Representatives of the prestigious University of Waterloo and CEITEC BUT (Central European Institute of Technology, Brno University of Technology) signed a memorandum supporting cooperation in nanotechnology research, mobility, and other areas of common interest. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Mr. Jiri Kozak, attended the signing as cooperation in science and advanced technologies remain priorities of bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and Canada.
"From our point of view, the promising way to attract Canadian partners is with very specific research and by proceeding with a bottom up approach by connecting concrete research groups. Our offices in Ottawa and Toronto can help with finding the right match, as well as seeking appropriate support tools. Today's signing of the memorandum shows that such cooperation is developing successfully and that Czech researchers and nanotechnologists are promising counterparts for Canada.” noted Deputy Minister Kozák.
University of Waterloo is one of the top engineering universities in Canada and globally. It ranks in the top 100 in the world according to the QS Ranking for 2023 in several subject areas; in particular, it ranked 37th in “Engineering & Technology.” Waterloo is known as an innovation hub closely linked to industry (the only Canadian university in the top 10 unicorn universities list), and the university boasts the most successful support for spinoffs in Canada. This, in addition to overall support for entrepreneurship, underlines the fact that the university has an inventor-owned intellectual property policy. Waterloo is also known for Blackberry founder, Mike Lazaridis, whose legacy and financial support still benefits the university.
The Institute for Quantum Computing and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) are located together in the Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Center. WIN is the driving force behind the cooperation with CEITEC BUT and more broadly with the Czech Republic. The Executive Director of the WIN, Prof. Sushanta Mitra, personally signed the memorandum at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic as part of his visit to Europe with his counterpart, Prof. Radimir Vrba, who serves as the Director of CEITEC BUT. Prof. Mitra began working in collaboration in 2022. The interest to cooperate with the largest clean space nanocenter in the Czech Republic comes from both common overlapping activities of research groups and from researchers’ visits on both sides, which have been supported by the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Toronto and the CzechInvest agency. The research group of Prof. Jozef Kaiser, which is focused on the field of advanced instrumentation and methods for materials characterization, established cooperation last year with the University of Waterloo in the laser spectroscopy field. Since then, there have also been contacts with other researchers and a number of selected Czech universities.
The memorandum will thus further strengthen this cooperation, thanks to possible joint research projects, mobility of students and researchers, professional development of students, and the possibility of financial instruments for joint projects. Currently, researchers can draw support mainly from national sources, where a number of Mitacs programs are available on the Canadian side (for example, the Globalink Research Internship). Additionally, Canada's full entry into the Horizon Europe program as an associated country is also being prepared. "Collaboration with the University of Waterloo represents an opportunity for the Czech Republic to work closely with leading researchers and support the creation of joint international results in areas of excellent Czech research. Undoubtedly, these also include nanotechnology, in which CEITEC BUT excels. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to support these strategic partnerships with prestigious universities in Canada and other countries. Our embassies and consulates help in establishing these connections, we can also assist with organizing scientific and technological missions, support networking at leading events, as well as tailored assistance," Deputy Kozák mentioned. Richard Schneider, manager of the agency's TECH4LIFE Hub CzechInvest, added: "The importance of Waterloo as an entrepreneurship hub can be interesting for the Czech Republic from the point of view of supporting startups and their internationalization. At the same time we hope to deepen the sharing of good practice in the field of spinoffs and the development of the innovation ecosystem, where Waterloo has a very good reputation."
"During the visit of Prof. Sushanta Mitra at the CEITEC BUT in Brno, we presented the professional focus of both university workplaces in detail. He also toured our large CEITEC Nano research infrastructure and other laboratories. We mutually noted that we have a surprising agreement in many areas of common interest in research and science. This fact was further confirmed during a visit to the University of Waterloo by Prof. Kaiser. As part of deepening our cooperation, a lecture by Assist. Prof. Lucy Vojtova on the topic "Advanced nanostructured biomaterials: from synthesis, the relationship between structure and properties to processing and applications in regenerative medicine" was met with considerable interest and became the basis for subsequent specific research projects. Cooperation in nanotechnology and research and development of special measuring and analytical instruments will also be strengthened by the mutual exchange of students and postdoctoral fellows. “Our broad portfolio of international research cooperation will thus be strengthened by the top-notch workplace of the University of Waterloo in Canada," explained Radimir Vrba, director of CEITEC BUT.
The Czech Republic and Canada are also overall close in their innovativeness. Canada ranks among the most innovative countries in the world, as evidenced by its 15th position in the Global Innovation Index, while Czech Republic follows closely on the 18th spot. Prestigious Canadian universities regularly rank at the top of world rankings, and according to Times Higher Education, Canada has five universities in the top 100 for engineering. The Kitchener-Waterloo area is one of the most famous centers of applied research alongside Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver. Applied research generally excels in a number of fields from aviation, the automotive sector, life sciences, or information technology. With regard to the geography of Canada and political priorities, the emphasis has recently been placed on quantum technologies, artificial intelligence, space technologies, hydrogen technologies, and other areas of energy, including nuclear but traditionally also on specific areas such as Arctic research or ocean research.
The Czech Republic is a promising partner for North American researchers. As a country of over 10 million inhabitants, the highly educated workforce and experts benefit from almost 60 higher education institutions (primarily universities), 54 institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and many research facilities. Many of those were recently built with the support of EU structural funds, and they span areas from the world’s most-intense laser in Dolný Břežany, a large supercomputing center in Ostrava, and to many advanced materials and nanotechnology facilities across the Republic, including Brno’s CEITEC. Overall, the nanotechnology and advanced materials sector has a long and successful history in Czech research. The country is the origin of the first industrial nanofiber technology “NanoSpider.” Czech is one of the main producers of nanomembranes in the world and one of the key players in the pharmaceutical industry using nanofibers. On top of that, a third of electron microscopes in the world originate in the Czech Republic, and we are a leader in researching advanced materials for implants as well as various areas related to additive manufacturing. Furthermore, one of the most successful 3D printers comes from the Czech company Prusa Research.