The BIST Forum highlights social and economic impacts of frontier research

By January 11, 2024January 22nd, 2024BIST, BIST Community

The BIST scientific community celebrated its firts BIST Forum today, focusing on the impact of frontier research on the generation of new knowledge, the economy and social development.

The Forum has been inaugurated by the President of the Catalan Goverment, Pere Aragonès, and has brought together group leaders and managers from the BIST community with key representatives from the scientific, political, economical and social sectors. Among them were the rectors of the universities UB, UAB, UPC and UPF, and high representatives of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Cercle d’Economia, Foment del Treball, and Barcelona Global. In front of a full auditorium, President Aragonès has noted that “we have one of the most powerful research ecosystems, with more potential in southern Europe,” and the BIST community “is one of the clearest examples of it.”

The BIST community recent ERC grantees with the President Pere Aragonès (left) and the President opening the BIST Forum (right)

The BIST Forum’s sessions, introduced with audiovisuals created for the occassion, highlighted Catalonia’s remarkable capacity for scientific production. In just two decades, it has emerged as a European leader and holds the potential to be a main driver of industry in the 21st century. In this context, three success stories of spin-offs from the BIST community awarded with the Catalonian National Research Award to Innovation have been presented at the event: Pulmobiotics (CRG), LuxQuanta (ICFO), and Ona Therapeutics (IRB Barcelona). In a roundtable format, the experience of companies emerging from cutting-edge research was shared, highlighting the organizational, regulatory, and funding changes that would enable further development in this sector.

Roundtable “From Frontier Research to the Economy”

The Forum also celebrated the community’s success in securing ERC Grants, Europe’s most prestigious call for research projects. Catalonia attracts half of the ERC grants received in Spain and has more per capita than Germany or France. The BIST community, in particular, hosts 24% of the ERC grants received in Catalonia. In a conversation among three researchers who are recipients of these grants –Katherine Villa (ICIQ), Gerard Ariño (IFAE) and María Escudero Escribano (ICN2)– the discussion delved into the impact the ERC grants have on their research and visibility and highlighted the significance of conducting their projects within BIST community research centres.

The keynote lecture was given by Núria Montserrat, ICREA research professor at IBEC and member of the Research and Innovation Council of Catalonia. Montserrat discussed how frontier research transforms quality of life, societal well-being, and the sustainability of the planet.

ICREA research professor Núria Montserrat giving the speech “From Frontier Research to Society”

Igniting multidisciplinary research

The BIST Forum has included the presentation of the results of the latest BIST Ignite Award projects. The Terafox and Explode-TNBC projects were presented by their leaders, Ekatherina Khestanova (ICFO) and David Pesquera (ICN2), and Sara Sdelci (CRG) and Antoni Riera (IRB Barcelona), respectively. The researchers have also recieved an award by young artisan, designer, and glassblower, Pròsper Riba Vilardell, representing the “ignition moment”.

The event has culminated with the announcement of the five new multidisciplinary research projects within the BIST Ignite programme, which has reached its sixth edition. The selected projects will tackle new scientific challenges and bring together expertise and knowledge in areas including bioengineering, photonics, materials science, and photophysics. The independent panel of experts who selected the projects, emphasized the cutting-edge nature of submissions, and the high potential for applications in a variety of fields. These projects are:


Led by Nicoletta Liguori, Head of the Photon Harvesting in Plants and Biomolecules group at ICFO, and Katherine Villa, who leads the Advanced photocatalytic materials for energy and environmental applications group at ICIQ, the NANOLYMPICS project will design and fabricate novel nanoswimmers with diverse configurations to better understand their efficiency.


Three postdoctoral fellows in the BIST community, Carles Ros at ICFO, and Sergi Grau at ICIQ, and Sara Martí-Sánchez at ICN2 lead MOLOPEC, which aims to fabricate a highly productive and stable OPEC-OPV tandem system for bias-free H2 and CO2 reduction reactions. Their goal is to overcome the limitations associated with inorganic metal oxide photoanodes and electrocatalysts in large-scale solar fuel production. In doing so, MOLOPEC contributes to the development of solar synthetic fuels as a sustainable solution for solar energy conversion, storage, and distribution.


TriBioNics is led by Senior Researcher at ICN2, Elena del Corro García, and ICREA Professor and Head of the Smart nano-bio-devices group at IBEC, Samuel Sánchez Ordóñez. The project will undertake for the first time the combination of three cutting edge technologies, 3D skeletal muscle bioprinting, graphene bioelectronics, and triboelectricity, with the goal of modelling muscle tissue conditions and develop novel physiological therapies for muscle rehabilitation.


The bRaiNA collaboration will develop an mRNA engineering strategy exploiting the cell-state-dependent modulation of microRNA on protein expression to achieve brain-specific expression of therapeutic mRNA. The work is led by Daniel Gonzalez-Carter, Postdoctoral Fellow at IBEC, and Fátima Gebauer, Head of the Genome Biology Group at CRG, and has potential applications in the treatment of brain disorders.


Headed by ICREA Professor at ICIQ, Pablo Ballester, and ICREA Professor at IBEC, César Rodriguez-Emmenegger, DendriPhotoSomes seeks to generate artificial membranes to perform artificial photosynthesis reactions, with the aim of converting and storing solar energy.

The 2023 edition of the BIST Ignite Programme has counted with the support of the Barcelona City Council, and it was Mayor Jaume Collboni who concluded the Forum. Collboni, advocating for Barcelona’s role as a European scientific capital, emphasized “the importance of raising awareness about the contributions and social impact of frontier research, as well as the need to ensure stable frameworks and funding for it to bear fruit.”

The leaders of the new five BIST Ignite multidisciplinary projects with the Barcelona city Mayor and the BIST Chairman


BIST Forum 2024 pictures BIST Forum 2024 videos Nota de premsa (Català)