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Business Research Forum: university all-in for cooperation

Cooperation between the academic sector and the private sector and especially the practical implementation of the scientific and research know-how were among the topics of this year’s Business Research Forum at CEITEC which culminated in the presentation of the MUNI Innovation Awards.

Business Research Forum was held in the CEITEC courtyard in the Bohunice campus.

The Business Research Forum is organised every two years by the Technology Transfer Office. “We are good with knowledge and we want to transfer it,” said Rector Martin Bareš during the opening ceremony. According to him the university has a lot to offer to the private sector thanks to, among other things, the diversity among faculties and other institutions of the university which cover a variety of life science and medical fields as well as social sciences. “The pandemic revealed many important roles of universities in the society, including the fact that they must be a key part of the strategic infrastructure of any country,” he noted, adding that MU is a “university with a heart and brain and has no boundaries on the Earth and beyond”, referring to space research. TTC director Eva Janouškovcová also mentioned the space research activities when referring to cooperation between the academic and private sectors.

The event included the MUNI Innovation Award ceremony.

The practical implementation of this bond is seen in spin-offs which develop the intellectual property held by universities in products and services with market potential. Twenty-two of them have been founded so far, and thirteen are still active. They specialise in the production of a variety of measuring devices or software, development of pharmaceuticals or apps for language teaching. “We are open to cooperation and we are prepared for it,” said Vice-Rector for lifelong learning and commercial cooperation Martin Kvizda.

Vice-president of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic Milena Jabůrková agrees with the reference to the heart and brain. “You were among the first to acknowledge the significance and seriousness of the changes brought by the Russian invasion in Ukraine. You stood for the rule of law and democratic values. This is exactly the environment where business is done in the best way,” she said. She also mentioned to have noticed in the private sector some positive feedback to MU’s position on AI. “The combination of the words business and research does make sense,” added co-founder of the biotech company GeneProof Miloš Dendis, himself a MU graduate. According to Dendis private companies need top-quality research and vice-versa. “You cannot fund decent research without strong business support,” he noted, mentioning Israel as an example of a “David of technology who can face any Goliath of technology”.

Business Research Forum is held every two years.

Throughout the day faculties and other institutions of the university offered cooperation with the private sector. According to Pavel Minařík, vice-president of the tech company, there prevails in the academic world and the private sector the understanding of the importance of mutual cooperation which allows companies to innovate and researchers to use the results of their research in practice. This however requires the understanding of expectations. “Companies cannot expect a finished product right away, and researchers will not get their money without tangible results,” he noted. Speaking to students, he said they can decide whether to join the corporate world or launch something of their own. Minařík himself is a supporter of the third Start Your Business competition which entails financial support and mentoring for entrepreneurial students aiming to transform their idea into a viable business project. This year’s finalists also attended the Business Research Forum: Daniel Kvak (Carebot project involving AI in medical diagnostics), Adam Veverka (app for the exploration of the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape, project entitled Discover LVA), František Zelenák (Termo Graphene, use of reduced oxide graphite in flexible heaters) and Matyáš Dobeš (VANEE Adventures project, RV van lease for tourist trips).

The university also recognised, for the second time, its students and faculty members whose achievements have successfully been implemented in practice and helped improve products or services, or contributed to increased social relevance of MU’s research. Selecting from 31 nominations the committee picked 11 new recipients of the MUNI Innovation Award. “This award is a form of satisfaction and proof that our panel is actually useful, and it will motivate us to attempt to come up with something similar for other diagnoses,” said Veronika Navrkalová of CEITEC MU who, along with Karla Plevová from the Faculty of Medicine, received the award for the development of a diagnostic device LYNX used in haemato-oncology. They both agree that the practical use of research knowledge entails mutually advantageous cooperation. “If you conceive something in your lab and implement it internally, it is hard to get to other labs and implement it. This is where cooperation with the private sector comes in handy because biotech companies have contacts and they know the demand,” Plevová noted.

Rector Martin Bareš welcomed the attendees.

Winners of the MUNI Innovation Award 2023

Veronika Navrkalová and Karla Plevová (CEITEC and Faculty of Medicine): Unique diagnostic tool LYNX (LYmphoid NeXt-Generation Sequencing).

Combination of modern-day laboratory procedures and newly developed software gave rise to a unique device for diagnostic and research labs in the field of haemato-oncology. Using next generation sequencing it allows for the analysis, within one test, of several types of molecular biomarkers for the most common lymphoproliferative disorders, such as chronic lymphotic leukemia or diffuse large B cell lymphoma.

Dana Hlaváčková et al. (Faculty of Arts): tool and CzechME app.

The tool offers auto-correction of texts in Czech which covers spell-check as well as grammar and layout. It is unique in terms of the scope of issues addressed as well as explanations to the user as to why the segment in question was marked as an error.

Miroslav Světlák (Faculty of Medicine): Development of application for mental health and success of the mobile app MOU Mindcare.

MindCare is a programme for the development and support of mental health and general well-being during oncological treatment. The pros of the app include its accessibility in mental health care via videos, messages and exercises. The purpose of the app is to teach its users to live quality lives and to reduce the psychological burden associated with the illness. The MOU Mindcare won the Czech DIGI@MED Award in the category “Existing solutions”.

Šárka Portešová et al. (Faculty of Social Sciences): Creation of the Invenio innovative online gaming diagnostic system.

The purpose of the Invenio system is to recognise the potential in children in various areas and to respond promptly in terms of expansion and modification of their educational processes or other forms of targeted support. The diagnostic approach is innovative, modern and fast; it allows for the testing of hundreds of children in many schools and households. It is a globally unique diagnostic method of identification of talent with constantly updated testing standards.

Jan Kasprzak (Faculty of Informatics): Development of, a tool for the detection of similarities in texts and system for the detection of plagiarism.

Since 2008 the tool “Vejce vejci” is part of IS MU, as well as and used by most colleges and universities in the Czech Republic. Since 2021 the tool allows for the detection of texts with significantly re-phrased parts and, since 2022, the app “Porovnej dva” is available for interactive and graphic comparison of two documents.

Zdeněk Matěj (Faculty of Informatics): Development of algorithms for the assisted measurement in real time in measurements of ionising radiation in reactors, particle accelerators and particle generators.

Algorithms allowing for fast processing of data help evaluate measurements in real time, thereby contributing to increased radiation prevention of the general public. The systems once implemented are used at numerous facilities dealing with nuclear research or radiation security. Examples include intelligent probe SGN-02 or device for remote measuring from gamma radiation detectors using special optical fibres.

Vilém Pařil, Martin Šauer and Daniel Seidenglanz in memoriam (Faculty of Business and Administration): Research in the area of the use of big signalling data in the prediction of transport behaviours.

The research resulted in the implementation of several applied outputs within the framework of cooperation with the Ministry of Transport, Správa železnic or České dráhy which, using the methodologies applied and results, verify transport flows at selected corridors. The research represents a unique combination of data transformation methods and subsequent optimisation task with transport economy methods, allowing for the identification of bottlenecks in transport behaviour prognoses.

Jakub Harašta (Faculty of Law): Book Citační analýza judikatury (Wolters Kluwer, 2021).

The book Citační analýza judikatury represents the final output of a Czech Science Foundation project (2017–2020). The project brought unique procedures, previously unused in the Czech Republic. One of three leading legal information systems on the Czech market has implemented a solution inspired by the project. The knowledge from the project was acknowledged by the Supreme Court in 2022 within the framework of its attempts to rationalise internal processes.

Pavel Hyršl (Faculty of Science): Research into immunity, longevity and parasite borne risks in honey bees with impacts on the industry, ecosystems and agriculture.

The research has significant impact in beekeeping, ecosystem management and agriculture. The results of the analyses presented an overview of changes in organisms of bees affected by parasites, resulting in health problems and objective disappearances of bees. The award is presented for long-term edification of the general public and experts including cooperation with Výzkumný ústav včelařský, s.r.o. and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Svatoslav Ondra (Teiresiás MU – The Support Centre for Students with Special Needs): Implementation of the comprehensive communication system Polygraf Online.

The Polygraf Online system offers the accessibility of communication to persons with visual and hearing handicaps in in-class and home study. It represents an amalgamation of the Polygraf system for the transcription of speech (for persons with hearing handicaps) and presented image (for persons with visual handicap) with the CoUnSiL system offering videoconference-type remote learning functionalities. The system has been implemented in main lecture rooms at individual faculties of MU.

Jana Horáková (Faculty of Arts): Series of applied outputs of the project entitled Media Art Live Archive: Intelligent Interface for Interactive Meditation of Cultural Heritage.

The outputs of the project represent a unique contribution in the area of applied AI with the focus on the implementation in art sciences, expanding the area of application of AI tools in art historiography towards experimental and conceptual art of the 20th and 21st century. The project was part of the Ars Electronica festival as an example of good practice in the area of environmentally conscious behaviour in preservation of cultural heritage.