29. Aug. 2023

Twelve years ago, Halina Jilkova started to gather her first experiences within the South Moravian innovation ecosystem at JIC, a public innovation agency. Her path led from the back office through project management to direct communication with people from companies, universities, the public sector and foreign experts. She fell in love with this part of her job and she says that communication is a significant trait of her professional path. Since the beginning of September, she has been in charge of communication at CEITEC Masaryk University.

Halina, you love talking about the local innovation ecosystem. What is it and what is CEITEC’s role in it? 

Innovation ecosystems are a feature of developed economies and contribute significantly to the development of a place. For me personally, it is a living organism, a system of relationships across various sectors that work symbiotically to increase the economic level and reputation of the place in which it operates. This feature is attractive to foreign talents and investors – and our region needs both.
The South Moravian innovation ecosystem, which we call #brnoregion, includes technology and innovation companies, universities, research centres, the public sector and, of course, people who work, do research or study in these companies and institutions. CEITEC is one piece of this ecosystem puzzle – as a research centre, it collaborates with other institutes, shares research facilities, connects with companies, interacts with organisations that care for expats, so its role in the innovation ecosystem has its place.

What was your path to the position of communication lead at CEITEC MUNI? After all, you were in a different role at JIC.

My position at CEITEC MUNI is, I would say, the culmination of what I was doing at JIC, where I held the position of "partnership manager". I started at JIC years ago as a back-office girl, but I gradually raised the bar until I found myself in the front line and I discovered that it gives me immense pleasure to communicate with people. I enjoy listening to people, connecting them to (each) other(s) and supporting them in what they do.
And above all, I enjoy grasping at opportunities that come my way. The adventure of never knowing in advance what your extra effort will bring and where it will take you is my driving force. There have been only minimal instances where nothing has come of it, but in most cases, not being lazy and seizing the opportunity has led to an interesting meeting, help from a foreign expert, an invitation to a conference, or "just" to a long-term collaboration or friendship.

Sounds like the kind of job you wouldn’t want to quit…

The strategy of my team at JIC has always been adjusted to specific developments in the region or innovation ecosystem. Due to external circumstances, the strategy has changed in recent months and for me, this change would mean a step backward, which I can no longer afford at my age. :-D The previous communication lead of CEITEC MUNI, with whom I have been friends for a long time thanks to our collaboration, called me the day after I posted on LinkedIn that I was looking for a job and literally forced me to apply for the vacancy (thanks, Ester!). I'm very glad for that, though, because Masaryk University is my beloved alma mater and the scientific environment is close to my heart. Moreover, I had references from all sides that there are great people at CEITEC MUNI, so there was nothing to worry about!

How are you going to use your experience from JIC in your new position?

With the Innovation Ecosystem Marketing team at JIC, we worked on both the marketing communication of the region abroad and its reputation. Because you can't develop a brand of a place or an institution by patting yourself on the back and bragging about how great you are. What makes a good name is long-term cooperation with other ecosystem actors and international partners, mutual support, respect and, of course, excellence in its own performance.
CEITEC MUNI does not operate in a vacuum. CEITEC as such is, as mentioned above, a part of the innovation ecosystem, and I intend to take advantage of this in my work. The brand of a technology region is always an added value that allows the communication of science to be spiced up and attract the attention of target groups such as foreign scientists and PhD students. I also believe that the brand of the region can be used to communicate the publication activities of scientists.

Speaking of scientists, they are often stereotyped as enthusiasts absorbed in research in their laboratories. How important is it that the outside world knows what's going on in those labs?

A lot. I can list several reasons why it is important to communicate science. If only I had to start with the most "down-to earth" reason, namely finance. No one will give you money for research unless they are sure that the money is in good hands (that's the reputation), that it is worth it, that it is not dangerous but on the contrary useful, that it can be eventually monetized, etc. It is extremely important for scientists to stand out and be seen – whether through the number of publications, outstanding results, recognition by senior colleagues, or passing on knowledge to the next generation... all of this is linked to communication, which reinforces the reputation I mentioned at the beginning.
I am here to make this part of their job easier for them: by opening closed doors, supporting their communication, or advising them where they can find data and materials for their self-presentation. On the other hand, I assume that the scientists themselves will also guide me and help me use resources and information in a way so my work is useful to them. Simply put, I expect them to communicate with me.

It can be seen from the above that you probably won't just write articles for the website and press releases.

That's right. I believe I will be able to incorporate my experience of working with the brand into my new role. CEITEC MUNI, like any institution of this type, is striving to strengthen its reputation in the international scientific community. This is a big challenge... and a long-distance run, and frankly, no image has been created overnight. Moreover, taking care of a brand is never a one-man show, which is beautifully illustrated by the CEITEC logo, which contains a reference to six institutes pulling together. Even CEITEC MUNI needs a lot of partners and supporters to reinforce its reputation. And I'm definitely volunteering!

What else would you tell us about yourself in conclusion?

I have a master’s degree in History and German Studies from Masaryk University and I spent some time studying in Austria. After school, I worked as an interpreter-translator in the banking sector and after parental leave, I joined JIC where I have held three positions in twelve years – in the field of marketing, project management and "partnership management". Along the way, I gained experience in copywriting and text editing, project rules and communicating with different types of people. 
Apart from German, I can also speak English and recently I started to learn French for fun. Foreign languages are my favourite working tool and if a cup of good coffee and nice people are involved, I don't need anything else to live. I am also a great lover of the Czech language, books, mountains and sports. I have two children – high school students, and a soft spot for Brno.