The OXIPRO project consortium recently gathered in Barcelona, Spain, for the annual project meeting. Hosted close to the largest football stadium in Europe, Camp Nou, the event enabled project partners to ‘keep their eyes on the ball’ and share ongoing work and recent highlights and to ‘set a game plan’ for future work.
The OXIPRO Platforms
OXIPRO is developing two generic platforms, one computational and one on various wet lab technologies. The computational platform has just been launched for partners at a pre-meeting workshop on computational engineering and will continue to be user-tested and optimized by developers. Our enzyme screening platform is now fully functional and adapted to plate-based reads, which enables a user-friendly format. The platform developments will continue another year in OXIPRO.
The Four Case Studies
OXIPRO applies case studies on four consumer products where new enzymes have the potential to bring impactful gains: textiles, liquid detergents, nutraceuticals and sunscreens. This is a widely adopted approach in innovation management that enables in-depth, multi-faceted explorations of complex issues in their real-life contexts. This year we tried out a new structure for the meeting by launching innovation case sessions during which cross-disciplinary work was presented in the context of each of the specific cases priorities in the project. Structuring the meeting this way was very well-received.
Gathering Feedback on EU Policy
Industry is highly active in OXIPRO, but the project relies on input from multiple actors to gather feedback towards our developments. In this respect, it is important to underpin our project activities with complementary types of knowledge and perspectives in a multiactor approach. For this reason, prior to the meeting, we worked to identify important policy areas where OXIPRO can make compelling contributions. In dialogue with stakeholders, we analysed the EU proposal to extend the scope of application of the Generic Approach to Risk Management (Art 68.2 of REACH) in consumer and professional uses. The regulation, if accepted, will counter enzyme benefits and significantly undermine the European sustainability strategies. To explore this topic and encompass all perspectives, the consortium were split into a number of groups to discuss impacts and policy contributions in a dynamic, co-creation World Café approach: an effective format for a structured discursive process for large group dialogues. In additon to bringing vital input to the policy work, it also brought the project participants closer together.
Inspiration from the Experts
Over the two days, the informative scientific sessions were interspersed with inspirational talks given by our invited expert guests. Prof. Jennifer Littlechild, who is on the OXIPRO Advisory Board, took us along her scientific journey in the study of oxidoreductases. Her contribution, along with all other academic researchers working over decades, in finding and describing genes functionally and structurally, has laid the foundations for much of the novel AI-based methods used today for mining sequences and to accurately predict structures.
Expert industrial knowledge was shared by our guest speaker Andreu Colomera, Technology Sales Manager at Novozymes, who described how – over the decades – enzymes have facilitated more sustainable processes in the textile sector. He also touched on potential novel areas for expansion, which proved highly motivating for the OXIPRO community.
Early Career Researchers Demonstrate Upcoming Talent
During the meeting, eight early career researchers presented their work in 3-minute flash talks. Not only did they take on this major challenge of summarising up to two years of work in such a short time, but they did so in the delivery of polished presentations that successfully communicated their most promising results.
Boosting OXIPRO’s Impact
We also explored the different platforms that we have established for dissemination and communication of OXIPRO’s output, where our ongoing work and results can be presented. Importantly, we have now set up ‘impact meetings’ for the remaining period to gather insight and updates that can be presented. Expect us to be even more active on dissemination in the future through our website, social media and Zenodo.
“This in-person meeting was truly inspiring, and brought participants together in a very fruitful and efficient way that convinces me we can make great scientific contributions together. In many ways it was a game changer”, says Project Coordinator, Gro Bjerga, inspired by the grand Camp Nou Stadium, towering in front of the meeting venue.