Friday, 24 April 2020

IRB: Genetic Sequence of the COVID-19 Virus Genome Determined

ZAGREB, April 24, 2020 - An interdisciplinary team of Croatian scientists has determined the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus genome, which will make it possible to determine the source of the infection in Croatia and track it as well as contribute to global efforts to curb the pandemic.

The Zagreb-based Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) said in a statement that this was a joint success of its researchers and those working at the Rijeka School of Medicine and the Teaching Institute for Public Health.

The success confirms that Croatia has both the technical and human resources that place it along other countries contributing to the understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The first detailed analysis of the virus genome was done at the IRB Laboratory for Advanced Genomics, led by Oliver Vugrek.

Participating in the project were also Igor Jurak of the Rijeka University Department for Biotechnology and Tomislav Rukavina and Neven Sučić of the Rijeka School of Medicine and Teaching Institute for Public Health.

Their results have helped develop an own protocol for the analysis of the COVID-19 disease, which could be applied broadly in the analysis of other viruses too, the IRB said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Nikola Tesla Experience Centre Project Presented in Karlovac

ZAGREB, April 21, 2020 - Karlovac County authorities on Tuesday presented the Nikola Tesla Experience Centre, which is being built by the Karlovac High School, on the occasion of World Creativity and Innovation Day.

Damir Pintarić, director of the AB construction company in charge of the project, said that the centre has a gross area of 750 square metres.

The contractor is currently building partition walls and will soon start installation works and work on the roof and facade.

Pintarić said that in the current situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the company had to reduce the number of workers and introduce anti-epidemic measures.

Deputy county head Martina Furdek Hajdin expressed hope that the new centre would be a place where young people would find the inspiration to be innovative and creative, the more so as Tesla attended the Karlovac High School.

The project is worth HRK 15 million and its first stage will be completed by September.

Furdek Hajdin said that money for the completion of the project was expected to come from the EU's next financial perspective.

The county has secured HRK 9.6 million for the project, including one million from the Ministry of Culture.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Željko Reiner Elected as Fellow of American Heart Association

ZAGREB, March 22, 2020 - Željko Reiner has been elected as a Fellow of the American Heart Association (AHA), the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) has said.

Reiner has been elected as a Fellow of AHA for his excellence, innovation and many years of contribution to science, practice and education in the field of cardiology, as well as his leadership in the field of preventive cardiology.

Founded 96 years ago, since 1950 the AHA has been publishing the most renowned cardiology scientific journal in the world, "Circulation", which called Reiner the pioneer of preventive cardiology a few years ago.

Reiner is now a member of the second most significant cardiology institution in the US, but also in the world.

In 2010 he was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), which publishes the "Journal of the American College of Cardiology," the world's most widely read scientific journal in the field of cardiovascular diseases. Reiner has been a member of the journal's editorial board for many years.

As a member of HAZU, the Croatian Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Reiner became the only Croatian scientist and expert who is a fellow of all six renowned institutions.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

European Space Agency Counting on Croatia

ZAGREB, March 7, 2020 - The European Space Agency (ESA) is counting on Croatia, Head of ESA Brussels Office, Michel Praet said at the end of a two-day workshop - "Space Powering Green Deal and Digital Economy" held at the Zagreb University Faculty of Engineering and Computing.

The two-day workshop on using space technology in collecting data on climate change was organised jointly with the Faculty, the European Space Agency and Croatia's Ministry of Science and Education and was held under the auspices of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The idea behind the workshop was to highlight the importance of space technology in the development of various industrial branches and it attracted leading Croatian and European researchers and entrepreneurs who, thanks to cooperation with ESA, have managed to launch and maintain successful companies.

Praet stated that he was honoured to work for the agency which has the ambition of using know-how in resolving problems and he believes that ESA is a fantastic tool in that regard. That is why, he added, he is proud that Croatia signed an agreement in 2018 to join the ESA and he is certain that Croatia can profit from Europe's space policy. That Cooperation Agreement with ESA signed on 19 February 2018, enables Croatia and ESA to create the framework for a more intensive and concrete cooperation related to ESA programmes and activities.

Science Ministry State Secretary Tome Antičić said that he was certain of good future cooperation between ESA and Croatia and that if Zagreb used that opportunity for cooperation, that can help the country to be much more successful.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

EU Research Ministers Hold Informal Meeting in Zagreb

ZAGREB, February 4, 2020 - Croatian Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said at an informal meeting of EU ministers in charge of research that brain circulation should remain one of the EU's cornerstones.

"We are encouraging mobility because those who are mobile and have experience from other countries bring that experience with them when they return. That way they make it possible for the system to be developed for the best, but we also want to attract others to work in Croatia," Divjak said at the meeting focusing on cooperation and researcher exchange and the future of the European Research Area.

European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel said that not all countries benefited the same way from brain circulation in Europe.

We must reduce those differences between member states and promote international cooperation between researchers, she said.

Gabriel said that the budget for the Horizon Europe development and innovation programme would be increased, with original allocations amounting to around 3.3% of the EU budget, and that the Maria Sklodowska Curie research scholarship programme would continue as well.

Phillippe Busquin, European Commissioner for Research and Development, during whose term the European Research Area was established 20 years ago, said that before the establishment of the European Research Area brain drain from the EU to the USA had been much greater and that the EU had grown stronger as a science-research centre since.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

550 Croatian Scientists Sign Climate Action Appeal

ZAGREB, January 14, 2020 - Representatives of 550 Croatian scientists who signed the Appeal for Systematic Climate Action on Tuesday presented it to the government, parliament and Ministry of Environment and Energy.

The scientists claim that the current climate change is an emergency and the most serious and most complex crisis that mankind has ever been exposed to. That is why, with this appeal, they call on the relevant institutions to launch concrete and ambitious measures to deal with the problem.

All the graphs we get indicate that we are close to the dangerous limit of climate change when there won't be any chance of going back, Nikola Biliškov from the Ruđer Bošković Institute told a press conference outside Government House.

Scientists have pointed out very ambitious action on a global level with concrete objectives: to radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions so that this year they reach their maximum and then be reduced by 45% by 2030, while emissions should be entirely eliminated by 2050, Biliškov explained.

The appeal is a call on the legislative and executive authorities to adopt and implement ambitious policies as a precondition for systematically dealing with the climate crisis. Those policies need to be based on scientific research and lead to the development of efficient technical solutions to alleviate and adapt to climate change.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Curricular Reform, Admission to CERN Major Events in Croatia's Education in 2019

ZAGREB, December 28, 2019 - The frontal introduction of the curriculum reform in primary and secondary schools, a record-long strike of teachers in the first semester of 2019-2020 school year, and admission of Croatia as an associate member of CERN have been some of the major events marking Croatia's education and science in the outgoing year.

Also, in 2019, the University of Zagreb marked its 350th anniversary, and six Croatian scientists at the Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI) completed the first Croatian project within the European Research Council (ERC), while Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences professors and researchers were given funding from the ERC, for their project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries, which was thus the first Croatian humanities projects to be funded by the ERC through the Horizon 2020 programme.

The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) entered 2019 with a new leadership: academician Velimir Neiderhart succeeded academician Zvonko Kusić at the helm of this institution after Kusić's two terms as the HAZU president. Neiderhart's associates are: Dario Vretenar as the HAZU secretary-general and two vice-presidents Davor Miličević and Frano Paro.

In January 2019, new curricula were adopted to replace programmes introduced in Croatian schools 25 years ago.

As of September 2019, new curricula are being implemented in first and fifth grade of primary schools, in seventh grade for subjects Biology, Chemistry and Physics and in first grade in upper secondary schools as well as in four-year vocational schools in general education subjects: Croatian, Math, Foreign Languages (German and English). Thus, as many as 150,000 pupils in are covered by the new curricula.

The strike of primary and secondary school teachers, launched over a demand for an increase in job complexity indices, lasted from October 10 to December 2, and students lost a total of 16 days of classes during the action. At the beginning of the industrial action, rotating strikes were conducted across counties, and later, a general strike was launched. The industrial action escalated in a protest rally on 25 November.

On 2 December, the government and striking teachers reached agreement on an increase of the job complexity indices of 3% as of December 1, an additional 1% as of June 1 next year and a further 2% as of January 1, 2021. The unions had demanded a pay rise through an increase of the job complexity indices of 6.11% to close the pay gap with other public-sector employees.

On 28 February, Croatia became an associate member of the world's biggest research centre, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), at a ceremony in Zagreb at which an agreement was signed awarding Croatia the status of an associate member. The agreement was signed by CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti and Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak.

Gianotti recalled that CERN was not only the leading world research centre for particle physics but was also dedicated to development of new technologies, education and global peace-loving scientific cooperation. She noted that numerous Croatian researchers had worked and still worked at CERN and that they deserved credit for successful cooperation.

Minister Divjak spoke of some of the possibilities that would open up for Croatia with its associate membership of CERN, including access for Croatian researchers to huge databases and the exchange of knowledge, researchers and ideas.

CERN also provides an opportunity for Croatian high-tech companies to participate in tenders worth more than two billion euros annually - from construction of parts for accelerators and similar laboratory equipment to development of robotics and solutions for the analysis of huge quantities of data and artificial intelligence, Divjak said.

Attending the ceremony, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said he believed that Croatia would become a full member of CERN in a few years' time. He noted that the national economy would benefit from the country's accession to CERN. Plenković recalled that in the past two years government investment in science had increased by 29%, including money from EU funds.

The first "Science Oscar"’ was brought to the RBI by scientist Ana Smith who had been awarded a 1.5 million euro worth ERC Starting Grant for her project "MembranesAct – Biological membranes in action: A unified approach to complexation, scaffolding and active transport", and that was one of just 287 proposals selected for funding out of a record 3,329 submissions six years ago.

The five-year research project, conducted by the researcher Smith and a few young scientists, concerned membranes in living cells – structures which act at the interface of biology, material science and physics. Due to the complexity of membranes and the number of processes occurring simultaneously in their vicinity, the mechanisms driving and controlling protein transport and complexation are not well understood, though are believed to have a biophysical foundation, according to the explanation of the project which was completed in 2019.

In mid-December, Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences stated that the project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries was the first Croatian humanities projects to receive funding from the ERC. The project, led by Jasenka Gudelj of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is one of the 78 projects selected among 674 that were submitted in the field of social sciences and humanities. The projects are financed by the ERC from a €600 million budget through the Horizon 2020 programme.

"We expect that the results of five years of work will help in safeguarding and evaluating the early medieval architectural heritage of the Adriatic. We are excited about this success and the possibilities that are opening up for us," Gudelj said. The research team includes Ana Marinković and Neven Jovanovic from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in Zagreb, Laris Borić from the University of Zadar and five young researchers. They will be working with the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula, the Croatian Museum of Architecture, the National and University Library, and other Croatian and foreign institutions.

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Grant Agreements Worth 126 Million Kuna Signed to Promote Excellence in Science

ZAGREB, December 20, 2019 - Grant agreements valued at 126 million kuna intended to promote excellence in science were signed in Zagreb on Friday between state institutions and 24 faculties and institutes.

Minister of Science and Education Blaženka Divjak said that there had never been so many opportunities in Croatia for investment in science and that the intention was that the best be given a chance.

Speaking about current projects, Divjak underlined that these were not only projects with a good scientific basis but with great applicability so that citizens could benefit from science.

State-Secretary at the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds Spomenka Đurić said that after large infrastructure projects were funded, now applied research has not been forgotten.

The Science and Education Ministry conducted the selection process for these grants and the projects were assessed by independent experts.

The projects included those relating to water purification and obtaining energy from composite material by using solar radiation, conducted by the Faculty of Chemical Engineering in Zagreb, digitisation and advancing nutritive care for chronically ill patients in the Split University Hospital, and "A new start for old Croatian vine types" conducted by the Zagreb Faculty of Agronomy.

Among the grant beneficiaries are the Faculties of Geodesy, Geotechnology, Food-Biotechnology, Nature Studies and Mathematics, Forestry and Textile Technology in Zagreb, the Faculty of Construction, Architecture and Geodesy in Split and the Faculties of Electrical Engineering, IT and Computing, Construction, Agriculture and Food Technology in Osijek.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

MIT to Organise Bootcamp Programme in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 21, 2019 - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a private American research university, is coming to Croatia where next spring it will organise education for about 100 applicants about innovation and entrepreneurship, the Jutarnji List daily reported on Thursday.

Presenting its programme for Croatia, called called Bootcamp, MIT says on its website that "with a rising digital sector and a plethora of ‘smart’ companies, Croatia is poised to become a new innovation playground for large and small economies alike."

"In January 2020, Croatia will take the presidency of the European Union for the following six months. During this time, addressing upskilling, reskilling, digital entrepreneurship, innovation, and knowledge transfer will be a focal point of Croatian officials. Emphasis on the global competitiveness of individuals and companies, particularly in the ICT and digital sector, is a driving force behind the Croatian start-up ecosystem and at the heart of the intersection of business, education, and creative talents," says this university, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Throughout the program, the participants "will learn and practice a variety of new skills related to entrepreneurship and innovation."

They will learn directly from MIT instructors, coaches, and guest speakers as well as through their experience in project teams.

The Croatian partner in this programme is the Zagreb-based Algebra.

MIT describes Algebra as "the largest private education institution in Croatia, enrolling more than 15,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, MBA programs, adult education, lifelong learning, junior programs, and professional certification courses."

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Foreign Minister Meets with Members of European Academies' Science Advisory Council

ZAGREB, November 16, 2019) - The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, addressed a meeting of the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC) in Zagreb on Friday, presenting the priorities of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

Croatia is making thorough preparations for the presidency, Radman said, adding that the presidency implies a mediating role and the art of compromising among the member states. He noted that Croatia was taking over the EU presidency after only six years of membership.

"The unity of the European Union members in understanding that we need one another to face the challenges of today is one of the distinctive strengths of the European Union," Radman said, according to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

The meeting, hosted by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, focused on support for research projects in the EU, especially financial support, harmonising the member states' policies on migration, and the brain drain within the EU, from eastern to western member states.

The EASAC brings together members of the science academies of the EU member states, Switzerland and Norway to discuss current and future EU policies, notably those concerning sciences and arts.

The Council is currently chaired by Thierry Courvoisier of Switzerland. The issue it is now primarily preoccupied with is sustainable development and the future of the planet, with the focus on preserving healthy soil and food, reducing exhaust emissions and alleviating the consequences of climate imbalance.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

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