Final conference of the Croatian-Swiss Research Programme

The closing conference of the Croatian-Swiss Research Programme 2017-2023 (CSRP) took place on Thursday, 19 October at the Zagreb Innovation Centre ZICER. The Programme, funded through the Swiss-Croatian Cooperation Programme, saw 11 joint research projects of Croatian and Swiss scientists funded in the period between 2019 and 2023.

Conference participants were first greeted by representatives of all bodies involved in the implementation of the Programme – Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation to Croatia His Excellency Mr Urs Hammer, on behalf of the National Coordination Unit for the Swiss-Croatian Cooperation Programme (Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds) Ms Iva Novak, Head of Directorate for Strategic Planning and Coordination of funds, Ms Amalija Babić, Head of Sector for Scientific System and Technological Development at the Ministry of Science and Education and Prof Ozren Polašek, Director of the Croatian Science Foundation.

The keynote lecture was held by Professor Marcel Tanner, current President of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, who talked about the benefits of international research collaboration and how it can help to reduce social and economic disparities. His presentation abounded in examples of projects implemented in Africa by his home institution Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

This was followed by a panel discussion on the topic of future challenges of the research landscape in Croatia. The panellists included Ms Eveline Wandl-Vogt from the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft Center for Open Innovation in Science, Dr David Matthew Smith, Head of Ruđer Bošković Institute, Prof Stjepan Bogdan, Vice-Dean of Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing and Dr Leo Mršić, Vice-Dean of Algebra University and Member of National Council for Higher Education, Science and Technological Development. The topics discussed by the panellists included the relevance and reputation of Croatian research institutions at the European and international level and the potential of Croatian researchers to join international research consortia, the ability of Croatian institutions to attract (and retain) foreign researchers, the relationship between basic and applied research, the relevance of social sciences and humanities in relation to STEM and the role of the Croatian Science Foundation in the national system.

After the lunch break, Prof. em. André Strasser, member of the CSRP’s Steering Committee, presented the results and impact of the Programme, which included the collaboration of seven Croatian and seven Swiss institutions, more than 90 published papers, more than 20 young researchers employed in both Croatia and Switzerland, numerous awards and knowledge transfers. The Programme also benefited HRZZ staff through several training workshops and knowledge exchanges with SNSF staff. Prof. Strasser’s talk was followed by testimonials of two Principal Investigators – Prof. Margareta Jelić (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb) and Prof. Karen Scrivener (EPFL), who shared their experiences and impressions of the Programme. After this, we heard a presentation of another programme implemented within the Swiss-Croatian Croatian Programme – the EUROSTARS Programme. The presentation was held by Ms Iva Špoljar Šarić from the Croatian Agency for SMEs, Innovation and Investments (HAMAG-BICRO). After this, participants were able to learn more about the results of all 11 CSRP projects and 2 EUROSTARS projects which were presented in the form of posters.  

In the final part of the programme, Prof. Olivier Küttel (formerly EPFL) presented the new model of academic advancement – tenure track – which had been introduced at EPFL and many other institutions decades ago, discussing the potential and limitations for its introduction into the Croatian system. This was followed by a presentation by colleagues from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), who introduced programmes to be implemented through the Second Swiss Contribution to selected EU Member States for reducing economic and social disparities. SNSF and HRZZ, together with research funding organizations from Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania will jointly implement the Multilateral Call for Joint Research Projects (MCJRP), which will support collaboration of research teams from at least three countries referred to above. This Call is expected to be published at the end of this year or in early 2024. The conference was wrapped up by a representative of the donor for the Swiss-Croatian Cooperation Programme – Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Ms Nathalie Barbancho-Bozzini, who labelled both the conference and the CSRP programme a major success.

The conference was attended by around 80 participants – apart from team members of CSRP projects (Croatian and Swiss PIs, young researchers), we hosted heads of several Croatian research organizations, other scientists, representatives of state bodies and agencies as well as entrepreneurs. The Croatian Science Foundation would like to thank all participants for attending and we are looking forward to hosting similar events in the future.