Predrag sustar.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ/ lsd

The European project for the strengthening of research capacity in theoretical physics RBI-T-WINNING, which is financed with close to one million euros from the HORIZON 2020 programme, will boost the research capacity of the Division of Theoretical Physics at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute (IRB) in Zagreb, it was said at a presentation of the project at Croatia's leading research institute in the field of natural sciences on Friday.

The project was launched at the beginning of this month.

IRB director Tome Anticic said that the IRB had focused on competitive projects that were financed with funds from the HORIZON 2020 programme, which, he said, "is a major change compared to the standard model and trends in Croatia that were stuck in the 19th century, with some even wishing to go back a few centuries more into the past."

The head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Branko Baricevic, said that the problem of unemployment, especially among young people, was caused by a drop in growth and that it burdened not only Croatia but entire Europe which "has found itself in an unusual situation, having exhausted raw materials, but with... the most educated people in the world and the best institutions, notably research institutions."

Baricevic noted that this was not enough because networking and funds were needed, which he said was the reason for launching HORIZON 2020, worth EUR 80 billion.

Unlike structural funds, this programme is open to all and whoever is better will take more money from it, he said.

He said that it was great news that the IRB had obtained funding for the latest project as well as for other similar projects.

Science, Education and Sport Minister Predrag Sustar said that one of the important objectives of HORIZON 2020 was to reduce the discrepancy between research and innovation and that there was a lot of room for development in that segment.

The head of the IRB Division of Theoretical Physics, Zeljko Crljen, and project leader Fabrizio Nesti, one of the first foreign researchers to have been hired by the IRB after Croatia's accession to the EU, agreed that theoretical physics could help the economic sector a lot.

However, few students opt for theoretical physics, the research done is insufficient and lacks continuity, and the competitiveness of Croatian theoretical physicists is undermined by increasingly small financial support for their work, said Crljen.

He noted that his division employed only 16 scientists who were involved in as many as seven competitive three-year projects worth EUR 1.3 million and HRK 3.4 million in total.

Crljen was confident that thanks to European funds, the division would finally be able to strengthen its research capacity, which would increase researchers' competitiveness internationally and result in their stronger involvement in current research trends and facilitate their application for research projects financed by EU funds, as well as strengthen the potential for the transfer of know-how to the economic sector.

Nesti said that in implementing the project IRB researchers would collaborate with researchers from the International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Italy, Laboratoire de Physique Theorique d'Orsay (LPT) of CNRS/Université Paris Sud in France, the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) in Germany and the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark.

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