Collaborations over the last few years have all taken place online. So it was with much excitement that we took our first steps towards cross-country collaborations in person. Our return abroad was to the picturesque city of Barcelona.
The team attended a Sustainable Fuels workshop jointly organised by Swansea University, Imperial College London (ICL) and Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) team. The main purpose of the workshop was to explore opportunities in Sustainable Fuels and to identify possible grant proposals.
Sustainable Fuels Workshop
Sustainable fuels are fuels produced from renewable sources. They have the potential to play an important role in achieving the UK’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions. It’s a relatively new area of research for Swansea University, so the trip was a great opportunity to strengthen links with other experts in the field. We could also establish routes for future research collaborative projects.
The attendees included researchers from ICIQ as well as academics and researchers from Imperial College and Swansea University. Each institution brought together something unique and different, and the meeting allowed us to develop some exciting new ideas. ICIQ is a very strong research institute in Catalunya that is solely focused on research. We learnt more about the infrastructure they have in place to support their world-class researchers. It was helpful to get an insight into their success attracting domestic and European grants.
This was our first meeting in-person. We had all met during a previous online webinar with brief introductions. But it was so refreshing to attend an in-person meeting on the continent again. It was a sign that we are close to normality after the last few turbulent years. It highlighted the importance of social interaction in establishing and growing collaborations.
The workshop was held in the old Escola Industrial, a beautiful building located in the heart of Barcelona that has its origins in the Can Batlló textile factory. Barcelona was chosen as most convenient in terms of travel for all attendees. However, it was also an attractive place to indulge in a spot of tourism and explore the city.
While it was a short and intense meeting, we still managed to enjoy the scenery and gastronomy of the city. We walked from Eixample through El Raval down to the port for dinner. Fran used his contacts to find a really nice tapas restaurant, “El Vaso de Oro” that had a great atmosphere. We sampled some delicious traditional Catalan dishes like “pa amb tomaquet” and “croquetas”. On the way back, we strolled through the gothic area taking in the sights and sounds of the city. This included Gaudi’s Battló, followed by a nightcap at a well-known craft brewery, Garage Beer Co. Everyone felt the benefits of meeting in person, both for renewing links with colleagues and making new ones.
The benefits of meeting in person
James Ryan, a Chemistry Lecturer at Swansea University said, “I did my PhD in ICIQ with Emilio so it was great to catch up with him and further strengthen the connection between ICIQ and Swansea University. I also got to meet some old friends from ICIQ as well as getting to know new group leaders and researchers.
The meeting highlighted the importance of meeting and discussing science in person. It also made us all aware of the damage that Brexit could have on collaborative projects between the UK and EU and we truly hope that the UK will participate fully in Horizon Europe.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed it. ICIQ did a fantastic job in hosting us and we can safely say that we made a lot of new friends in ICIQ and ICL.”
This blog post was co-authored by the SPECIFIC and Swansea Uni team that attended the workshop.