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Published: 16 august 2019 12:21

Leonas Balaševičius. CERN is choosing Lithuania – what does it mean for us?

Europos branduolinių tyrimų organizacija (CERN) logotipas
AFP/„Scanpix“ nuotr. / European Organization for Nuclear Research

At the beginning of July, the representatives of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN signed an agreement with Virginijus Sinkevičius, Lithuanian Minister of Economy and Innovation, in order to establish CERN Business Incubation Centre in Lithuania. The centre will be one-of-a-kind in Middle and Eastern Europe and its two incubators will be located in Kaunas and Vilnius.

The fact that Lithuania will house two CERN business incubators is a testimony of the scientific potential of Saulėtekis (Vilnius) and Santaka (Kaunas) Valleys. The integrated centres of research, study and business, Saulėtekis Valley and Santaka Valley are the hubs of innovation, centres for scientific research, R&D and other activities aimed at developing added value services and products.

Lithuania, who became an associated member of CERN only a year ago, has come to be the 10th country where CERN is establishing a business incubation centre (BIC). However, the fact that two different Lithuanian cities have been chosen for the two business incubators is even more fascinating – everywhere else in Europe there is only one location per country.

I am absolutely positive that the high-profile research by Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) research groups, who are creating world-changing inventions and innovative technologies, was one of the reasons behind the establishment of CERN incubators in Kaunas. KTU Santaka Valley is a home for interdisciplinary research boasting perfect environment for best quality research services for business companies, facilitating efficient collaboration between science and business. Moreover, the processes of technology development and commercialisation are taking place here; new companies are being established and the investment attracted. Thus, collaboration with CERN will be mutually beneficial.

CERN Business Incubation Centre with the two incubators in the two largest Lithuanian cities will have a great impact on the science and business innovators of the region. Their activities will prompt the application of CERN’s accumulated knowledge and technologies for solving important problems, such as using artificial intelligence for medical diagnostics or big data processing. Incidentally, artificial intelligence is one of the strategic trends of KTU research activities.

The installation of CERN business incubators in Lithuania delivers an important message not only about the high quality of higher education in Lithuania, but also about the added value of high technologies. After all, it is CERN technologies and projects that are influencing many important spheres of social life: medicine, security and industrial development.

New possibilities for research and business

Kaunas Science and Technology Park (KMTP), which will house the CERN business incubator is a member of Santaka Valley Association, which unites and integrates the largest study and research institutions in Kaunas: Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences and its hospital Kauno Klinikos, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuanian Energy Institute, KMTP and the business companies Kauno Tiltai and Achema Group.

Cooperation with CERN will open vast possibilities both for business and research. The scientists will be able to contribute to the world research and innovation while strengthening and developing their competences, and the entrepreneurs will have a chance to explore the most innovative and prospective markets.

Santaka Valley CERN business incubator will assist entrepreneurs and the small and medium enterprises to choose CERN technologies and experience for their business development. The start-ups will have access to CERN competences and to the international CERN BIC network. CERN BIC will support innovators and entrepreneurs by providing information, allocating technologies for product development and assisting in the search for funding.

KTU has its own business incubator – KTU Start-up Space, a community open for all Kaunas start-ups, which supports creative teams from the very initial phase of the business, i.e. idea conception. CERN will provide a perfect opportunity for this community to cooperate when solving important questions and issues.

In addition, The CERN business incubator companies will have access to the contemporary research and innovation infrastructure, available business development training and the world-class research staff. This will bridge the gap between natural, technological sciences and industry.

KTU Santaka Valley houses National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre, which assists business in finding desired competencies at the University and in building up teams, which are solving challenges relevant to businesses. To enable efficient knowledge transfer, business representatives are invited to contribute to the implementation of study programmes and to participate in other initiatives. That is why at KTU we believe that we can offer the specialists and competences for the companies, which are creating high added value products.

The operation of CERN BIC in Lithuania will guarantee the fast development of innovations and will accelerate the emergence of high technologies in Lithuania, which, in turn, will have a high impact on the development of the State’s welfare.

The number of joint projects is constantly growing

Lithuania has been cooperating with CERN since 1993. The researchers of Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Vilnius University, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University have been carrying out joint projects with CERN; Lithuanian laser manufacturers EKSPLA and STANDA were among the first companies to start collaborating with European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Partnership with CERN should be very beneficial for high school students or university freshmen who are just starting to plan their career. Every spring, CERN together with The International Particle Physics Outreach Group is organising international masterclasses in more than 50 countries. At the beginning of this year International Masterclasses: Hands-on Particle Physics was organised at KTU for the first time. This is great recognition for the Lithuanian science.

During the lesson and the practical workshop, the students from Kaunas high schools and KTU carried out experimental research of elementary particles while using real data from CERN, registered during Compact Muon Solenoid, CMS experiment. During the lesson, students gained knowledge and experience of scientific research, they could practically learn how to use the knowledge of the team for the common goal – to explore and understand the world of elementary particles physics.

Moreover, in spring 2020 CERN together with KTU is organising CAS-CERN Accelerator School. It is worth mentioning that CERN is organising only 4 schools yearly in different countries of the world. The fact that Lithuania was chosen is one more proof that the scientific activities of Lithuanian researchers are globally visible and valued. The Accelerator School will provide a unique opportunity for the students to learn from renowned professionals of the field, to get hands-on working experience with the specialised equipment, which will be brought to Kaunas by CERN representatives.

KTU is a member of CERN Baltic Group, CBG, established on May 29, 2018, during the meeting in Geneva where the mutual support memorandum was signed between CERN and 8 main universities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In October of 2019, KTU will host the fourth annual meeting of the Group. During the meeting, the possibilities of joint master’s and PhD study programmes, which would prepare the specialists of elementary particles physics and accelerators technologies, will be discussed. The participants from Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian universities, members of CERN Baltic Group, will share their insights on the situation in this field. Furthermore, these meetings always feature discussions about attracting students to the relevant study programmes, student mobility and legal and financial aspects of study programmes.

In summary, Lithuanian relationships with CERN are becoming stronger year after year, and this opens more and more possibilities for the State, for Lithuanian researchers, entrepreneurs and students. Once again, this is a clear testimony that Lithuanian science is developing in the right direction, and our achievements are visible in the global arena.

Leonas Balaševičius is a Vice-Rector for Research and Innovations at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU)

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