The BENEFIT Contact Point in Slovakia,

Goals, Results and Experience

Bedrich Weber*1, Elena Gramatova*2

*1 Department of Microelectronics, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, Slovak University of Technology, Ilkovicova 3, SK-812 19 Bratislava, Slovakia
tel: (+ 421 7) 791 363, fax: (+ 421 7) 723 480, e-mail: bweber@elf.stuba.sk

*2 Institute of Computer Systems, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dubravska cesta 9. SK-842 37 Bratislava, Slovakia
tel/fax: (+ 421 7) 37 10 08, e-mail: upsygrva@savba.sk

Keywords: technology transfer, international research co-operation, research and technology development, contact point

Abstract: Slovak BENEFIT Contact Point, S-BCP has been established within the COPERNICUS project CP94 0536 BENEFIT with a goal to support and to promote high technology transfer in Slovakia, especially by means of international research and development co-operation in the area of microelectronics and signal processing. Goals, activities, results and problems are presented in this paper.

Introduction

The transformation process in Slovakia, particularly in the electronic industry is going slowly. A limited market place due to the technological level of the products caused a weakness of the co-operation between universities and research institutes on one side and industrial enterprises on the other.

The EU projects such as TEMPUS, ESPRIT, COPERNICUS have supported significantly the progress of the research work and education, respectively. Both institutions, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology of the Slovak University of Technology, (FEI STU) and the Institute of Computer Systems of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (ICS SAS), have participated in several European projects. The possibility to join these projects enabled the most active teams not only to maintain their activities in the area of their experience and interest but also to improve the level of education and research work by being in touch with the most advanced technology.

Both institutions involved need to implement their knowledge and experience in the industrial sphere to make further progress. The main question: "How to reach it?" can be performed by an active information dissemination towards the industrial sector.

The BENEFIT project has assisted to such activities by supporting the BENEFIT partner's countries to set up the BENEFIT Contact Point (BCP) in the area of microelectronics and signal processing.

The goals, activities, results and problems of the BENEFIT Contact Point in Slovakia, that was established at the end of the year 1996, are described below.

Goals of the S-BCP

The Slovak BENEFIT Contact Point (S-BCP) was established at the Microelectronics Department, FEI STU in a close collaboration with ICS SAS. The contract within BENEFIT project (CP94-0536) has been signed at the end of the year 1996.

The work is aimed at enhancing the progress of the Slovak enterprises with emphasis on SME's in the area of microelectronics and signal processing and to arise awareness for potential co-operation between partners from EU and Slovakia.

Former high level, mostly theoretical, education and present education enhanced significantly mainly by the actions like TEMPUS provided enough highly qualified and experienced engineers, potentially able not only to make faster progress of the Slovak industry but also to contribute to some extent to European development.

Most probably the most efficient way to break the vicious circle of the Slovak industry is to support the transfer of technology and experience by means of the promotion of the international co-operation.

Based on these ideas and experience the tasks of the S-BCP are as follows:

Activities and results of the S-BCP

In order to perform the general task of the S-BCP to disseminate information on the EC Programs and to support an international collaboration of the Slovak industry, especially SME's, it was necessary to find and attract active industrial enterprises really willing to co-operate within S-BCP.

The work started already during the phase of the contract preparation. The information on the goals and planned activities of S-BCP were distributed and presented at 5 national and local events such as conference, seminar, two exhibitions and the General Assembly of the Union of Electrical Industry (UEI) in Slovakia. For this purpose a two page leaflet had been prepared and distributed at every occasion. Personal contacts were used to inform the representatives of the enterprises as well. The information focused on informing and attracting the potential S-BCP partners had been published in 5 national and local journals and bulletins [1 - 5]. Both, goals and steps planned as well as our results obtained due to an international research co-operation within EU 4th Framework Program were emphasised.

Though some representatives of the enterprises expressed their interest to be informed on the EU initiatives and conditions and rules to join them as well as to participate in S-BCP activities, only a small number of them really applied to become an S-BCP partner.

Because of low effectiveness of the presentations done a new approach was used. Especially with the help of the Union of Electrical Industry in Slovak more than 900 addresses of Slovak industrial enterprises were gathered. An information letter including a copy of call for ESPRIT Information Day and a questionnaire being an S-BCP application form at the same time were sent after a preliminary selection of the enterprises to almost 850 enterprises in February, 1997.

In order to find contact with as many active enterprises as possible the scope of the offer to the potential partners has been extended by information about possibilities of:

As a response, 36 enterprises, 4 university departments, 1 institute of the Academy of Sciences in Kosice and 1 governmental organisation confirmed their interest to co-operate. In a few cases small electronics divisions of larger enterprises have also applied for S-BCP.

Out of the number of the partners mentioned above the following number confirmed the interest:

topic of interest number of enterprises/other institutions
to be informed on the EU IT projects generally
29/5
to be informed on the EU initiatives, electronic initiatives in particular
30/1
to take part in workshops etc.
30/6
to co-operate with foreign enterprises/institutions
31/5
to work in development in the IT area generally
14/4
to work in development in the area of electronics
28/2
to be informed on present possibilities of ASIC design in SK
28/4
to be informed on microsystems/sensoric systems
33/4
to be connected to Internet
18/- others have an access
to set up an own Web page
23/-

To start the real BCP activity an S-BCP Information Day (ID) was organised at STU FEI Bratislava on April 30, 1997. Before this date only 25 enterprises and 4 institutions were on the S-BCP list. Out of this numbers, 8 persons from 6 enterprises and 3 representatives from other institutions attended the S-BCP ID (4 partners apologised).

The attendees were provided with complex information on EU projects as well as information on results of STU FEI and ICS SAS, including demonstration of relevant Web pages and VLSI design infrastructure in both institutions. Copies of different documents were distributed.

The discussion, especially during the S-BCP Information Day, helped to focus on more effective way of the future activities.

Plans and conclusions

Most of the enterprises in Slovakia including SME's have highly qualified and experienced engineers who however cannot use at present the most advanced technologies (e.g. ASIC design) because of limited market place. They are fully overwhelmed by solving the current and short term tasks.

Some of them underestimate their ability and effectiveness to dedicate an effort to look for an international co-operation, others have problems to solve at present but wish to be informed on the new trends and possibilities.

Also the most advanced way to gain and exchange information via Internet and/or to present their own ability and results using Web pages is still not fully understood by the enterprises.

Therefore the next S-BCP meeting scheduled for November 6, 1997 will be focused on solving these problems.

S-BCP, especially in close collaboration with NCP for sensoric systems and with the INCO-Copernicus SYTIC project, will continue to support the technology transfer and international co-operation within accessible actions.

The strong need to encourage the partners to participate in EU projects exists. To increase and improve especially personal contacts, discussions and consultations to explain the benefit of the co-operation promoted by S-BCP is found to be a most appropriate way.

Acknowledgement: The work was supported by the EC within COPERNICUS project BENEFIT (CP94-0536), contract CP96/SK-FEI, and partially also by the project SYTIC (CP96-0170) and by the Slovak Grant Agency within projects 1/4294/97, 2/3041/96 and 95/5195/286.

References

[1] WEBER, B. - GRAMATOVA, E.: Co-ordination Centre For International Co-operation In the Area Of Microelectronics and Its Applications In Slovakia (BENEFIT Contact Point - BCP), Bulletin of the Association of the Employer's Unions, 10, October 1996, pp. 10 - 11

[2] WEBER, B. - VESELY, M. - DONOVAL, D.: Electronic System Design And the Possibilities To Use ASIC's In Slovakia, Journal of Electrical and Power Engineering, Vol. 2, special issue - Proceedings of the Conference and the Catalogue of the Exhibition ELOSYS'96, November 1996, pp. A1 - A2

[3] GRAMATOVA, E. - WEBER, B.: Co-ordination Centre For International Co-operation In the Area Of Microelectronics In Slovakia (BENEFIT Contact Point - BCP), News of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Vol. 3, 1997, No. 2, pp. 1 and 8 (continuation)

[4] WEBER, B. - VESELY, M. - DONOVAL, D.: Development In the Area of Integrated Circuits Design, SPECTRUM - Bulletin of the Slovak University of Technology, Vol. 35, 1997, No. 8, pp. 9 - 11

[5] WEBER, B. - GRAMATOVA, E.: Co-ordination Centre For International Co-operation In the Area Of Microelectronics and Signal Processing - BENEFIT Contact Point, SPECTRUM - Bulletin of the Slovak University of Technology, Vol. 35, 1997, No. 9, pp. 12 - 13


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