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InnoRenew CoE’s successful 2021

InnoRenew CoE reached a meaningful milestone in 2021 — completed construction of its new home in Livade, Izola (Slovenia), an achievement that will greatly expand its scientific innovation.

At the same time, InnoRenew CoE continued its commitment to research excellence, secured competitive funding and increased its publication record. Most importantly, the institute grew its scientific footprint in sustainable, renewable materials for the built environment through expanded collaboration and engagement in Slovenia and beyond.

InnoRenew CoE building

Currently the largest wooden building in Slovenia, the InnoRenew CoE research complex houses offices, state-of-the-art laboratories and advanced testing and analytic equipment to accelerate the institute’s interdisciplinary work. The building is also an ongoing research project. Built according to contemporary sustainable construction principles, its behavior is assessed to inform best practices for future wooden construction.

InnoRenew CoE Building

InnoRenew CoE Building / InnoRenew CoE

The building has already drawn considerable attention. Visitors to the construction site included Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the President of the European Research Council, representatives from Slovenia’s Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, Wood Industry Directorate, the University of Maribor’s rector, and a delegation from Italy’s Municipality of Tolentino.

InnoRenew CoE’s commitment to sustainability within Slovenia goes beyond its new building. The institute celebrated its fourth anniversary with a tree planting in Izola to offset its carbon footprint. The institute is also helping to renovate Koper’s Servite monastery, a project that uses sustainable materials to preserve an important community asset.

Research excellence

Two InnoRenew CoE researchers were awarded prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowships, Dr. Oihana Gordobil for the “Green synthesis of sustainable BIO-sourced multi-functional ingredient for skin CARE applications” (BIO4CARE) project, under the supervision of Dr. Anna Sandak, and Dr. Sudha Esakkimuthu for the “Modified lignin nanoparticles for composite and bio-based/Cu packaging applications” (PACK-NIN) project, under the supervision of Dr. David DeVallance. Notably, Dr. Gordobil, Dr. Esakkimuthu and their mentors had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Simona Kustec, Slovenia’s Minister of Education, Science and Sport, to discuss their MSCA projects.

MSCA awardees and mentors meet Minister of Education, Science and Sport / University of Primorska

InnoRenew CoE was also successful in obtaining European funds through consortium projects. OLEAF4VALUE, a Horizon 2020 Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking project, is under Dr. Jakub Sandak’s lead for InnoRenew CoE. In addition, InnoRenew CoE is included in two ForestValue projects, WoodLCC, led by Dr. Anna Sandak, and BarkBuild, led by Dr. David DeVallance.

Additionally, the institute obtained funds from the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) for both “Reverse logistics network of residual wood biomass” and “Economic, environmental and social aspects of wood processing” as well as several smaller projects.

Collaboration and engagement 

InnoRenew CoE was honored to become a partner in the New European Bauhaus, a European Commission initiative that asks Europeans to co-create a green future. Inclusion in the New European Bauhaus allows for wider collaboration and a deeper engagement within the institute’s focus areas of renewable materials and healthy built environments.

Dr. Andreja Kutnar attends New European Bauhaus high-level workshop / NEB

The institute was also excited to obtain COST Action CA20139 – Holistic Design of Taller Timber Buildings (HELEN). Led by Dr. Iztok Šušteršič, COST Action HELEN creates a European forum for international experts in tall timber construction to collaborate and develop new methodologies in an interdisciplinary way.

Within Slovenia, Dr. Andreja Kutnar was tapped to join President Borut Pahor’s Consultative Committee for Climate Policy, and Eva Prelovšek Niemelä and Vesna Starman presented their conceptual design for external school spaces to Slovenia’s State Secretary for Education and Sport.

Locally, InnoRenew CoE researchers visited Slovenian elementary schools with their “Let’s Explore Wood” workshops to inform and excite students about wood and the wood industry. InnoRenew CoE researchers also hosted two community events at the Slovenian coast, an unveiling of objects created under the LOOSE CELLS project in Izola’s Pietro Copo Park and the “Protection of bronze monuments in the changing environment” project results presentation in Piran’s Tartini Square.

As an institution, InnoRenew CoE sponsored a series of lectures from Gdańsk University of Technology, a leading Polish university and research center and gold member of Living Lab InnoRenew. The institute’s researchers also held lectures as part of the “Competence center for human resources development in woodworking” (KOCles 3.0) project.

Looking towards 2022

InnoRenew CoE was evaluated for Slovenia’s 2021 Business Excellence Award. The institute was recognized by EFQM with four stars and has begun implementing evaluator feedback and recommendations to create opportunities for future success.

Another milestone attained in 2021 was completion and adoption of InnoRenew CoE’s Gender Equality Plan and further integration of the gender dimension into the institute’s research. Growth in this area is a priority for the institute in 2022.

Finally, building on its success as host to NIR Italia Online and the InnoRenew CoE International Conference 2021, InnoRenew CoE is planning and organizing WoodRise 2022 Technical Conference and Tours, an international conference that will bring one thousand tall timber practitioners and researchers to Slovenia’s coast for a week of keynotes, workshops and connections with leaders in the field.

InnoRenew CoE is concluding another successful year and looking forward to new challenges and growth in 2022. Happy new year!