The project proposed herein is concerned with the establishment of Networks for professional training of young scientists in interdisciplinary research of innovative surfaces and materials (MIPoMat).
The implementation of the network will be overseen by a high-quality team of established scientists with complementary experience and has been conceived so as to simultaneously address several interconnected problems, all of which are of direct relevance to the goals of the call.
In relation of the implementation of Cohesion Policy and the related deployment of the European Social Fund in the Republic of Croatia (RH), the specific problems targeted by the establishment of MIPoMat are also mentioned amongst the weaknesses in the education and training sector in the Multiannual Operational Program Human Resources Development 2007-2013 (in Croatian: Višegodišnji Operativni program Razvoj ljudskih potencijala, OP-RLJP).
In the following text, these weaknesses have been connected with rankings of RH according to the Global Competitiveness Report (in Croatian: Izvješće globalne konkurentnosti, IGK) for 2013/2014 (including 148 countries and referred to as 2013) and 2014/2015 (including 144 countries and referred to as 2014).
A fundamental problem, with a strong impact on the research, development and innovation (R&D&I) ecosystem in RH, appears in the OP-RLJP as the continuous brain drain of research personnel, which is closely related to the inability of Croatian institutions to attract talented young researchers from overseas. The seriousness of these problems are clearly visible in the data from IGK, where the RH's ranking for its „capacity to retain talent“ continued its downward trend in falling from 134th (2013) to 137th (2014).
While the analogous „capacity to attract talent“ did undergo a slight improvement (from 143rd to 141st) in the same period, these rankings are alarmingly poor. The present project will directly address this issue through providing the employment possibility within improvement of human resources in research and innovation (objective 1), which involves the creation of five new positions for young scientists. We anticipate that these positions will serve, on one hand, to keep talented young scientists in RH but, in addition, will also have the potential to inject high-quality international personnel, potentially of Croatian origin, into the R&D&I sector in RH.
A second problem targeted by the present project is listed in the OP-RLJP as a lack of career supporting opportunities for junior and young researchers. The magnitude of this problem is clearly supported by the effective disappearance of new positions for young scientists in the public research sector between 2009 and 2013 but also by the lack of career oriented professional training in RH.
This issue may also be related to the „extent of staff training“, where RH was ranked in the IGK as 121st and 129th in 2013 and 2014 respectively. While the creation of five new positions in the context of this project, directly addresses this problem, by being part of the network, the successful candidates will gain much more than a short-term position. Namely, through implementation of educational training program for professional competences aimed at career development of young scientists in science and/or industry (objective 2) they will have access to structured training tailored to their individual needs.
A further weakness of the education and training system in RH is described in the OP-RLJP as a weak linkage between science, research and business sector. While the absolute IGK rankings for „university-industry collaboration in R&D“ in RH, of 76th in 2013 and 81st in 2014, are not as low as the aforementioned values, the long-term negative trend in this respect is disturbing.
This project will directly contribute to the combatting this weakness, primarily through its targeted choice of scientific theme. Namely, the implementation of interdisciplinary research of innovative surfaces and materials, based on scientific excellence and technological relevancy (objective 3) is of direct interest to several important industrial stakeholders in RH. By focusing their scientific endeavors in this direction, the young network members will be maximizing their relevance to industry and hence their future employment prospects.
Finally, the successful establishment of the network and its rich educational program will strengthen the human capital and the professional development of young researchers in the field of innovative surfaces and materials at the RBI and in RH. The opportunity to be engaged in highly-visible, cutting-edge research, with both fundamental and applied aspects, is expected to significantly increase the employability of the young researchers and to make them more competitive in the labor market – both in the academic and industrial sectors.
By achieving all this in an environment with active international collaborations with measures designed to increasing visibility and integration of young scientists into European research area (objective 4), it is realistic to expect a significant advance in the employees’ competence and, hence, a measurable contribution to the overriding strategic objective of development of innovative economies based on knowledge.
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