Taming Wild Waters
September 30, 2013
The Polish Science Voice reports on all manner of collaboration between science and business in Poland, proceeding from the assumption that such collaboration is the foundation of innovation, which, in turn, is the basis of development. We also highlight the people behind such team-ups as well as those who inspired them and those who benefit from these partnerships.
We also focus on the mechanisms of science-business collaboration. One of the most important mechanisms is the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR), which, with substantial public funds at its disposal, carries out the government’s policy in this area. The center’s director, Prof. Krzysztof Kurzydłowski, a special guest of this issue of The Polish Science Voice, talks about the NCBiR’s work and the philosophy underlying it as well as about his vision for the future. He says a key issue is the interest of businesses in working with researchers and that businesses are steadily growing more interested in working with the research community. He predicts that “in the next two to three years Poland will see some spectacular growth in this area. Our goal is make sure that a balance is achieved between public and private funds for innovation in Poland over the next seven years, which means the period covered by the new EU budget.” He adds, “The way we are doing this is the most modern in Europe today.”
Innovation is alive and well in Poland, as the reader will see in this issue of The Polish Science Voice. For example, a group of engineers in southern Poland have developed a range of special ballistic shields that are lightweight yet strong enough to withstand armor-piercing ammunition. “The idea came from industry, as a result of our contacts with the producers of the Sokół helicopter and the military version of the machine,” says Bartłomiej Płonka, from the Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals in the southern city of Gliwice and head of the research group that developed the design. “There was a need for lightweight shields.”
The new shields are designed to protect both military and civilian vehicles. They can be used to provide enhanced security for VIP convoys, for armored cars carrying valuables, and for helicopters during war operations. The secret of an effective shield is the right combination of three basic types of materials: ceramics, metals and plastics, according to Płonka. The researchers are waiting for a patent and have found a company that will soon begin producing the shields.
In another example of a research project that looks set to produce major, real-world benefits, Prof. Bolesław Kuźniewski from the Maritime University of Szczecin in northwestern Poland has developed a new type of breakwater to suppress storm waves and counteract coastal erosion, which makes Poland shrink by some 34 hectares every year and causes substantial financial losses. The design was created as part of a research project carried out at the Maritime University of Szczecin between 2008 and 2010 that focused on developing a new way to protect the coastline against waves. The National Center for Research and Development allocated around $1 million to help finance the project.
This new, active, coastline protection method is different from traditional, passive, protection methods, Kuźniewski says, because it involves suppressing sea waves with their own energy before they reach the shore. It is also cheaper. Kuźniewski developed the method by studying the mechanics of water undulation. The breakwater has passed initial tests and the researchers say they are confident that it will also do its job at sea.