Technology Transfer Workshop, Early Stage Researchers’ Retreat and trigger event organized at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine

The Alliance4Life aims to increase the local and regional impact of Health Research and Innovation in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). To achieve this, one of the goals was to develop and conduct training workshops for the Knowledge and technology transfer (KTO) professionals of the A4L_ACTIONS Consortium member institutions. Due to the fact that ASTP (Association of European Science and Technology Transfer Professionals), the associated partner of A4L_ACTIONS, is the premier association of Knowledge Transfer professionals in Europe and concentrates the expertise and competence on knowledge and technology transfer, FG6 members agreed that a detailed program for each training event should be developed in close collaboration with ASTP. The programme aims to equip A4L professionals with the relevant knowledge and expertise to facilitate the exploitation of health research results.

Programmes for three workshops were developed, and the last Technology Transfer Workshop on IP Valuation, was organized at the University of Zagreb School of Medicine on 17 and 18 January 2024. The trainers presented different aspects of the topic including: the underlying sources of value in novel technologies, pathways to impact, licensing – benefits, structure and royalties, negotiating collaboration agreements, bootstrapping new ventures, equity valuation methods- later stage technologies, equity valuation - early-stage technologies, the human element – equity as ‘fairness’.

On 17 and 18 January, the Early Stage Researchers Retreat brought together more than 30 Ph.D. students and postdocs from A4L partner institutions to the University of Zagreb School of Medicine for a joint retreat full of learning and knowledge sharing. The topic of the third ESR was AI in Science & Research Visibility. The rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years have led to numerous creative applications in science. Accelerating the productivity of science could be the most economically and socially valuable of all the uses of AI. Utilising AI to accelerate scientific productivity will support the ability of countries to grow, innovate and meet global challenges, from climate change to new contagions. Young researchers were introduced to the world of AI in Science at this ESR. They had the chance to engage with experts and discuss the fusion of AI and scientific exploration, shaping the future of innovation. The other part of ESR was dedicated to research visibility: open science, what things to consider when choosing the right journal for your paper, and tools available for boosting the online visibility of the research work in the scholarly community. Young researchers had the chance to hear presentations from distinguished researchers from UZSM and Ruđer Bošković Institute on the following topics: Can AI Be Conscious?, Artificial Intelligence in Cardiac Imaging – Improving the Clinical Workflow, Patient Phenotyping and Outcome Prediction, A Stands for Alliance, A Stands for AI: A Heads-Up for Aspiring Scientists, Introduction to AI for Early Stage Researchers, Introduction to Data Science and Data Governance in Science, How to Choose the Right Journal for Your Paper, Researchers IDs and Profiles: Increasing Your Research Visibility and Open Science in Interconnected World. Also, one industrial representative, TIS Group, presented their latest AI solution, SENDD - System for Early Neurological Deviation Detection.

On 19 January, a trigger event was organized on How to Become a Good Innovator in Croatia? The trigger event was opened by welcoming words of professor Božo Krušlin, leader of A4L_ACTIONS for UZSM and Vice Dean for Science. A respected researcher from Croatia, academician Slobodan Vukičević, presented important data on a novel biocompatible therapeutic solution for bone regeneration and talked about the importance of intellectual property protection. Very well-known neurosurgeon and researcher, associate professor Darko Chudy is specialized in deep brain stimulation operations, which restore consciousness to patients who have experienced severe brain trauma, ischemia, cardiac arrest, or who cannot wake up from a coma because they are in a so-called vegetative state or a state of minimal consciousness. He also presented robot RONNA, an advanced technological system for the most sensitive neurosurgical operations, which he developed with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture. Research and innovation opportunities in Croatia were presented by professor Ozren Polašek (Croatian Science Foundation), Bruno Radojica (Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development) and Doris Jozić (Ministry of Science and Education). After the presentations, a panel discussion followed in which, besides the speakers, participated David Smith (Ruđer Bošković Institute), Vesna Gabelica-Marković (University of Zagreb) and Vlatka Petrović (University of Zagreb).

Due to extreme weather conditions, two panellists and some of registered participants did not attend the trigger event. In spite of that, the discussion was very vivid and fruitful. Panellists emphasized the importance of offices for technology transfer and innovations, administrative support to innovators, the need to promote research & innovation to students, and the personal drive of innovators. Panel discussion revealed obstacles that may be responsible for unsatisfactory results of research & innovation in Croatia judged by the European Innovation Scoreboard and by the number of patents. These included a relatively small number of scientists in Croatia, compared to more successful EU member states, such as Sweden, Germany, Slovenia, or the Czech Republic. The Croatian Science Foundation has been identified as a key funding agency that should finance researchers in Croatia's public sector. In spite of the advances in national research funding in past years, including EU funds, the annual budget of the Croatian Science Foundation remains significantly smaller than that in successful EU states in research & innovation, such as Slovenia. The discussion revealed the need to improve research infrastructure, develop programs to stimulate the hiring of young researchers following the completion of research projects, and develop programs for hiring scientists returning from abroad. The influence of research & innovation in the public and private sectors on the economic growth of Croatia was also addressed. The impact of the Alliance4Life_ACTIONS project on innovations in the School of Medicine Zagreb and the Croatian research & innovation ecosystem was also discussed. This included actions aimed to stimulate collaboration with industry, promote research excellence, and collaborate with partners abroad. The panellists concluded that Croatia has a great intellectual potential for innovations, and that communication among key stakeholders should be continued in the future.