The most tangible results of PlaMatSu are its scientific results, but even more importantly, the education of nine very talented and promising young scientists. The ESRs have experienced a training programme that includes world-class scientific PhD level research and a multitude of soft skills training which makes them ideally suited to become critical thinkers and future leaders in the field of bio-inspired research and development. Once they have finished their PhD studies during the next year, they will continue to shape the future of Europe´s materials science landscape, whether as highly qualified scientists in the private sector, or as future leaders in academia. It can be expected that the ESRs will continue to spearhead bio-inspired problem solving for the benefit of society and for the next generation of advanced material products.
Direct economic benefits can be expected from the commercialisation activities for cellulose-based pigments and glitter at the University of Cambridge. ESR Droguet and Prof. Vignolini are in the process of filing a patent, have made plans for exploitation of the technology and continue to work towards a start-up company. These activities were greatly helped by having L’Oréal as industrial partner in the network, as the cosmetics industry will be a first target market for the technology. Other results that are of potential economic interest for partners of PlaMatSu include the tribology surface modification developed in a secondment of ESR Bast at Dr. Tillwich Gmbh Werner Stehr, and the microstructured surfaces that were developed by ESR Surapaneni and ESR Bergmann. They are of potential interest for partner E.G.O. to change the haptics of displays and to modify the characteristics of fluid-conducting ducts in household appliances. All industry partners of PlaMatSu (BASF, Fischer, Tillwich, L’Oréal, E.G.O.) profited from and enjoyed the involvement in PlaMatSu, as evidenced by the time that their representatives invested in attending the annual meetings and providing input to some of the training workshops. Moreover, the companies now have good contacts to a cohort of young scientists that are potential candidates for open positions, and to the principle investigators for further collaboration.
PlaMatSu was a substantial asset to the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Bio-Inspired Materials and significantly helped that the NCCR was prolonged from its first phase into the second funding phase which started in 2018. Training workshops and the winter school were run in collaboration between PlaMatSu and the NCCR so that PlaMatSu students benefitted from training events of the NCCR and NCCR students took part in the winterschool and the PlaMatSu training workshops. Moreover, PlaMatSu fitted nicely into the evolving research landscape on bio-inspired materials at the University of Freiburg with its Freiburg Center for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies (FIT). PlaMatSu helped the University of Freiburg to win the bid for the Cluster of Excellence Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) which is now a stronghold of bio-inspired materials research in Germany. In the UK, PlaMatSu contributed to collaborative bio-inspired research at the University of Cambridge and the University of Strathclyde, and also set an example for the importance of European projects for the UK despite looming Brexit. For example, the exhibition in the University of Cambridge Botanical Garden promoted the MSC Actions Brand and Horizon 2020 to the general public.
The relative small size of PlaMatSu with a focus on initially three participating institutions proved to be a very efficient set-up to enable meaningful collaboration across the network, as evidenced, e.g., by jointly published papers between groups, or by having a critical mass of local ESRs at the University of Cambridge to staff the exhibition in the botanical garden. This lean structure of PlaMatSu also allowed for an efficient management of the ITN and its activities. Thus, the structure and organisation of PlaMatSu has proven to be a good blueprint for future ITNs and similar doctoral schools. The coordinator Bruns promoted this structure and shared his experience and expertise as PlaMatSu´s coordinator on various occasions with other colleagues. For example, he gave a talk at a workshop for ITN applicants that was organised by EUresearch in Bern, the Swiss organisation to support European projects in Switzerland. PlaMatSu was also highlighted as a Research Success Story in a EUresearch publication, and was covered in an article of Horizon – The EU Research & Innovation Magazine. More recently, Bruns has become a sought after participant in bids for ITNs because of his expertise as coordinator of the successful ITN PlaMatSu.