Czech Science Diplomat in the United States

Ludek Moravec 

Supporting CZ – US research, development, and innovation collaboration

Czech Embassy in Washington DC partners with multitude of different actors in the US, supporting the strengthening and deepening of their relationships to Czech counterparts. We work with Federal and State authorities, research performing organizations, and companies of all sizes. Although our work was highly impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, some of our science diplomacy efforts made it to the finish line even in 2020.

Host country government is the most natural partner for any diplomatic mission. Even more so in the US where multitude of research engagement opportunities comes from federal programs. The US Department of Defense is traditionally the most active entity in international arena.

Our lasting effort to start the implementation of Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program in defense research culminated in Feb 2020 with the arrival of Dr Irene MacAllister, hosted by the Faculty of Military Health Sciences, Czech University of Defense. Dr MacAllister’s 18-month guest appointment is first since CZ and US signed the mutual exchange agreement in 2009, with CZ being one in only 16 program host countries worldwide.

This is not the only defense science engagement. In third quarter, we introduced almost 20 Czech innovations to US military stakeholders through Foreign Comparative Testing program scouts and organized a presentation of Czech Technical University’s AI Center for US Army labs. Those activities are development and innovation complements to existing opportunities in basic research, facilitated by the (US) Office of Naval Research Global Prague office, our close partner.   

Leveraging Czech Ministry of Interior’s IMPAKT program, we managed to secure funding for 2 major projects bringing together Czech researchers and US government labs in bioinformatics, gene sequencing, and cybersecurity. These initiatives will start in early 2021. The Military Health Institute and Masaryk University respectively will thus join the group of previously successful teams, namely the robotics group of Czech Technical University competing to great effect in DARPA’s SubTerranean Challenge and speech processing group of Brno University of Technology.

As the pandemic challenged the academic sector to unprecedented level, our initiatives focused predominantly on the innovation agenda, supporting Czech start-up community in their contacts with the US. We secured number of contacts between our innovators and major US businesses, such as the visit of Bell Helicopter’s vice president for innovation. Pilot collaborative projects are currently starting, some of them with great reviews already.

In 2020, we also found US university partners for Czech startups’ testing endeavors or supported initiatives aimed at market entry both to the US and third countries. Companies such as UptimAI, IDEAStatica, Datlowe or GINA Systems can serve as examples. Not only are we able to help in the US, we also managed to connect Czech innovators among themselves, with tangible project outcomes in laser surface treatments for special aerospace applications and in forensic science.

Although we worked with universities less often than in previous years, there are some success stories to report too. One case in point is the joint team that started to work on cybersecurity project proposal shared by Ohio State University, Masaryk University and Brno University of Technology. Another example might be the newly established participation of Czech Republic in MIT’s international internship program. While this usually requires extensive programming, we managed to utilize the opportunity to start online first, newly brought to bear by the pandemic.  First of MIT students started her AI focused internship with Czech company in Jan 2021.

However, Covid response efforts dominated our work for the best part of the year, supporting negotiations on critical supplies, including PPE and testing equipment. Later, whole Embassy’s economic section moved to certification and partnership research for Czech solution providers. In this sense, finalizing all the above projects represents overwhelming interest of R&D communities on both sides of the Atlantic to collaborate beyond the current situation. Let us hope that 2021 will prove us right in thinking so and that some ambitious programs that we have been diligently working toward since 2019 will come to fruition. Stay tuned.    

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