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Silicon valleys for Slovakia?

SLOVAKIA may get its own Silicon Valley if the Education Ministry approves two university science park projects prepared by the Slovak University of Technology (STU). The STU projects, to be located in Bratislava and Trnava, are worth €42 million, with the university contributing €2 million to each and the rest being funded through the European Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund.

SLOVAKIA may get its own Silicon Valley if the Education Ministry approves two university science park projects prepared by the Slovak University of Technology (STU). The STU projects, to be located in Bratislava and Trnava, are worth €42 million, with the university contributing €2 million to each and the rest being funded through the European Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund.

“The establishment of the University Science Park will create better conditions for cutting-edge research, academic education and effective cooperation with the business community,” STU Rector Robert Redhammer said in a press release. “We expect that the implementation of those projects can have a direct positive impact on more than 10 thousand people.”

The STU was the first university to respond to a call made by the Education Ministry for the establishment of such science parks, while the objective is to create a place for technological innovations, advanced research and new innovative companies. The ministry expects the projects to be completed in 2015.

The University science Park STU Bratislava will have two regional centres. The first one, in Mlynská dolina, will be devoted to research in information and communication technology, electrotechnics, automation and control systems as well as nanoelectronics and photonics. The second centre, by Námestie slobody square, will focus on modern technology in relation to chemistry, industrial biotechnology, the environment as well as the safety and reliability of buildings. The project involves the reconstruction of some STU buildings and the re-establishment of several old laboratories, according to STU press release.

The park in Trnava will be dedicated to the research fields of material engineering, ion and plasma technology and the automation and computerisation of industrial processes.

Since the STU’s infrastructure in these locations was developed 10 years ago, the university decided to create the parks there instead of choosing a new location with all the buildings and laboratories housed together.

“The creation of the science parks in existing areas [of the STU], using the already existing scientific facilities, will help to [reach a] higher [level of] synergy than using the resources in the ‘green meadow’ [building something from scratch],” STU spokesperson Andrea Hajdúchová informed the The Slovak Spectator. “In this way, we will reach a greater social reward than if it was created at one location.”


Starting the business


The university has already seen tangible results from its efforts to focus on research and cooperate with the business community. The latest efforts involve the setting up of start-ups - newly created companies with low initial costs and high profit potential, as well as spin-off companies, which are new firms that branch off from already existing ones. However, the university desperately lacks investment, so with this move, the STU presented its specific demands to the Education Ministry, Redhammer said in a press release.

The creation of a new business incubator, a program that will specifically seek people with new and innovative ideas for the development of start-up and spin-off companies in the university environment, is also part of the projects, according to the press release. The STU has already been operating another business incubator for seven years, helping newly created firms by providing guidance and equipped offices for free. Later, when a business is able to run successfully, it may use those facilities under very favourable terms for a certain period of time, Hajdúchová explains.

“The STU has already helped set up several spin-off companies and thanks to the support of several young engineers in our University technological incubator, 39 new start-up companies have been created so far,” Hajdúchová stated.

With the new incubator, University science parks will contribute to the development of new areas in industry and enhance the competitiveness of the Slovak economy, according to the press release.

“For Slovakia, it is very important that young engineers start their own businesses, otherwise we will remain only a country of sub-companies,” Redhammer said, adding that an increase of companies based on innovative technology with high added value and low demands on raw materials as well as energy is also important for the country.


Education Ministry projects


The Education Ministry is interested in supporting these two STU projects as part of a comprehensive package of 11 projects of Slovak universities and the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV), the state scientific institution. These projects are related to the creation of university science parks and research centres across Slovakia, namely in Bratislava, Trnava and Nitra in western Slovakia, Žilina in the north and Košice in the eastern part of country. The deadline for all projects is January 15, 2013.

The current projects are the result of the first round of project proposal approval and evaluation, which ended in June 2012. The entire sum for all the projects, allocated from Operational programme Research and Development, is €373 million, Education Ministry spokesperson Michal Kaliňák told the The Slovak Spectator.

“The creation of scientific parks with the participation of universities contributes to the creation of material and personal critical mass in research and development, which permits dealing with top national projects,” Kaliňák said, adding that it will also support Slovakia’s participation in European and international cooperation.

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