The European Union and the University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol in the UK have supported the development and launching of a new centre of excellence for engineering and robotics in Croatia, a nation seeking accession into the EU. The new 'Centre of Mechatronics, Karlovac' (CMK), backed by the EU's CARDS2004 programme, will offer consultancy and strategic development services for enterprises that are in need of a boost.
The UWE's Bristol Institute for Technology (BIT) led the project, which obtained EUR 435 000 in financial support from the EU. UWE Bristol officials said in a statement that the centre integrates activities between the Polytechnic and Technical Schools of Karlovac, and the region's industry. Karlovac, which is known as 'The City of Parks', is active in power production and brewing.
This new centre will also offer Croatian students the opportunity to enrol in important courses and obtain placements in key areas. Offering these students hands-on training in the area's local industries is also on the cards. Of particular significance is the fact that the Technical School can offer industry-related apprenticeships and tailor-made training for Karlovac-based enterprises.
The Polytechnic School's contribution to the centre will help the CMK provide local groups with consultancy services, as well as professional development and advice on strategic development in various areas including robotics and electronic engineering.
'The centre has already generated significant interest in Karlovac and has benefited from funding contributions and commercial contracts of around EUR 15 000 from industry and other local and national organisations,' explained project leader Farid Dailami.
'This "pump priming" has enabled the centre's management to focus on the future and formulate a growth strategy to fit the educational, industrial and commercial needs of Karlovac and its region,' added Mr Dailami, who has been in Croatia for the last two years, leading a team from BIT, supported by the UWE Bristol's Research, Business and Innovation group.
The Karlovac Chamber of Commerce hosted the launching of the project. Representatives from the EU, the UWE Bristol, the Croatian European Development and Finance Ministries, the British Embassy at Zagreb, the UK Trade International (UKTI) and local enterprises participated in the event.
'The knowledge transferred from [the] UWE will help strengthen the regional economy in this part of Croatia ahead of its accession to the EU by enhancing the availability of trained staff for the power generation and brewing industries and a wide range of SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises],' said project director John Lanham, who is the head of the School of Mechanical, Manufacturing & Aerospace Engineering at BIT.
'The knowledge transferred from UWE will help strengthen the regional economy in this part of Croatia ahead of its accession to the EU by enhancing the availability of trained staff for the power generation and brewing industries and a wide range of SMEs,' he added.
'This is just the start – the involvement between Croatia and UWE will continue, with bids for more projects to build on this work. We are also setting up a link with the Polytechnic to enable staff from Karlovac to embark on PhD studies with us at UWE.'
News of this development first emerged in 2008. The Vice Dean of the Faculty at the Polytechnic of Karlovac had welcomed the move, saying: 'The establishment of such a centre is what is desperately needed to introduce modern blended learning and business initiative to local industry which is losing pace with modern technology.'