First Contracts Signed Worth a Total of Almost HRK 14 Million Pertaining to the First Joint Projects within Research Cooperability Program
On November 30, 2007 the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports signed the contracts for the implementation of 11 projects under the Research Cooperability Programme of the Unity Through Knowledge Fund – UKF. In the course of three years almost EUR 1.9 million will be provided to Croatian researchers working in Croatia and abroad who work on joint projects at Croatian universities and institutes.
Unity Through Knowledge Fund was set up this year by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports using a World Bank loan approved for the Science and Technology Project (EUR 5 million over 3 years). The goal of the Fund is to encourage cooperation with Croatian researchers and experts living and working abroad and to finance joint science and technology projects of Croatian researchers and experts working abroad and researchers, institutions and companies based in Croatia.
These are unique projects as this is the first case in the Republic of Croatia of direct co-financing of joint cooperation of researchers working at Croatian universities, institutes, and small and medium-sized enterprises with researchers of Croatian origin working for international research institutions. These projects are a direct result of the conclusions made at the First and Second Congress of Croatian scientists from the Homeland and abroad while the model of cooperation was inspired by the Israeli and Indian models and financed through a World Bank loan.
Thus out of 39 proposals, the first 11 projects have been selected with the help of more than 120 anonymous evaluators – renowned experts in their respective fields the two thirds of whom live and work abroad – and of two independent commissions involving prominent Croatian scientists and experts as well as the private sector representatives.
This represents a new breakthrough made by the Fund in financing scientific research as the selection procedure was conducted in a competitive and open manner. Final approval rate (the ratio between approved and submitted proposals) in this call for proposals is 26%, which guarantees a high quality of the selected projects. The projects will launch top-level scientific and technological research within Croatian institutions and attract investments from international funds and the business sector. They will also contribute, with the help of the diaspora, to knowledge transfer and the achievement of valuable scientific results in Croatia.
The supported projects will be implemented at the following institutions in Croatia: the University of Zagreb (two projects at the Faculty of Medicine, two projects at the Faculty of Science, one project at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology and two projects at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing), the University of Rijeka (one project at the Faculty of Medicine), the Rudjer Boskovic Institute (one project), the Institute of Naval Engineering (one project) and the Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences (one project).
The projects will be implemented in cooperation with prominent Croatian researchers working for international institutions (in the USA, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Switzerland) with which a permanent relationship will be established. The projects will be aimed at attracting further investments from international sources (e.g. 7th Framework Programme) and from the business community.
Out of the total number of the selected projects, five projects are aimed at developing new technologies of interest to the Croatian business community: new supraconducting materials development, development of new computer technologies embedded into products, modern waste water treatment technologies, and the development of regulation systems for turbines. These projects involve co-financing and building cooperation with the private sector as well as technology transfer into the Croatian companies.
Six projects pertain to fundamental scientific research at the international level and expect to attract investments from international sources. These projects focus on studying molecular mechanisms behind tumour development, cognitive diseases development, genetic structure of viruses, advanced microscopic cell analysis, genetic information transmission at the molecular level and a computer-based approach to biological problems.
Apart from the Research Cooperability Programme which has just been launched, the evaluation process of a large number of proposals submitted under the UKF’s Young Researchers and Professionals Programme is underway (for researchers and professionals living in Croatia or having returned to Croatia). Calls for proposals under the Connectivity Programme aimed at financing visits of experts and researchers of Croatian origin living and working abroad and of young Croatian researchers with a view to start new international projects and technology transfers are constantly open. Calls for proposals under the Creativity Programme aimed at providing support to young researchers working in the industry sector in Croatia, to research commercialisation and intellectual property rights protection are under preparation.
About the launched projects under the Research Cooperability Programme
The project led by Emil Babic (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science) and Josip Horvat (University of Wollongong, Australia) is co-financed by the UKF with EUR 183,000 (along with EUR 68,000 from other sources) and will focus on the development of supraconductor of enhanced qualities at higher temperatures, will set up the first laboratory for the production of supraconducting wires in Croatia and allow for the Croatian industry to be involved in supraconductivity technology.
Hrvoje Banfic (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Medicine) and Antonio Bedalov (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle) will make a research on special phospholipid compounds which prevent signal transmission in human cells and thus cause errors in cell division (tumour). The UKF invests EUR 166,000 in the project while EUR 76,000 are expected to be provided from other sources. During the project they will further develop their research through international projects financed by the US National Institutes of Health.
The development of software support for embedded computer systems will be the focus of two projects at the Faculty of Electric Engineering and Computing at the University of Zagreb. The project led by Ivica Crnkovic (Mälardalen University, Sweden) and Mario Zagar (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electric Engineering and Computing) will focus on enhancing the development of software support for embedded systems necessary for the functioning of different products. This project will be co-financed with EUR 67,000 while the UKF will allocate EUR 200,000. It will lead to the technology transfer and prototype development at the Faculty of Electric Engineering and Computing in Zagreb, the Faculty of Electric Engineering, Machine Construction and Naval Architecture Split and in partner companies from the Croatian industry sector.
The project led by Daniel Gajski (University of California Irvine) and Vlado Sruk (Faculty of Electric Engineering and Computing, University of Zagreb) will result in the transfer of the entire technology of embedded systems from professor Gajski's group to Croatia and create potential for the further development and use of this technology which can significantly increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies in Croatia. The UKF invests EUR 173,000 in the project while EUR 65,000 will be allocated from other sources.
Environmental concerns caused by an increasing quantity of the so-called new pollutants, especially human and veterinary drugs in waters is addressed in the project led by Marija Kastelan Macan (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology) and Mira Petrovic (Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies). The project is co-financed with EUR 40,000 while it is funded by the UKF with EUR 200,000.This research project will result in the development of new technologies, but also in the preparation of a new project at the European level.
Ivica Kostovic (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Medicine) and Pasko Rakic (Yale University) will run a strong international project in cooperation with the renowned Kavli Institute at Yale University and with neurological institutes in Montreal and Harvard and with other Croatian researchers in the scope of which advanced technologies (MRI and neurogenomics) will be used to address the problems of cognitive diseases (autism) development. Under the project data on autism development will be collected and analysed and the project will incite the preparation of several new international projects. The project is financed with EUR 200,000 by the UKF and with EUR 95,000 from other sources.
At the Institute of Naval Engineering in Zagreb a development project of intelligent regulators for hydroelectric plants, of water turbines regulators using fuzzy regulation and neural networks will be carried out. It will be led by Ognjen Kuljaca (Alcorn State University) and Krunoslav Horvat (Institute of Naval Engineering). In the course of the project new neural and fuzzy regulation algorithms will be developed and applied, representing a new intellectual property. One of the outcomes of the project is setting up of a laboratory for advanced industrial regulation. The UKF's investment into this project amounts to EUR 156,461 while EUR 128,000 will be provided from other sources.
The project of studying human cytomegaloviruses and their pathogenesis is launched by Joanne Trgovcich (Ohio State University) and Stipan Jonjic (University of Rijeka, Faculty of Medicine). They will perform in-vivo experiments to create a database on the virus genes expression in different cells which will be used by Croatian and foreign researchers and serve as a basis for the preparation of new international projects. The UKF supports this project with EUR 190,000 while EUR 36,000 is allocated from other sources.
Igor Weber (Rudjer Boskovic Institute) and Iva Marija Tolic-Nørrelykke (Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden) will run the project on the application of advanced microscopic techniques on the confocal microscope in addressing biological problems such as the regulation mechanism of cytoskeleton dynamics and structure. A biophotonics laboratory to be used by researchers in Croatia will be set up under this project. The UKF's investment into the project amounts to EUR 160,000 while additional EUR 35,000 was allocated from other sources.
Special macromolecules – enzymes essential for genetic information transmission and protein production in cells will be the focus of research to be made by Ivana Weygand-Djurasevic (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science) and Nenad Ban (ETH Zurich). In this research project they will start a scientific cooperation which will result in explaining the role of these molecules in genetic information transmission. The results may potentially be pharmacologically significant and incite new projects at the European level as well. The UKF will invest EUR 132,000 into the project while EUR 77,000 will be provided by other sources.
Bojan Žagrović (Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences) and Gordan Žitković (University of Texas in Austin) will develop a worldwide grid for numeric computing of movement and structure simulations of biomolecules. Through this project they will increase computer capacity (by creating a worldwide grid of more than 5000 computers) so that simulations of real biomolecules could match experiments and allow for new insights into the relations between the structure of these molecules and their function. The UKF will invest EUR 198,000 into the development of this project while the investment of other partners will amount to EUR 90,000.
The UKF starts a total eleven projects selected through a careful procedure out of 39 proposals, to be implemented over two and a half to three years. The UKF has earmarked a total of EUR 1.9 million for their implementation while EUR 0.8 million has been provided from other sources (Croatian and foreign institutions and the business sector).
More details on projects soon on the UKF web site.