The declaration of independence in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue (Credit: Wikipedia 25)
Back To The Past
Do you know that last year, 2018, was a special year in the hearts of many Czech people? It is the 100th year anniversary of the independence of the Czechoslovak Republic.
Longing to govern themselves, both Czechs and Slovaks joined hand-in-hand, and fought for liberation from the soon-dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, one of the many monumental events marking the end of World War I. The declaration of independence in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue in Prague on 28th October, 1918 symbolized the Czechoslovakia's formation.
Though nowadays some people may abandon the notion that independence is something worthy of celebration, as the Czech Republic and Slovakia have gone their own way since 1993. It ought not to be forgotten that the close brotherhood of Czechs and Slovaks, both then and now, has deeply impacted in shaping the Czech Republic into how it is now.
While the modern Czech Republic might be young; the history runs deep on the Czech land- the land which nurtures so many brilliant minds and gifted the world with many contributions: music, literature, and science.
Science, what binds us together as CEITEC in Brno
From then to now, Czech scientists have constantly flourished in their fields that influence everyday lives around the world.
As a Czech scientific consortium, we believe the year 2019 is a perfect juncture to walk with you down memory lane of Czech research and development. Above all, we want to make you aware of what CEITEC is executing now, and what the future holds for Czech science.
The Glorious Past
Despite the historical hardships experienced by this land, Czech scientists from the past still managed to overcome obstacles and contribute to the world their excellent minds and ideas.
However, science cannot progress if we only dwell on the fruitful past- What are Czech scientists doing right now to carry on the legacy of the past? Over the past decades, the Czech government has consistently increased the amount of GDP invested in research, development, and innovations over the past years - from 38.1 billion CZK in 2005 to 80.1 billion CZK in 2016, a two-fold increase 9.
Being the land which produces more than 20 thousand graduates in the fields of technology annually, a huge amount of the annual budgets, through the European Structural and Investment Funds were spent on establishing and supporting more than 40 research centers all over the country, some of the most prominent ones are ELI, BIOCEV, and CEITEC (that’s us!) 10.
In 2011, CEITEC was introduced to the Czech-science-map. CEITEC acts to be a merger of the life sciences, advanced materials, and nanotechnology; which brings the eminent brains of these three spheres under the same umbrella.
|CEITEC is a consortium of 6 partners (Source: CEITEC website)|
In 2014, the European Commission had implemented an ambitious, nearly 80 million euro R&I funding program- the Horizon 2020, concentrating on European science research targeting issues such as climate change, healthcare system, clean transport, green energy, and food safety 11.
We are proud to say that over the years, scientists from CEITEC have remarkable achievements that aid the Czech Republic’s contribution towards the Horizon 2020 program.
Examples include the PETER project, a FET-OPEN grant, where CEITEC is the coordinator, delving in the innovations of electron paramagnetic resonance; or, BISON project, bringing together structural biology and life sciences, connecting CEITEC with other prominent European institutes.
On the other hand, enriching the field of material sciences, CEITEC scientists developed unique robotic laser beam scanner 12 and degradable hydrogel 13, both of which are proven applicable for plastic surgeries. CEITEC scientists also demonstrated how the sacbrood honeybee virus infects cells 14.
Impressively, many projects of CEITEC scientists have been selected and funded by the European Research Council (ERC) 15, a core component of Horizon 2020 which encourage top quality, frontier research through competitive funding. A handful of researchers from CEITEC (Richard Štefl, Marek Mráz, Pavel Plevka, Vojtěch Adam, Petr Neugebauer, and Jan Macák) spanning from the field of biomedicine, structural biology to material sciences have achieved their crowning glories.
Into The Future
As you can see, with the support of both the Czech government and the EU, and the globalization of scientific knowledge, the scene of Czech research and innovation is doing better than ever. Nonetheless, successes are for those who are prepared.
So, what do the EU, the Czech Republic,
and CEITEC have planned for the future of science?
As Horizon 2020 16 is coming to an end, the European Commission is already constructing a succeeding program - named Horizon Europe. Launching in 2021, the budget of Horizon Europe reaches about 100 billion euro, making it the highest invested research and innovation program worldwide.
Horizon Europe is formulated with 3 purposes in mind. First and foremost, the European Commission hopes to support small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or scientists with market-innovative ideas (e.g., biotechnology or software development).
Take some nanomaterials companies as examples 17, by translating academic knowledge obtained in the laboratories into marketable products, nanotechnology can facilitate the development of innovative solutions in various fields like coatings, glass, and electronic materials, thus making an impact in society. Most importantly, promoting private investments can not only give back to the often costly scientific research but also provide training and career opportunities for scientists.
Modeled on the success of the ERC, the European Innovation Council (EIC) will be established as a part of the Horizon Europe program, to fund, network and coach innovators with bold and intriguing ideas 18. It is hoped that EIC can heighten the EU’s industrial competitiveness in the global market 19.
Being the land that nurtures scientific breakthroughs in spheres such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, the Czech Republic is and will remain a popular destination for R&D investments.
In fact, several major companies, such as GE Aviation, Honeywell, and Thermo Fisher have already found their feet in the Czech land.
Being a life and material sciences institution, CEITEC can provide talented minds and resources to aid SMEs in bringing scientific concepts into impactful businesses. CEITEC has already done that in the form of NenoVision and AtomTrace, the first spin-offs from CEITEC.
The second pillar of Horizon Europe is the launching of moonshot missions. A moonshot mission is a large-scale and ambitious, long-term exploratory research projects without the necessity for short-term goals or benefits. In other words, moonshot missions aim at searching far-to-reach solutions to global problems that affect daily lives, without expectable successes in mind.
Right now, the European Commission has already suggested some themes for future moonshot missions, such as “health”, “climate, energy and mobility” and “food and natural resources”, it is hoped that these missions will not only tackle global challenges but also draw awareness to research funded by EU 20.
Not to be left behind, the Czech Republic has set up its national priorities of research and development well into the year 2030, with more than 20 subareas: “sustainable energetics”, “global changes”, “therapeutic methods invention;” just to name a few 21. With cutting-edge equipment, and more than 50 preeminent research groups in fields such as nature-inspired materials and nanotechnologies, biomedicine, and sustainable agriculture, CEITEC is already set up to accompany the Czech Republic in the participation of Horizon Europe’s missions for the future 22.
Science in Society
Over the past decades, the world has entered a “Post-Truth” era where skepticism over science is elevating at a worrying rate 23. The complex and cautious nature of research often fails to answer scientific questions from the general public in a simple and absolute manner. Therefore, making science accessible to the public is a must. Specifically, research papers should not only be easy to search but also free of charge, as scientific knowledge should be a public asset 24.
Credible media channels can help communicate science to the general public (Credit: Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash)
Besides accessibility, the often technical language used in research papers can also confuse readers and fail to ignite their interests.
Making scientific language more focused
will not only benefit general readers but
also promote understanding and possible collaboration
between scientists from different fields.
In fact, this magazine, CEITEC Connect, is given life with one the aims of connecting the public with our scientists here in CEITEC. We hope that through this magazine, interested readers like yourself can have fun (very important!) getting to know; how, why, and what we do?
Let's Build the Future Together
From alchemists trying to turn rocks to gold in hidden laboratories underneath Prague, to being the home of over 50 Institutes of the Academy of Science, and taking part in the upcoming grand plan for the whole Europe, the Czech Republic has evolved tremendously in the field of science.
But that does not mean we can afford to slow down. With contents of science development coming from around the world, now more than ever research and development ought to be placed on the front line of the national focus.
|Together we can build a better future through science (Credit: Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash)|
In the midst of all the directions, the science field can take, basic research should remain the foundational priority. Although the process is slow and difficult, only through relentless basic research can elemental scientific knowledge comes into the light, posing as the springboard for all that is built upon it.
Bridging both basic and applied scientific research, we are confident that CEITEC can be a significant contributor to not only the Czech Republic but also the whole of Europe in research and development. In doing so, we hope to carry on the legacies of the Czech researchers in the past and contribute to the world through unearthing future scientific advances.
Planned by Somsuvro Basu and Sophia Man
Written by Sophia Man
Reviewed by Markus Dettenhofer and Jaroslav Koča
Edited by Somsuvro Basu
Infographic by Dominik Tomčík
Publication date: 29.03.2019