Connecting top scientists, students, companies and public administration representatives. This is the recipe for a successful economic, energy and ecological transformation of the Moravian-Silesian Region and possibly other regions. The SMARAGD (SMARt And Green District)[AK1] strategic vision and its key project REFRESH are presented by VSB - Technical University of Ostrava (VSB-TUO) and the Moravian-Silesian Innovation Centre (MSIC), which are applying for support from the Operational Programme Equitable Transformation in the amount of CZK 3.1 billion. Thanks to this, the Moravian-Silesian Region will better cope with the transition from fossil fuels to green energy and will become one of the fastest growing regions in the Czech Republic.
“Our ambition is to bring new energy, new opportunities, experts, students, companies and technologies to the region that respond to current global challenges and ensure the sustainability of economic development. SMARAGD is built on the development of living labs. They connect all the above-mentioned segments, facilitate the emergence of many synergies and support the development of cooperation across the industrial and academic sectors,” explained Igor Ivan, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Cooperation at VSB-TUO.
Energy, new materials, automation and societal impacts
The REFRESH project, part of SMARAGD's vision, envisages the creation of four interconnected living laboratories as a basis for multilateral collaboration. They will respond to major societal challenges and address them in accordance with European, national and regional development strategies. “Simply put, everything will revolve around modern energy, new materials, robotics and automation, but also around the societal impacts that this transformation can bring. We are attracting top international and domestic experts, thus strengthening the quality of the City and the Region. By engaging the best scientists, building a unique infrastructure and emphasising international collaboration, VSB-TUO will become a centre of excellence in research. We also intend to place great emphasis on the transfer of research results into practice. Thanks to study programmes that respond to current challenges, we will obtain graduates who will be employable in technology companies or will directly establish technology companies,” added Ivan.
However, according to Ivan, SMARAGD's vision does not start from scratch. VSB-TUO is the only Czech university to have a joint workplace with the prestigious German research institution Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, and is the principal investigator of the National Centre for Energy, and the IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center is also part of VSB-TUO. The University has already attracted several world-class scientists, collaborates with nearly 500 companies per year and pursues the most significant international and national projects. All this will be further intensified by the SMARAGD vision and the REFRESH project.
Academics will increase connections with companies
The main role of the MSIC in fulfilling the SMARAGD vision will be to actively create functioning "bridges" between technology companies and the University. To do this, MSIC operates the T-Park, where companies with a need for long-term collaboration in science and research are concentrated, and gradually develop shared laboratories. “We see SMARAGD's greatest benefits in having a long-term shared vision with key players in the innovation ecosystem. The founders of technology companies and their core employees are most often graduates of a technical university. This is the rule of innovation ecosystems in all regions. At the same time, working together on this vision has allowed us to understand each other better. We have opened a number of new joint opportunities, some of which are already in the works,” said Pavel Csank, Chairman of the Board of MSIC. The T-PARK UPGRADE project is also part of the SMARAGD vision and it consists of the construction of six new buildings that will be part of the existing technology park operated by MSIC. By linking the University campus and the technology park area, a comprehensive urban zone will be created in which new technologies will be tested in real operations.
All key players will be involved
The SMARAGD vision is an open platform that envisages the involvement of all of the important players in the Moravian-Silesian Region. Partners include the University of Ostrava and a number of companies have also promised to participate. The Regional Standing Conference of the Moravian-Silesian Region selected a total of 13 representatives among the strategic projects. VSB-TUO is directly involved in four projects, the most important of which is REFRESH. “The Moravian-Silesian Region has the ambition to become a European centre for green energy, IT and material technologies. To successfully complete the region's transformation, we need to build an internationally competitive innovation ecosystem. The SMARAGD vision will be one of the tools that will help create such an innovation ecosystem. It will strengthen the Region's development and ensure its long-term prosperity. It will certainly slow down or even stop the outflow of young talent, reduce unemployment and strengthen the image of our Region as a Smart Region,” concluded Ivo Vondrák, Governor of the Moravian-Silesian Region.
Prof. Igor Ivan, Vice-Rector for Strategy and Cooperation, VSB-TUO
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Martina Šaradínová, PR Specialist for R&D
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