International R&D cooperation can be supported by different kinds of activities and governmental projects. However, in the daily life of the agency CzechInvest one type has lately become dominant: incoming missions to the Czech Republic.
At the agency, June 2017 could be easily renamed “the month of incoming R&D missions”, hosting various delegations and giving them a chance to get to know the potential of Czech science and innovation. CzechInvest welcomed this increased activity with open arms because incoming missions and scientific diplomacy are recognized as very powerful tools that can open doors to international cooperation in general. Looking back, it is safe to say that this experience met the expectations.
Mission of Colombian universities
The largest visit carried out in June came from Colombia. Nine representatives of Colombian universities, the Association of Colombian Universities (ASCUN) and its business network (REUNE) visited the Czech Republic with the goal to explore the Czech research, innovation and business environment. The overall objective of the mission was to strengthen the Czech-Colombian R&D cooperation, including increased mobility and joint research projects. The visit was prepared by CzechInvest and ASCUN as a continuation of the Czech mission to Colombia in April 2016, when the first contact with the Colombian association was established.
Colombian delegates with CzechInvest representatives
To meet the needs of the delegation, CzechInvest put together a five-day program in Prague, Central Bohemia and Brno that included visits to innovation institutions and startup centers, and research and university centers. The first two categories included the South Moravian Innovation Center, Central Bohemian Innovation Center, STAR Cluster, StartupYard, YSoft Ventures and Technology Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Among the visited research and university centers were then HiLase (New lasers for industry and research), BIOCEV (Biotechnology and Biomedicine Center of the Academy of Sciences and Charles University in Vestec), CEITEC (Central European Institute of Technology), Centre for Technology Transfer at Masaryk University, and IOCB (Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS).
Meeting at the Central Bohemian Innovation Centre (SIC)
The Colombian incoming mission started by a meeting with the Czech Rectors Conference (CRC) including several Czech universities, on the premises of the historical buildings of Charles University. The relationship between CRC and ASCUN could serve as a key bridge for research between the two countries as the information flow can be coordinated much easier through a central national point. Apart from the expected continuous negotiations of the two associations, several direct links between universities were facilitated during the mission especially in the fields of nanotechnologies and life sciences. Best practices in the support for innovation are also shared between the countries and we can anticipate cooperation in the area of startups and entrepreneurship. The wider framework of cooperation can furthermore be supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic, which runs the program for international cooperation called Delta.
Meeting with the Czech Rectors Conference
A lot of work still needs to be done. But overall the Colombian mission illustrates the benefits of long-term sustained support for specific cases of bilateral cooperation as opposed to more scattered and one-time international activities which sometimes lack the necessary level of trust. This way, ASCUN will undoubtedly serve as a key partner in the long-term future of Czech-Colombian cooperation.
Two visits from USA
Alongside the Colombian visit, incoming missions were also the topic of the month for Czech-US R&D relations. Two representatives of the National Science Foundation visited the Czech Republic for four days to learn about the R&D environment in the country, namely in the cities of Prague, Brno and Olomouc. CzechInvest prepared an intensive program filled with visits to the main governmental bodies in the R&D system and the most prestigious research centers spanning across different priority sectors of the Czech Republic. Another visit from USA came just a week afterwards from the organization Securing America’s Future Energy. Its CEO was mostly interested in the Czech approach to autonomous mobility, electric vehicles and energy storage systems, all of which are crucial for lowering the dependency on oil supplies. Overall these visits strengthened bilateral relationships between both countries and showed that there are lots of common interests on today’s most pressing issues.
The great potential of incoming missions
Incoming missions can be considered without any doubt a very powerful tool for international R&D relations. Scientific diplomacy can furthermore be understood as a significant complement to economic diplomacy that allows to present the most prestigious and perspective segments of the economy. CzechInvest will try to capitalize on this opportunity in the future and provide its expertize for matching potential partners for each mission of this type. A picture is worth a thousand words and seeing your R&D partners and what they can do in person is simply invaluable.
Authors: Eva Bartoňová and Roman Pašek