30. Apr. 2019

An EU venture is helping to upgrade a Czech university and the association of organisations in which it is a key participant.

Founded in 1919 in Brno in the Czech Republic, Masaryk University is one of the most respected higher education institutions in Central Europe. It is also a prominent founder member of the Central European Institute of Technology CEITEC, a scientific centre for life sciences, advanced materials and technologies. This centre is at the forefront of development thanks to EU-funding.

“The CEITEC_ERA project aims to transform the University and CEITEC through the recruitment of a key research leader to fill the European Research Area (ERA) chair and through the establishment of a research group,” explains Roman Badik, project coordinator. These activities aim to help increase CEITEC's international scientific profile.

Inspiring positive change – the ERA Chair

“The recruitment of the new group leader, Professor Mary O´Connell, was completed in 2014 as a result of an open selection procedure,” confirms Badik. Prof. O´Connell has started to organise principal investigator meetings with a focus on cross-disciplinary areas for all group leaders at CEITEC. Initially, these meetings were not well-attended nor able to attract a greater audience. However, Prof. O’Connell’s initiative has been instrumental in ensuring that leading scientists have been rewarded for their lectures.

“The ERA Chair project has also helped with increasing the visibility of CEITEC and Masaryk University,” adds Badik. One way the chair was able to do this was through three international conferences that took place in Brno between 2016 and 2018. These conferences brought together over 100 researchers and more than 16 invited speakers. In addition, Prof. O’Connell hosted and invited several speakers to a series of International Mendel lectures and events where the primary focus was on strengthening links with industries and other stakeholders. Also, grant support has increased the number of successful H2020 projects.

A spotlight on other achievements

At the beginning of 2019, CEITEC was awarded the logo of HR Excellence in Research. This combined with the regular events that develop scientific vision and talent, helped to create a more open and dynamic scientific environment.

The regular event, Grants Week, together with the regular grant preparation sessions for newly recruited researchers and trainings of grant managers increased the percentage of successful H2020 projects. They also improved the visibility of Masaryk University and CEITEC as a scientific institute. In addition to this, “Grants Week has started to provide information about H2020 and national grant possibilities with an engagement of Masaryk University’s senior researchers, representatives of the selected national grant programmes and special trainings lectured by foreign speakers,” reports Badik.

Adding to the project’s achievements, Badik notes: “There is now a weekly department seminar series for postdocs and graduate students to present their work and another one for principal investigators”. The series of internal seminars aim to increase internal communication and collaboration. Prof. O’Connell also became a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO). She represents the first woman in the Czech Republic to become an EMBO member as well as the first member from Masaryk University. The project has helped CEITEC improve its potential and shift the culture of the scientific community at Masaryk University.

Source: CORDIS