EU funds pushing Croatian science past 1% of GDP watermark

In terms of contracting of funds from the European Structural Funds, last year was historic for the Croatian science, says State Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Education (MZO) Tome Antičić. This "renaissance of Croatian science with EU funds" will be in full swing this year and in the near future.
Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak
 Marko Todorov / HANZA MEDIA

- Last year, EUR 50 million was contracted for science centers of excellence, some EUR 130 million for capital infrastructure in science, and there is additional EUR 40 million for CALT and HR-ZOO projects - notes Tome Antičić.

- The practical realization of those projects will start this year due to the public procurement procedure. In 2019, the investments in science are expected to exceed 1% of GDP for the first time in a long while. Last year's allocation for science amounted to about 0.8 percent of GDP.

Optimistic Announcements

With optimism, the State Secretary announces major infrastructure projects to receive formal signature this year.

- The O-ZIP project, worth about EUR 72 million, will lead to the restructuring of the Ruđer Bošković Institute, both physically and in terms of management - he said.- Effectively, we will get 'Institute 2.0', which will be a great step forward for the Croatian science and the economy. The O-ZIP will begin at the end of this year or early next year, and will last until 2023. The signature under the Srebrnjak Children's Hospital project is also expected. Works on the EUR 50 million project will start this year.

The MZO expects a decision about the EUR 35 million ACROSS robotics center project with great hopes, too. It could employ 50 young engineers. ACROSS is the first Croatian project that has passed through Phase 1 of the Teaming Action of the Horizon 2020 European Union Framework Program. It is a joint project of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER) in Zagreb, the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) of Stockholm, and the Innovation Center Nikola Tesla (ICENT).

- The project is led by prof. Ivan Petrović of the FER - explains Antičić. - The center will be a blend of science, engineering and economics in robotics and artificial intelligence. Phase 1, in which ACROSS was marked as one of the top five projects among the 208 that had applied, was extremely competitive. If the project passes, the ACROSS Center will be located at the Velesajam Trade Fair grounds.

Antičić also commented that the MZO was financing repairs and upgrading of equipment for the first time. - The tradition in the Croatian academic community is for the expensive equipment to be used only by individuals or their laboratories - he said. - Such a practice does not exist in the more advanced countries and we have to change it. The equipment must be available to the entire scientific community.

Šestar online system

He says that the MZO has taken a series of initiatives concerning the more efficient use of scientific equipment. - Firstly, it is recommended that the equipment be registered in the Šestar online system, where basic information can then be found, including the contact person and instructions on how the equipment   can used by other institutions - explains Antičić. - Furthermore, we financed an equipment upgrade for the first time, at the end of last year. This can happen only if the equipment is registered on Šestar, if it has been proved to be open to other institutions, that international scientists have been involved, and that it has been used in international projects.

More than 100 projects have applied at the tender invitation for repair, upgrading and maintenance of equipment.

- The total amount was HRK 1.6 million and 16 projects were selected to have their equipment upgraded - said Antičić. - We will publish a new invitation in the next few months. We will try to increase these funds further, too. This is an example where small investments can have a positive impact on the Croatian science.

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02. ožujak 2021 16:06