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Internationality and interdisciplinary

Scientific research and achievements at InnoRenew CoE in 2019

Work at the InnoRenew CoE is based on interdisciplinarity and integration in a scientific, economic and international context. Research at the institute is, therefore, very diverse and branched out, both in terms of fields and topics as well as project partners (public institutions, independent research institutes, companies, municipalities, associations) in Slovenia and worldwide.

The institute currently has 59 employees, about half of whom are from Slovenia. The rest come from different parts of the world, not only from Europe – Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden – but also from Brazil, India, Iran, Thailand and the USA. A large number of employees (41) are researchers and research assistants, most of them are part of research groups. Researchers and research assistants that work outside the groups cover a variety of fields, from analytical chemistry and biotechnological wood modification processes through statistics and school education to innovation management, international collaboration and science communication.

Each group also covers its own range of fields; at the same time, they are intertwined and interconnected. For some projects, several researchers from different fields are involved. The work of researchers is motley also in view of international integration, as they participate in projects that are bilateral as well as those that bring together researchers from all over Europe and other countries, like the COST Actions. Out of a total of 22 projects performed by InnoRenew CoE in 2019, six were international and eight were bilateral (in cooperation with USA, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia).

Research groups

The research groups were set up by the establishment of InnoRenew CoE in 2017. The Human Health in the Built Environment group works in the fields of wood science, biopsychology, psychogeriatrics, psychology, kinesiology, green building certification, neurophysiology and data analytics. In 2019, special attention was paid to better furniture design for musculoskeletal health in school children, office furniture that supports active work and musculoskeletal health as well as healthy environments for older adults to support their independence, health and overall well-being at home and work.

Dr Michael Burnard. Photo: InnoRenew CoE

“The main challenge our group is trying to address is central to just about every sector – creating healthy working, learning and living environments using sustainable building materials and methods.” Dr Michael Burnardleader of the Human Health in the Built Environment group

The Wood Modification group works in the fields of wood science and technology, chemistry, physics, material science and lifelong learning. In 2019, the team addressed a number of challenges. Among other things, they were working on implementation of spectroscopy for quality control during production in trials with Swiss industry. In order to improve the quality and performance of Xylo biofinish coating, they made evaluation of Aureobasidium pullans growth on wooden surfaces. They were also working on new chemometric models for determination of lignin origin and properties by means of NIR spectroscopy and chemometrics.

Dr Anna Sandak. Photo: InnoRenew CoE

“In 2019, the acquisition of four new members was very important to the group so as that we have learned to work as a team. The acquiring of silver members for Living Lab InnoRenew was important as well.” Dr Anna Sandak, leader of the Wood Modification group.

The Sustainable Building with Renewable Materials group works in the fields of architectural and engineering design and consulting on larger timber buildings, diverse life cycle assessment (LCA) analyses, complex acoustic engineering and cultural heritage. Among their biggest challenges in 2019 was to establish new and strengthen existing connections with the Austrian and German timber construction industry as well as binding their expertise with other research groups, offering services to other research institutions, domestic and foreign.

Dr Iztok Šušteršič. Photo: InnoRenew CoE

“The goal of the group is to become one of the most relevant R&D support entities to the tall timber building industry.” Dr Iztok Šušteršič, leader of the Sustainable Building with Renewable Materials group

The main fields that the ICT in Renewable Materials and Sustainable Building group is working in are information and communication technologies, information engineering and applied mathematics. The group was trying to address many challenges in 2019. The most important among them were developing robust large-scale supply chain networks in reverse logistics for the wood industry, developing efficient new models and analytical methods for hyperspectral imaging, developing a multi-objective decision support system for heterogonous structures in building design, integrated optimisation solutions in sensor network design and decentralized blockchain-based edge computing solutions for IoT.

Dr Miklós Krész. Photo: InnoRenew CoE

“Our special focus is system architecture design, industrial optimisation, scientific computing and knowledge discovery.” Dr Miklós Krész, leader of the ICT in Renewable Materials and Sustainable Building group

The Renewable Materials Composites group works in the fields of bio-based composites, wood mechanics, non-destructive evaluation, material characterization and adhesion of materials. The year 2019 has given the group a particularly big challenge – and an opportunity – in industry: developing value-added renewable composite materials from underutilized wood species within Slovenia and throughout Europe.

Dr David B. DeVallance. Photo: InnoRenew CoE

“Research, development and innovation (RDI) in renewable composite materials has the potential to foster increased utilization throughout the entire wood value chain (logs through cellulose) within Slovenia and the EU.” Dr David B. DeVallance, leader of the Renewable Materials Composites group

 Research achievements in 2019 (selection)

After two years of activity, research at the institute has already made several tangible achievements. In addition to numerous scientific publications of the researchers, including the scientific monograph published by the renowned Springer publishing house, one of the most important is an application for the European patent for production of dimensionally compacted densified wood, which is the result of development in cooperation with Austrian industrial partner Metadynea, that is certainly important. Researchers also developed and deployed a sensor prototype solution for Building Information Modelling (BIM) in a test house (Mrakova domačija – Mrak’s homestead near Bled, Slovenija).

Significant new methodologies have emerged from the research, including the development of a new method for optimisation of the design of heterogeneous systems built from modular elements, a new analysis methodology based on smart data in transportation networks and an interactive deconvolution method for IR spectra so as a new approach for determination of the limit state for façade materials. Further, researchers have managed to study new research directions that were foreseen in RDI: molecular dynamics and biomimicry and bioinspiration for wood modification. They have also begun to develop carbonized biomass for use in electrical and composite-related applications.

InnoRenew CoE research experts have also made a significant contribution to the updated version of European building design standards. In 2019, under the European Committee for Standardization, they began to work on the development of a new chapter of the Eurocode 8 standard that addresses earthquake analysis of timber buildings.