the FunGlass project, the largest Slovak scientific-academic research project funded by the European Horizon 2020 Framework Program took place. The project is unique in the sense that it does not focus on solving a specific scientific task but its goal is a complex organizational transformation of an existing workplace into a research institute that within the European Union context meets criteria of an excellent research centre in the field of glass science and technologies.
This ambitious project is being realized by researchers of the Alexander Dubcek University of Trencin in close cooperation with consortium members of the project, namely leading European institutions in the field of glass science and technologies, such as German partners Friedrich – Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg and Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Spain and Università degli Studi di Padova in Italy. The first year of the project can be characterized by building the foundation for further activities of the Centre. The Centre substantially expanded its personnel capacities and established new organizational structures within Alexander Dubcek University of Trencin.
The unique management structure of the FunGlass Centre deserves special attention within the Slovak environment. The highest governing body includes all project partners’ representatives, which guarantees direct participation of top European scientists in defining the strategy and directing the Centre activities. Achievement of such autonomy was reached mainly thanks to support and direct engagement of both the rector Jozef Habánik and the Academic Senate of the university.
Another critical and important point for its future is the fact that the Centre was able to attract personalities who are well recognized in the field of glass and ceramics research. They come from major academic institutions from all over the world (China, Brazil, US, Turkey); well established companies in the Slovak Republic (RONA, Vetropack Nemsová, Johns Manville Slovakia, AGC Trencin); and from within the European glass industry (Corning, Glass Service, Stevanato Group, Colorobbia Italia). They all accepted memberships in the Centre Advisory Bodies. As the Director of the Centre and the FunGlass Coordinator Dusan Galusek says, these all are prerequisites for opportunities leading to further successful development, however, at the same time they present a great amount of commitment and responsibility.
During its first year of existence, the Centre employed 39 employees at six research departments (Department of Biomaterials, Coating Technologies, Functional Glass, Glass Processing and Central Laboratories, as well as Vitrum Laugaricio – Joint Glass Centre). Newly created research positions, including positions of heads of departments, were staffed on the base of international hiring tenders. Successful and employed researchers included not only candidates from Slovakia but also those from Belgium, India, Iran, Spain, Egypt and China. As far as the accredited doctoral program in Inorganic technologies and non-metallic materials is considered, nowadays it is attended by 10 students from Slovakia and abroad.
The significant part of the EU financial support in total amount of EUR 15 million is intended for further training and support of professional growth of researchers and doctoral students. At the moment, two researchers are already undergoing research and training internships at international partner institutions and another ten are ready to leave for their one-year stays in the near future. Both scientists and students have access to tailor-made educational and training plans aimed to gain experience and ‘research’ know-how within the foreign scientific environment and their application upon return to the home Centre.
2018 is no less demanding for the Centre, and the goals ahead represent  preconditions for its further growth and creation of the position of an internationally recognized research centre on a European scale. One of the factors that will fundamentally influence the expansion of the Centre is the obligatory co-financing of the FunGlass project by EUR 10 million provided through Operational Program Research and Innovation by Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic. National co-financing is a necessary prerequisite for further financial support of the FunGlass project from the European Union in the future. The funds that the Centre is expecting to receive this year will focus primarily on material support, renewal and expansion of research facilities, and the expansion of existing high-end experimental infrastructure by other unique equipment.
The results of the project and intentions of the FunGlass Centre for the upcoming period were topics of the meeting of the Scientific Board of the Centre for Functional and Surface Functionalized Glass held at the Alexander Dubcek University of Trencin 7-8 March 2018.