Project PFE-550 UBB – STAR-UBB Academic Research Network of Excellence – STAR-UBB-N

Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca implements the project STAR-UBB – STAR-UBB-N ACADEMIC RESEARCH NETWORK OF EXCELLENCE, ID PFE-550, contract no. 21PFE/30.12. 2021, funded by the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization following the competition published in 2021, for Institutional Development Projects – Projects to Fund Excellence in RDI (PFE-RDI), under Subprogramme 1.2 – Institutional Performance / Programme 1 – Development of the National Research and Development System / National Plan for Research, Development and Innovation 2015-2020 (PNCDI III) (https://www.research.gov.ro/ro/articol/5356/de-tipul-proiecte-de-dezvoltare-institu-ionala-proiecte-de-finan-are-a-excelen-ei-in-cdi-pfe-cdi-pentru-subprogramul-1-2-performan-a-institu-ionala-din-cadrul-pncdi-iii).

Time frame: January 2022 – June 2024 (30 months)

Total project funding amount: 6,834,000.00 lei

Main objective of the project: creation of a STAR-UBB Academic Research Network of Excellence (STAR-UBB-N) – comprising six Academic Science Centres (centres coordinating and linking the RDI activities in faculty RDI laboratories/units, anchored in the UBB strategic infrastructure), under the coordination of the STAR-UBB Institute (STAR-UBB). The academic science centres put forward in the project are: 1. Virtual Labs Centre affiliated to the Academic School of Natural and Life Sciences; 2. Virtual & Practical Engineering Centre affiliated to the Academic School of Engineering and Technology; 3. eHealth/tHealth Centre affiliated to the Academic School of Health; 4. Big Data & Machine Learning Centre affiliated to the Academic School of Social Sciences; 5. Digital Arts & Humanities Centre affiliated to the Academic School of Humanities and Arts; 6. Ethics & Sacred Music Centre affiliated to the Academic School of Theology.
The themes of the centres were specifically selected to reflect: (1) European priorities; (2) multi/inter/transdisciplinary approaches; (3) 21st century professional and scientific human resource development requirements; (4) strategic competitive strengths/advantages of UBB. The project thus aims to reinforce and coordinate the UBB multi-level interlinked strategic academic/scientific infrastructure, the UBB Academic Schools and the STAR-UBB Institute. The STAR-UBB-N academic research network of excellence will benefit from spaces dedicated to scientific research activities carried out by students, teachers and researchers, as well as to organising events (workshops, conferences, inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation actions) in the CREIC building, 4th floor.
The area of the project, according to the UBB specificity of inter, multi and transdisciplinarity, is that of new and emerging technologies. The specific technologies promoted by this project fall under the umbrella of what UBB defines as InfoBioNano4Health – thus with a major digitalisation component, complex interdisciplinary data processing (data science), both focusing on their relevance to the well-being of the public and cross-disciplinarity.

Specific objectives:  

O.1. Consolidating the STAR-UBB Institute academically and administratively, as the primary vector defined in 2016, for the specific activities of an advanced and world-class research and education university, primarily including research of excellence, whilst considering the coordinates of national higher education development policies.
O.2. Establishing an Academic and Scientific Development Centre dedicated to each of the six Academic Schools, in order to foster multi/inter/transdisciplinary developments in the UBB academic culture, with a positive impact on the UBB RDI activities, academic competitiveness, as well as on the model of successful UBB graduates. The Centres (listed in the main objective of the project) will be incorporated and coordinated through STAR-UBB in order to promote STEM+ approaches in the UBB culture, with a positive impact on RDI activities, on UBB academic competitiveness, as well as on the model of successful UBB graduates. These Centres will thus have the potential to innovatively address complex problems across the fundamental fields of each Academic School, by involving teachers, researchers and students in multi/inter/transdisciplinary scientific activities in the core area represented by the Centre;
O.3. Reinforcement and multi-level and networked coordination of the strategic academic/scientific infrastructure of UBB, the UBB Academic Schools and STAR-UBB by developing academic/professional/scientific units/laboratories in line with the specialised academic subject areas of the faculties, often organised by subjects, but which have a marked multi/inter/transdisciplinary potential and which do not yet possess a suitably advanced and high-performance infrastructure commensurate with what UBB expects and/or is aiming for in order to be competitive;
O.4. Providing expenses for development, supplies and/or upkeep/maintenance of institutionally accredited RDI units where the rUBB strategic infrastructure (http://starubb.institute.ubbcluj.ro/infrastructura-strategica-de-cercetare-a-ubb-platforma-rubb/) is distributed, in order to enhance their ability to develop new and emerging technologies along the lines of the InfoBioNano4Health paradigm.
O.5. Supporting human resources through Internal and External Fellowships as well as academic mobility through STAR-UBB competitions.

Expected Impact/Outcomes/Indicators 

On a primary level, the project aims to reinforce and develop the RDI units/laboratories which are organised on a subject-specific basis but which have a strong multi/inter/transdisciplinary potential and do not yet have a sufficiently advanced and efficient infrastructure to be competitive.
On a secondary level, each of the six Academic Centres of the UBB Schools of Science will integrate into a network the RDI units of the strategic infrastructure of the faculties, in a multi/inter/transdisciplinary approach.
On a third level, STAR-UBB will network these Centres of the Academic Schools using the STEAM system. Bi-directional two-way interactions will run between levels (Institute-Centre-RDI Unit) and between units at each level (between Centres; between RDI units). The topics of the six academic and scientific development centres will be innovative, reflecting national and European priorities, with an emphasis on collaboration across fields and the integration of students from all academic levels as well as members of the Academic Schools into inter/transdisciplinary groups that can address complex research directions and topics such as: Computational linguistics; elements of cryptography; applications of artificial intelligence in bioinformatics; biorobotics; modelling and simulation of systems down to Cellular Automata and social systems level; smart management and analysis of biological/medical data; innovative interventions and technologies for healthcare support modelled on evidence-based and personalised medicine approaches (with interdisciplinary components of psychology, sociology, public health, genetics, physics); development of new pharmaceuticals; understanding of emerging collective phenomena; analysis and processing of big data and social sciences and humanities content in digital format (with an open science focus); addressing interdisciplinary epistemological issues related to religion/theology and contemporary sciences.
Establishing the STAR-UBB-N multi-level network will give a significant number of the university’s students (master’s, doctoral students) the opportunity for advanced professional training, thereby enabling them to acquire not only knowledge, but also the means to generate it (through research) and use it (through entrepreneurial-innovative approaches), both subject-specific (in the laboratories affiliated to the Strategic Infrastructure) and multi/inter/transdisciplinarily (within the Centres). The six Centres will be used for RDI activities, RDI project development and training, workshops, conferences on the priority/topical themes of the six academic schools of science, activities engaging the general public and the socio-economic environment. The project proposal will support institutional development, enhanced institutional capacity and performance in order to consolidate UBB as a world-class institution.

In line with the objectives outlined, we anticipate the following OUTCOMES:

1. A STAR-UBB-N academic network comprising the six academic science centres under the STAR-UBB umbrella and coordinated by a Scientific Council appointed by the STAR-UBB Board, including inter/multi/interdisciplinary work areas, operational training areas, IT/multimedia areas.
2. Development of new research topics/fields within the six academic and science centres in inter/trans/multidisciplinary subject areas in line with the UBB Academic Schools of Science following the STEM+ approach, in line with the best European practices. Drawing on the existing expertise of the STAR-UBB Institute as a model and provider of advanced academic/research practices, these centres will coordinate and integrate existing RDI laboratories/units in the affiliated faculties/departments in a multi/inter/transdisciplinary approach, with the aim of generating and disseminating advanced knowledge among all categories of students, but also in relation to the socio-economic and cultural environment. Where required, the development of new RDI units with multi/inter/transdisciplinary potential will be encouraged and these will operate in coordination with the academic and scientific development centres to be included in the UBB strategic infrastructure. As an example, it is worth mentioning here the development of the Bloomberg Research Lab, where UBB researchers (e.g. tenured and affiliated teachers, doctoral students, visiting professors) will be able to access a platform used by top management professionals, grant managers, business, finance or public policy decision makers.
3. A significant number of students (master’s, doctoral degree), post-doctoral fellows, junior researchers, who will benefit from the STAR-UBB-N network facilities for advanced training in the STEM+ approach.
4. Organisation of workshops/seminars/conferences/symposia on inter/trans/multidisciplinary research topics, integrating a focus on innovation and transfer to society, by the UBB/national and international academics and researchers who will conduct their activities within the STAR-UBB-N network with the support of the Academic Schools of Science.
5. An investment and infrastructure procurement programme required for the operation of the network of the six academic centres and STAR-UBB and a programme for ongoing tangible expenses, maintenance/repairs for the support and development of institutionally accredited RDI units that manage components of the UBB strategic infrastructure (rUBB) and that provide implementation support to the six academic and scientific development centres – with the aim of developing or reinforcing new ones.
6. Maintaining research performance indicators (high-impact scientific publications, book chapters, technologies and services, patents/patent applications, funds generated from European RDI programmes) at an annual growth rate of 3% in relation to their quality and number, including participation in high-profile scientific events. Fee-paying services will be promoted for open access/open data publishing targeting selectively high profile/impact dissemination platforms.
7. An increase in the number of research jobs (full time eq.) by employing researchers (including jobs for young researchers) on a temporary/permanent basis from extra-budgetary resources financed by own grants (other resources: research projects funded by national/European RDI competitions), including services provided to the business sector.