Supporters from business sponsoring Czech scientists

Josef Hlávka, businessman and politician, established a foundation supporting Czech scientists at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, a new generation of science sponsors is emerging.

Dozens of absurd forms, completion of worksheets, time-consuming preparation of tendering procedures for instruments: this is how Tomáš Polívka, Vice-President for Science and Research at the Southern Bohemian University describes his daily routines. The paperwork associated with fund raising for research is rampant, especially in European projects, he says. Also, it is no fun to apply for a grant in the Czech Republic. Some scientists say that paperwork robs them of as much as one-third of their working time.

Applications for funding are most frequently addressed to the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, which has CZK 3.3 billion at its disposal for distribution. Projects with more practical goals can also approach the Technology Agency, whose budget exceeds CZK 2.5 billion.

At present, money is also available to Czech researchers from sponsors. For example, Dalibor Dědek, owner of the technological firm Jablotron, will spend a million crowns to support Czech physicists. “Our firm takes part in several research projects. I was horrified to see that our scientists, instead of exploring the world around us, were trying to invent a system that would ensure the greatest possible influx of funds from grants for them,” explains Mr. Dědek why he decided to contribute his own money to support science.

He joined forces with Karel Janeček, billionaire and founder of the company RSJ. Karel Janeček began supporting scientists through his endowment fund in 2010, and has distributed a total of nine million Czech crowns among them.  “When we met and I told him that I would like to put some money in it, he was pleasantly surprised,” remembers Mr. Dědek.  They agreed on cooperation. Dalibor Dědek gives money for physics every year, Karel Janeček for humanities and mathematics. Libor Winkler, RSJ’s Executive Director and President, is another contributor to the fund, which is now called Neuron. Mr. Winkler sponsors chemistry. Researchers compete for a million Czech crowns in each field. They indicate in their applications what they want to use the money for.

“Scientists are even free to use some money from the grant to cover a portion of their living expenses if they have good reasons for it,” notes Monika Vondráková, Neuron Fund’s Director for Support of Science. Scientists will certainly not have to do much paperwork.

“We have no problem sending the money to their research institution’s account to facilitate the purchases of chemicals, or to their personal account. It is for them to decide,” says Mrs. Vondráková. The ‘which account’ question will have to be answered soon, just before the gala evening on November 5, where the Fund announces the names of this year’s grantees.

Czech scientists are also supported by Petr Kellner, owner of the PPF Group, and his wife Renáta Kellnerová, through The Kellner Family Foundation. They started last year, but the focus of their support is relatively narrow: they put money primarily into research into neoplastic diseases. Applicants are granted money for three to five years, the annual amount being up to five million Czech crowns.  The trio of successful grantees also includes Jiří Bártek, a Czech scientist who is being spoken of as a potential Nobel nominee for cancer research.

Thus, the contemporary generation of sponsors is slowly emerging to continue in the work of the businessman and politician Josef Hlávka. He established the Czech Academy of Sciences at the end of the 19th century and gave it 200,000 florins, and his wife added another 50,000. In addition, a short time before his death, Josef Hlávka transferred all his fortune to the foundation, which has been operating until now.

(Author | Eva Hníková)

Source: Ekonom

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