01 November 2019 - Science | Business recently posted an interview with Minister Damjanović on the establishment of a major regional research infrastructure that will "heal the wounds of war" in a way that will revive the scientific and technological potential of this area and this will undoubtedly lead to the economic development of the Southeast Europe region.
A €200 million investment in an international research facility in the Balkans could heal the wounds left by years of ethnic conflicts, help to stop the brain drain and lead to the region regaining its former scientific glory, according to Montenegro’s science minister Sanja Damjanović.
For the past three years, she has promoted the vision of a world-leading research institute, built to the same collaborative model as CERN. Now the project has entered its design phase and is edging towards reality.
The 1991 - 2001 wars in the former Yugoslavia diminished the economies and science capacity of all countries in the area. Damjanović is now looking to the political will of neighbouring countries and of the EU, “To bring back the tradition in technology that we had in the past.”
Seven countries in the Balkans and Kosovo have teamed up to establish the Southeast European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST), which will apply advances in particle physics to medical technologies, in particular to develop hadron therapy, a novel radiotherapy technique using proton or ion beams to deliver precision treatment of tumours, sparing healthy tissue.
The countries involved in SEEIIST hope it will help the region overcome economic difficulties and bring them closer to EU membership.
Establishing a large-scale competitive research infrastructure is “the only way” to revive the scientific and technological potential of the region, Damjanović said. “Due to this recent historical situation in our region, all the scientific, economic activities very much slowed down,” she told Florin Zubașcu for Science|Business.
Before entering politics, Damjanović completed a Ph.D. in physics at Heidelberg University and worked as a researcher at CERN. She says the experience of studying and working in international settings. Then, becoming a science minister of such a small country made her reflect on what can be done to revive science and technology in the region. “I was immediately infected with the idea [of an international research institute],” Damjanović said.
She is pushing for SEEIIST to be on the EU’s next roadmap for research infrastructures, to be drawn up by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) in 2021. If that goes well, the construction of the facility could start in 2023 and finish in 2028. But she said, “Time is not so much in favour of us because the [ESFRI] deadline is May 2020.”