Research strategy and development of the Institute for years 2016-2020

The present state of the Institutue field in the national and international contexts

It is evident that new materials with improved properties and novel or adapted manufacturing technologies are attractive topics from both national and international points of view. They fully correspond with the priorities of the European innovation programme Horizon 2020 and also with national Research and Innovation Smart Specialise Strategy (RIS3), where the development of novel materials is the first of 5 research priorities.

European Horizon 2020 programme has not foreseen the development of novel materials as a specific independent topic; nevertheless, the particular calls frequently address this challenge.
The competency of the Institute may answer the needs in following priorities of Horizon 2020:
- Excellent science – development of key enabling technologies (development of technologies for the manufacturing of smart materials, technologies for flexible manufacturing of large size lightweight structures, manipulations with the material structure in nanoscale, etc.)
- Competitive industry – development of techniques for additive manufacturing, cost-efficient manufacturing technologies for novel materials such as composites, foams, powder-based materials, efficient use of multi-material combinations, etc.
- Societal needs – here, the Institute can contribute in many areas such as materials for green cars (novel batteries, lightweight structural parts, materials for energy storage and recuperation, materials for thermal management, etc.), energy-efficient buildings and low carbon economy (energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions via aluminium foam panels, heat storage using PCM composites, lightweight energy-efficient structures, etc.), even in health priority (new medical implants, biodegradable materials).
Slovakia with almost 25% GDP created by industry, belongs to strong industrial countries. Most of the industrial output is produced by the automotive and electronic sector and associated suppliers. Therefore the development of these two sectors was selected as a strategic priority in RIS3.

Large car makers (VW in Bratislava, PSA Peugeot Citroen in Trnava and Kia in Žilina) transferred their most progressive and demanding assemblies into Slovakia. Volkswagen started here unique production of multi-material car body structures with s large portion of lightweight aluminium parts (Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and expected Touareg). Jaguar Land Rover is the newest member of the family aiming to produce aluminium body SUV in Nitra. Aluminium body production becomes a very interesting topic in Slovakia and this is why the development of lightweight metallic materials with particular attention paid to aluminium and magnesium was listed under perspective strategic priorities in RIS3.

Actually there is not as much experience with mass production of aluminium cars worldwide and the presence of these car makers brings the opportunity to rearrange the network of local suppliers from steel to aluminium. The Institute traditionally belongs to the primary Slovakian developers of novel aluminium based applications and possess all necessary competence. Of course, there is a strong interest of the Institute to develop it further and contribute to the development of Slovakia into an internationally recognised industrial country with strong competency in the products manufactured from aluminium. Therefore the lightweight structural materials remain the priority in the Institute's strategy.

However, the Institute's strategy includes more than materials for cars. The Institute wants to further enhance its knowledge also in the fields of metal matrix composites in order to be prepared for further improvements when current technologies and materials will have to be replaced with more performing ones.

Finally, aluminium will be more and more replaced with magnesium, which requires a further substantial update of technology and material development. It is quite important for the Institute to be prepared for this near future and gain the necessary experience.

Materials for energy production, conversion, and storage represent one of the crucial topics worldwide (and are frequently addressed also in Horizon 2020). These include materials that due to improved properties at elevated temperatures, make the energy production more efficient. On the other hand, a better understanding of their degradation process and more precise inspection of energy generating devices and facilities can increase their lifetime making the energy production cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

A more and more important role plays energy from renewable sources. These are typically time dependent (wind, solar) and not very suitable for supply on demand. This energy, therefore, needs to be stored to be available when needed. Here the storage materials offer new opportunities that need to be explored and developed.

It is our common mission to contribute to the development of earth into a better place for life. The Institute will contribute to this goal by application of its knowledge in medicine and the safety of road traffic.

The research strategy of the Institute in the national and international contexts

The basic philosophy of the Institute is to perform research and development, yielding recognisable and unquestionable benefits to the society. This is for the Institute a suitable way how to repair and strengthen the position of science in the general public. Coming out from this philosophy, the Institute will focus its research strategy in the following fields:

A)    Lightweight structural materials aimed mostly for structural application in machine construction with the main interest in the automotive industry – addressing pillar 2 in HORIZON 2020. Several ways will be followed: B)    Materials for energy production, conversion, and storage - addressing pillar 2 and 3 in HORIZON 2020 (secure clean and safe energy, smart, green and integrated transport). Several ways will be followed: C)    Human welfare - addressing pillar 3 in HORIZON 2020 (health and wellbeing). Several ways will be followed: D)    Additional R&D activities - addressing pillar 2 in HORIZON 2020
Infrastructure and human resources

Recently, making use of resources of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Institute has improved its infrastructure, including the infrastructure of its workplaces in the regions of Trnava and Žiar nad Hronom. At present, the Institute has built up the basic infrastructure necessary for its strategic activities.
In the next period, the Institute has to acquire sufficient resources for highly qualified scientific personnel. The Institute's budget from the state is approximately the same for more than 10 years and it covers only part of the salaries. Therefore hiring new personnel requires additional external funds from projects or cooperations. These circumstances imply the Institute strategy in the upcoming years. The plan is to employ about 20 new researchers and let them work for EU SF project money. At the end of Programming Period 2014-2020, they should be already skilled enough to be able to earn the requested resources without the need of Structural Funds.

At the end of 2020, due to the quality of the Institute's personnel and infrastructure, the goal of the Institute is a more sovereign position making it less dependent on financial resources form the state budget than it is at present.