News archive - [Event Review] - Forum on New International Research Facilities in South East Europe

An important event, titled Forum on New International Research Facilities in South East Europe, took place in Trieste (Italy) on 25th and 26th January 2018. It brought together about 100 main partners for debating on the importance of international cooperation for science and training in the region  while realising international laboratories in South East Europe combining capacity building with bringing nations together following the CERN model. WBC-RTI.INFO attended the event and below you can find our forum review.

A large scientific-technological project was launched some time ago by the  former CERN director prof. Dr Herwig Schopper  together with Montengrin Minister of Science, Sanja Damjanovic; i.e. an international laboratory with the aim of promoting science and technology and improving the relations between countries in the spirit of CERN, Other countries quickly realized the significance of this project and, on 25th October 2017,  a Declaration of Intent for Establishment of the International Scientific Institute in South East Europe (SEEIIST) was officially signed by eight countries of the SEE Region. If realised, the SEEIIST will represent a research excellence nucleus in SEE and will be a benefit  for the science and technology, training, investment in young people, job creation, reverse the brain drain, knowledge based economy. It would provide the opportunity to carry out an  actual economic, scientific and technological transformation of the countries of the Region and finally make it competitive with the rest of Europe.

Two options are considered for the Institute - a syncrotron radiation facility and/or a hadron beam facility for the treatment of tumors and the associated research. The concept designs for these two options were presented in Trieste at the above-mentioned Forum both to the potential users of the SEE Region and to representatives of the EU, the IAEA, the UNESCO, The EPS, and others.

The event took place at the Abdul Salam -International Centre for Theoretycal Physics (ICTP) and was officially opended on 25th January by its Director, Fernando Quevedo who welcomed participants together with representatives of IAEA (Martin Krause - IAEA Director of Division for Europe and Meera Venkatesh  - Director of Division of Physics and Chemical Sciences) and of the European Physical Society (David Lee - Secretary General). In first speeches already, the spin-off effects as well as the socio-economic benefits deriving from the creation of the SEEIIST were emphasized. The first benefits announced include education and training of personnel, i.e. future project proponents, which was promised by the International Atomic Energy Agency to help create a bridge between the countries having technology and expertise and those who want to get there.

The event was also opened by Director-General of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission Mr. Robert Jan Smits who acknowledged the efforts for transforming the Initiative into a regional project and stressed that the European Commission was aware of what science could accomplish for the region. Research is, according to him, a powerful tool for science and excellence and the only way to create a new generation of young researchers. He underlined how th countries of the region want to invest in the knowledge economy. Taking part in the largest research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 helpsand it also helped other projects to obtain the funding for preparing the final concepts and feasibility studies. Mr Smits message is that the EC keeps the door open also when it comes to the SEEIIST.

The Montenegrin Minister of Science, Sanja Damjanovic, gave the first keynote speech about the Proposal for Large facilities in SEE and the two large projects from which the region could benefit particularly. Their concepts are based on most modern technological developments enabling cutting-edge research in many domains relevant to society:

  • One is a synchrotron light source providing radiation research possibilities in many domains from physics to biology, material science, environmental science and even archaeology and medicine. The users' community would come mainly from university faculties and also industry.
  • The second project is a facility for cancer research and treatment with heavy particles (protons and carbon nuclei) which would also enable biomolecular research including experiments with small animals.

For both facilities a number of options were presented to provide indications which choices would be most interesting for the region. Training of scientists, engineers and technicians is considered to be important from the beginning. Since the realisation of these projects will require several years this time will be extensively used to train experts in order to build-up expertise, i.e. to form a sufficient critical mass of staff members for operation of the machines as well as to create users' communities. Thus these opportunities will be mainly for the benefit of the young generation although they will serve to reverse the brain drain as well. Minister Damjanovic  finally spoke about the results achieved  sofar in the political and scientific field. In addition, she announced that the Forum would be followed by the first meeting of the Steering Committee of the International Institute, which would monitor the future activities and steps necessary for the implementation of the project.

Other speeches followed by Ivo Slaus is Honorary President of the World Academy of Art and Science who underlined the benefits of international collaboration in SEE and by Aleksandar Bogojević, Director of IPB Belgrade who welcomed the transformative process and stressed the fact that the SEEIIST would be a research milestone for SEE countries. He further presented the Verrocchio Center, opened in the Republic of Serbia in 2017, expressing readiness for cooperation on the project of the International institute for sustainable technologies.

As an example the SESAME | Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East was illustrated by its Administrative Director, Yasser Khalil. This is also a cooperative venture by scientists and governments of the region set up on the model of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) although it has very different scientific aims.  SESAME fosters scientific and technological excellence in the Middle East and neighbouring countries (and prevent or reverse the brain drain) by enabling world-class scientific research in subjects ranging from biology, archaeology and medical sciences through basic properties of materials science, physics, chemistry, and life sciences. It also intends to build scientific and cultural bridges between diverse societies, and contribute to a culture of peace through international cooperation in science. SESAME serves as a propeller for the scientific, technical, and economic development of the region and strengthens collaboration in science.

Two plenary sessions followed to discuss on cutting edge science and technology at the service of society and the international laboratories for the SEE. The two options for the Institute were presented: the 4th Generation Syncrotron Light source and the Facility for Tumor Therapy and Biomedical Research with protons and heavier ions.

On Forum's second day, the relation between science and industry came under the spotlight. The value of technology transfer and the role of research infrastructures in this was presented by G. Anelli, Head of Knowledge Transfer at CERN, while A. Zennaro familiarised participants with the ERIC-CERIC and talked about the relation of large research infrastructures with industry.

Last but not least, Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council provided an overview of investments in R&D in the region and stressed the need for building capacities and creating free movement of the research community, especially in the WB6 countries. He fully supports the idea that is suitable to eventually create a more strong scientific community.

In conclusion, as an outcome of the Forum, it was emphasized that a great impetus to the new cycle of economic development and scientific and technological recovery of the entire region can be given by the International Scientific Institute in South East Europe. This project would greatly reduce the brain-drain from the region, but would also help the region to become competitive to the rest of Europe, attracting highly skilled professionals. Nevertheless the project must be sustainable, financially viable, and for this, the Forum participants have agreed, political will must exist. Progress has been made in the political agenda, with eight countries of the region signing the Declaration of Intent, and on the scientific plan, with preliminary design studies for the two options of the Institute,  The next step now, after the Scientific Forum in Trieste, is the first meeting of the Steering Committee  (expected on 30 January in Sofia, Bulgaria)  that will play a leading role in decision-making about all future scientific and political steps necessary for the implementation of the project of international institute in South East Europe.


Videos of the event are available at Ministry of Montenegro website:

VIDEO: Forum on New International Research Facilities in South East Europe - scenes

VIDEO: Minister of Science Sanja Damjanovic - statement

VIDEO: Robert-Jan Smits. Robert, Director-General of DG Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commisision-presentation

An official photo gallery is also available at this page.






Geographical focus
  • H2020
  • SEE
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Cross-thematic/Interdisciplinary
  • Natural Sciences

Entry created by Admin on February 9, 2018
Modified on March 12, 2018