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Conference "Unity through knowledge -working together to strengthen Croatia’s competitiveness“
Conference "Unity through knowledge -working together to strengthen Croatia’s competitiveness“ where the „Unity through knowledge“ Fund results were presented was held in the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports on May 3, 2011. Radovan Fuchs, PhD, Minister of Science, Education and Sports and Mr. Hongjoo J. Hahm, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia opened the reception of the conference.

In his introductory speech, Radovan Fuchs, PhD, Minister of Science, Education and Sportspointed out that the ultimate goal of the Government is to raise Croatia's competitiveness on a global level which can be achieved only by systematic management and integration of education policy, scientific research and innovations. „With this intention, the Government has initiated changes which will ensure better conformity of Republic of Croatia legal framework of science and higher education system with the EU legal framework. By applying three new Laws – about the University, higher education and scientific system – full integration of scientific and higher education system of Croatia into European scientific and higher education arena will be facilitated and international competitiveness and more active collaboration of those two sectors with industry will be initiated, all of which will eventually contribute to the development and welfare of Croatian society as a whole and helping Croatia be recognized as a competitive economy“, said the Minister.

Mr. Hongjoo J. Hahm, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia added „By systematic long-term investment into research and development we can achieve significant results. One percentage of BDP of Croatia invested in research and development three times which leads us to conclusion that the key of a successful economy is the collaboration among public, business and science sectors.

The results of the „Unity through knowledge” Fund  which was established by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and which operates within the Science and Technology Project, were further presented by Professor Mile Dželalija Ph.D. president of the UKF Steering Committee of the Fund and Alessia Pozzi, the manager of the Fund who said „by performing the activities of the Fund and implementing the projects big efforts were made in establishing and enhancing the collaboration among local, foreign and Croatian scientists working abroad, which brought new knowledge and technologies to Croatia, a prerequisite for being internationally competitive“.

From its establishment until March 2011, the Fund financed 80 scientific and technological projects, 30 of which are currently in progress. The projects financed within the Fund realized great success among the applications for call for proposals in the FP7 program for research and technological development – success thereof is in the 30% range, comparing to 15 % success at the national level, which confirmed prof Mile Dželalija. The Fund invested 28,7 mil HRK in the acceptance of 28 projects only, and an additional 51.3 million HRK was extracted from the FP7 program entitled to Croatian partners, which shows that the whole investment in Funds projects was indirectly paid out with only 28 projects finished.

A total of 57 mil HRK has been invested in the activities of the Fund. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, acting as holder of the project, ensured nearly 39 mil HRK, i.e. 68% of the total necessary value for the implementation of the project, while the remaining funds have been ensured by international scientific- research institutions, the private sector and Croatian public scientific-research institutions.

515 scientists (362 Croatian and 153 international scientists) were included in the Fund's projects  and while talking about the projects, the projects leaders and co-leaders emphasized that the programs contributed to the transfer of knowledge andthe development of careers of young researchers, who willonce in the future take leading roles in the Croatian and international scientific community as well as in the economy.In particular this contribution to the development of humancapital is among the most significant accomplishments ofthe program implemented within the Fund.

Almost 20 mil HRK, i.e.56% of the total investment funds was invested into industry oriented projects with which the brace of science and commerce is strengthened. This fact contributes to reaching the Lisbonand Europe 2020 strategy goals, which instruct increasing investments into research and development to 3 percent of BDP, out of which two thirds should come from the industry sector.

In the second part of the conference esteemed representatives of the scientific community and industry discussed strengthening the economy and scientific community cooperation as an important prerequisite to increasing innovation and accordingly raising of Croatian economy competitiveness. Participants of the panel discussion were Professor Stjepan Car Ph.D. (CEO of Končar – Electrotechnical Institute d.d., Zagreb), ProfessorBlaženka Divjak Ph.D.(vice rector for students and study programs), Danica Ramljak,  Ph.D.(General Director of the Ruđer Bošković Institute, Zagreb), Hrvoje Meštrić Ph.D. (director of Directorate for Science, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports),  Radan Spaventi Ph.D. (Senior Vice President of the Galapagos Ltd.).

As highlighted in the last session, some points were also the main conclusions of the conference. Spending funds on the research and development should be regarded as an investmentand not a cost; the Unity through knowledge Fund should continue with its activities, and finally, nowadays, when economy development is highlydependant on knowledge, developed infrastructure, high technology and innovations, close collaboration of scientific community and economy striving together towards more competitive Croatia is essential.
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