Czech government and industry launch science award for school students

The Czech company Ceska Hlava, in collaboration with the Czech Senate and the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, has launched a competition for secondary school students. Entitled
‘Innovating Minds – Czech Awards for Young Europeans’, the natural sciences and technology competition is open to all European students up to 19 years of age.

The prize will be awarded in five categories: information and communication technology (ICT), health and quality of life, environment, product and technology innovations and design and
architecture. Applicants must submit their project synopsis online, including an independent expert’s review provided, for instance, by a science teacher. The applications for the Innovating
Minds Award 2008 have to be submitted before 10 September. The award ceremony will then be held in October 2008 in Prague.

An international jury will select the winners in each category, who will each be awarded ?5,000. The jury is made up of scientists, politicians and experts from industry. Even two Nobel Prize
winners, Professor Richard Ernst, who won the Chemistry Nobel Prize in 1991, and Professor Timothy Hunt, Medicine Nobel Prize (2001), agreed to join the jury. Their participation was thanks to
previous connections with the Prague University of Economics chancellor, Professor Richard Hindls, and his persuasive power, Katarina Stursová of Ceska Hlava told CORDIS News.

This new award is modelled on a local Czech competition that was initiated in 2007. It turned out to be a great success, Ms Stursová said. The projects submitted mostly came from the
field of medicine, for example dealing with low blood pressure. Other submissions were dedicated to technological problems: ‘One of last year’s winners was a 12 year old who found a way to
switch light or heating on and off using a mobile phone but without creating any costs to the user,’ Ms Stursová remembered.

What is more, the partners who created this award felt that there was ‘nothing like it in Europe’, no science and technology competition addressing secondary school students, Ms Stursová
explained in the interview. According to the project’s website, the Innovating Minds award seeks ‘to contribute to developing young people’s interest in scientific and research careers.’

Estimates predict that Europe will be short of up to one million scientists and researchers in years to come, due to the ‘brain drain’ as young scientists go to the USA to pursue their careers
as well as young people’s lack of interest in science and research. The situation in the Czech Republic is similar: The average age of people working in the field of science is rising, Ms
Stursová stated, and there are hardly any young people taking up scientific studies. ‘Everybody’s interested in law and economics,’ she said. In addition, prospective university students
have to take extremely difficult tests in order to be allowed access. ‘But it’s getting a bit better,’ she added.

The Ceska Hlava company launched a project in 2002 dedicated to supporting and promoting Czech science and technology. In the framework of the project, the company has granted yearly awards to
the best scientists and engineers, which have become nearly as prestigious as the Nobel Prize within the Czech Republic.

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