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Posted: June 1, 2007
Nanotechnology gains ground in Czech Republic
(Nanowerk News) The emerging nanotechnology field is gaining ground in the Czech Republic with successes reported by local researchers and the commercial sector.
To ensure continued development in the new science, VŠB–Technical University of Ostrava (VŠB-TU), North Moravia, is launching the first program in nanotechnology in the Czech Republic, and other universities are also starting courses.
Students at VŠB-TU had until the end of April to apply for a bachelor’s degree program that is set to start in the coming fall semester. Around 40 people applied for the 30 places in the program, but only applicants who pass a mathematics exam will be accepted, said Stanislava Kebová of VŠB-TU’s advisory center. Successful graduates of the bachelor’s program can then go on to earn a master‘s degree in the nanotechnology program, she said.
Four Czech universities are scheduled to launch optional nanotechnology courses in the fall semester, said Jitka Kubátová, manager of Prague-based Technology Center of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (TCAS CR). The courses will be supported by European Union Structural Funds, Kubátová said without elaborating at a nanotechnology conference held last week in the Corinthia Panorama hotel in Prague.
Although none of the countries in the Central and Eastern European region is significantly ahead of the Czech Republic in nanotechnology education, the country “shouldn’t rest on its laurels as things are moving ahead also in other countries in CEE,“ said Alexandr Prokop of the TCAS CR. Prokop is the national contact point for the nanotechnology and space technology sections of the European Union’s research & development (R&D) programs.
“We’re all at the beginning, and advancement of this [nanotechnology] field depends on funding priorities of each country,” Prokop said. From the former Eastern bloc countries, only Slovenia is better off than the Czech Republic in terms of share of gross domestic product (GDP) invested in R&D, including nanotechnology. Public funding for nanotechnology R&D in Slovenia reached an estimated € 500,000 in 2004, according to European Commission (EC) data, while the Czech Republic spent € 400,000 in the same year.
The Czech Republic has a strong position in engineering, clinical medicine and mathematics in nanotechnology, while spintronics—the form of nanotechnology which uses electron spin to make potentially much faster quantum computers or nanotechnology applications in medical devices—has a big potential here, Prokop said.
As nanotechnology is still in its youth in many ways, the potential of a country to successfully develop nanotechnology must by checked by the quality of its basic science. In this respect the Czech Republic has a strong position in engineering, clinical medicine and mathematics. In general, physics, chemistry and biosciences are at least level with or better than the world’s average, and their quality is steadily rising.
He added that it’s hard to find a strong industrial partner for development of nanotechnology applications in the market in the Czech Republic. There’s a general lack of venture capital available for nanotechnology research in Europe compared to the United States, he said. One of the most visible Czech companies in the nanotechnology field is the nanofiber technology specialist Elmarco, which announced in May its intention to build a new center for the development and production of nanofibres.