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Novi List, September 14, 2008
 ( by Hrvoje Krešić and Ana Makek)






The funds invested in 12 scientific projects are likely to bring multiple returns to the state after  two years


Croatian Top Brain Gain

The basic goal is to utilize the potential of our scientists abroad. We have a high number of persons with university qualifications abroad, incomparably higher than the European average, almost a hundred thousand of persons with university education in  West Europe and North America countries, on whom we can rely, asserted Mr. Hrvoje Meštrić, head of the Fund.


The “Unity Through Knowledge Fund” is the name of the fund recently launched by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, with a view, to put it shortly, to enhance cooperation between Croatian scientists in the country and abroad. Although the name suggests the opposite – the Unity Through Knowledge is actually the translation of the phrase “Unity Through Knowledge” (UTK) – this project is actually the original Croatian product.

            The underlying idea is actually very simple and easy to understand: if considered as a percentage, the Croatian scientific diaspora is one of the largest diasporas in the world. One could say that this is a blessing in disguise – all the Croatian top scientists subject to brain drain over many years, who used to refuse to stay in Croatia at the price of the former two German Marks “per kilo”, are today highly placed persons in reputable world universities and institutes. In order to utilize their influence, knowledge and experience the UTK Project aspires to link them with the scientists from Croatia, with whom they cooperate on common projects.

            The UTK Fund was established from the loan funds approved by the World Bank to Croatia, totaling to some EUR 5 million. The funds invested in scientific and technological projects should bring return to the society by means of technology development – all patents remain Croatian ownership.


First National Invitation for Tenders


            The basic goal is to utilize the potential of our scientists abroad. We have a high percentage of persons with university qualifications abroad, incomparably higher than the European average, almost a hundred thousand of persons with university qualifications in the West European and North American countries, on whom we can rely, asserted Mr. Hrvoje Meštrić, head of the Fund.


            Out of the overall number of scientists to whom the overall amount totaling to HRK 4.5 million was granted in the first invitation for tenders, the majority are very young. Considering the fact that they were lucky to be among the 13% of scientists who were selected in the first national invitation for tenders, which granted funds amounting to the equivalent value of a solid apartment in newly erected buildings in Zagreb, allocated for community projects of young scientists – the return to Croatia – precisely to the institutes in Split and Zagreb, it should be admitted that the invitation for tenders was worth it. The highest amount allocated to a project totaled to EUR 93,000 and the lowest to EUR 24,000.

            This was at the same time the first invitation for tenders, implemented under the Young Scientists and Experts Programs Funds and it is likely that the funds invested in 12 scientific projects will bring return to the state after the two years period. The procedure of application and allocation of funds itself was very rigorous. The overall number of 88 projects was submitted and only 12 were granted funds after the second bidding round.


Project Focused Consideration


            Even if it does not seem so at first sight, we are more focused on people than on products, added Mr. Meštrić. The general goal is cooperation, not only between people, but also between science and industry. Mr. Nenad Bann, a scientist whose work was recently published on the cover page of the Science Journal, participates in one of such projects as well.

            Unfortunately, the mutual balance between the sciences is inadequate – most of them belong to the informatics, medicine and pharmacy, whereas,  for instance, practically no liberal arts and social sciences related applications have been submitted under the UTK invitation for tenders – only two projects out of the overall number of 88 submitted projects.

            I am not sure that the liberal arts are project oriented, perhaps they should be separated in a special invitation for tenders, asserted Mr. Meštrić and added that he hoped that the cooperation with the economic sector would be strengthened – at the same time  medicine, informatics, and pharmacy achieve both the best performance in such invitation for tenders and the best cooperation with these industry sectors.

            Maybe the time is not ripe for it, maybe the promotion was inadequate, maybe our science is not quite ready for communication with the industry, however, we hope that it will improve over time, concluded Mr. Meštrić.


About the Fund


The “Unity Through Knowledge Fund” – UTK was established for the purpose of enhancing the cooperation between the national scientists and scientific-research institutions (but also Croatian companies interested in investment in R&D of knowledge-based products) with Croatian scientific and professional diaspora, through targeted financing of selected mutual scientific and technological projects of our scientists and experts from both homeland and diaspora. This way the UTK Fund contributes at the same time to reversing the “brain drain” process into the “brain gain”.

            From the beginning of its operation until now, the “Unity Though Knowledge Fund” has involved no less than 29 projects in its financing. The overall planned investment in projects launched so far amounts to EUR 2.5 million.

            Apart from the invitation for tenders under the “Young Scientists and Experts Program” the UTK Fund’s invitation for tenders is also in the process aimed at support to “Research in the Economy”, with a view to strengthening participation of young researchers from diaspora and the academic community in scientific-research and technologic-development activities of the Croatian economy. This support, apart from the companies’ co-financing, will provide for monthly gross wages of young scientists amounting to HRK 20,000 and the deadline for application is September 15, 2008. More information on the “Unity Through Knowledge Fund” is available at the official web site of the Fund http://www.ukf.hr  

Enhancing Competitiveness of Croatian Scientists


The “Unity Through Knowledge Fund” has a specific educational role as well: no scientist is permitted to apply twice for project financing.

What we are desiring to achieve is raising the competitiveness of Croatian scientists at international level and teaching them how to be granted funds in international invitations for tenders, emphasized Mr. Meštrić, pointing out that after financing of the projects by the UTK Fund each young Croatian scientist should be completely capable of applying in the invitation for tenders,  for instance, for the EU Seventh Framework Program, i.e. for withdrawal of financial funds from common international funds.


Selected Researchers and Development Projects


  • Mr. Fran Borovečki (University of Zagreb, Medical School) will research the Parkinson disease and the project should establish new directions for development of medicines by identifying the new markers and target mechanisms. Under this project the cooperation with the Portugal Molecular Medicine Institute is planned, and this would result in new European projects.
  • The Project of Mr. Kristian Horvath (Institute of Hydrometeorology) will address the assessment of wind potentials in Croatia and reducing the meteorological unreliabilities referring to wind energy. The goals of the project will be achieved by intensive application of the most recent numerical models and advanced measuring techniques, in cooperation with the leading researchers from Croatian diaspora, Europe and Croatia.
  • Mr. Igor Jerković (University of Split, Faculty of Chemical Technology) in cooperation with the University of Cagliari, Italy and the “Marko Marulić” Polytechnic from Knin, will study the botanical origin and nutrition features of monoflora honey types. This project promotes organic monoflora honey types as economically, ecologically and socially viable food, in particularly appropriate for production in ecologically clean areas and underdeveloped regions in Croatia.
  • At the “Ruđer Bošković” Institute in Zagreb Mr. Tin Klanjšček will develop the model for fish feeds optimalization. The model will provide for predicting the impact of the size and availability of the food in the environment, apart from its weight,  on the growth of fish. The project outcome should be establishing of the feeding scenario, providing for significant reducing of the necessary food, as well as transfer of knowledge and technology to Croatian fish breeders.
  • Ms Anita Kriško from the Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences will research whether the environment of an organism is recorded in the organism proteome (protein group) of a particular organism and whether the link between the proteome sequence and the environment can be recorded. The project will try to provide the response to the issue, whether the ecological  niche of an organism can be predicted from its mere proteome sequence and what characteristics it indicates with respect to the  living style of an organism, using the computer learning methods.
  • At the Faculty of Kinesiology of the University of Zagreb the project will be implemented, testing the impacts of the outer strain on motoric performance of various quick motions and discover the conditions in which the human musculatory system achieves maximum mechanic output. The project will be led by Mr. Goran Marković, in cooperation with Mr. Slobodan Jarić (University of Delaware), and the anticipated outcomes should contribute to efficient assessment of the human musculatory performances (as for instance power, impulse) through maximum motoric performance in simple quick motions.
  • The project of Ms Ivona Mladineo (Institute of Oceanography and Fishery in Split) is aimed at developing noninvasive tools for the bluefin tuna breeding, based on genetic microchip technology. These tools would discover the fluctuations in immunological genes in the early stage of stress impact on the cultured tuna; apart of development of new technologies the research will result in strengthening of cooperation between the tuna breeding and the scientists.
  • At the Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences the returnee from the United States of America, Ms Vanja Nagy, will study the impact of binding of one ubiquitin protein of neural growth factors on their biological function and neural cells. One of the project outcomes is also the preparing of the joint new European projects between the Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences in Split and the “Johann Wolfgang Goethe” University in Frankfurt.
  • The project of the returnee from Germany, Mr. Nils Paar (University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science), develops modern microscopic theories for numeric solution to the issue of abundance of subatomic particles in nuclear physics based on relativistic energy density functional. One of the aims of this project is establishing theoretical physics and astrophysics computer center.
  • Ms Petra Šimić (University of Zagreb, Medical School) will in the course of her research explain the anabolic impact of one bone morphogene protein on the bone, indicating the potential of osteoporosis cure. This project will develop the strategy for osteoporosis cure, as well as related bone fractures based on biology of this protein. The project outcome will present a basis for identification of commercial partners.
  • The project goal of Mr. Robert Vianella’s (Ruđer Bošković Institute) project is computer assisted anticipating of the structure of new extremely acid molecules, called the super acids. The catalytic activity of the new super acid will be examined in hydrocarbon reactions, which is an initial phase of their transformation from oil in significant and usable substances. Correspondingly, the goals of these projects, led by practical requirements and fundamental challenges, are essential in Croatian industry, with a view to providing access to new markets by introducing new, modern, expedient and cost efficient technologies.
  • The Tomislav Vuletić’s project (Institute of Physics) will address creation of DNA sensors, consisting of the basis, where the fully extended DNA molecule should be placed, which thus becomes fully available for interaction. This would provide for bypassing of some of the restrictions of the current DNA sensor concepts. One of the key steps in the proposed project is establishing of optical display for fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, based on 2-photon absorption, providing for precise measuring of concentration variations of the experimental and targeted DNA molecules.


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