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Czech technology days in Milwaukee and a mission to Chicago (November 2012)


Czech technology days took place on 13 - 14 November 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The main goals and agenda of the conference were based on a long-term cooperation between Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) and Milwaukee School of Engineering and Rockwell Automation. The main organizer on the US side was Mr. V. Hermann, director of HSP Inc., who has been promoting bilateral cooperation for many years now in research and innovations, and from the Czech Republic MFA, agency CzechInvest and the CTU.

The Czech delegation consisted of representatives of some government institutions (namely Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Ivan Jukl, Director General of Economic Section, Petr Kaiser, Special Envoy for Science and Technology, Dana Huňátová, Consul General, Jaroslav Zajíček, Deputy Chief of Embassy in Washington; CzechInvest: Jiří Krechl, Director of RandD Support Department), prominent researchers in IT, robotics and artificial intelligence from CTU (prof. Vladimír Mařík, prof. Olga Štěpánková and prof. Jan Šedivý), heads of spin-off companies (CertiCon a HydroCon) and last, but not least, directors of innovative SMEs (ROBOT SYSTEM Ostrava, FOTON, IMA Praha, Advanced Materials, VÚTS Liberec). Also the US participants were of various background: representatives of large and midsized companies (Rockwell Automation, Oshkosh Corporation, bioMerieux, Inc.), banks and investors (Export Import Bank, Spinnaker Venture Partners, Mason & Wells), and technological incubators (Gener8tor).

A key part of the agenda was presentations of business plans of Czech innovators. A discussion on perspectives in Czech-American RandD cooperation also took place. In addition, interactive panels were organized focusing on best practices in commercialization of new technologies (investment in small companies and start-ups) and on incentives to promote cooperation between universities and industry. On the second day of the program in Milwaukee, Czech researchers and entrepreneurs visited some companies and innovative centers in the region (inter alia, Badger Meter which has established cooperation with Czech software developers, Rapid Prototyping Consortium).

The next day the Czech delegation moved from Milwaukee to Chicago. There, they visited Illinois Institute of Technology and prestigious technological incubator “1871”. The program was organized in cooperation with the IIT vice-president D. Baker who confirmed the interest of his institute in the Czech Republic being a “hub” for its possible activities in Central Europe. The dean of IIT School of Applied Technologies declared in the conversation his readiness to start an exchange program between his university and CTU with the emphasis on entrepreneurial training.

The three-day mission to Milwaukee and Chicago has brought some concrete results. It opened a discussion on establishment of an informal group pooling together representatives of the Czech innovative community and interested US venture capitalists (representatives of technological parks). Moreover, it has laid ground for students exchange between respective universities and launched talks on possible commercialization of some Czech technologies on the US market.