STAznanost

Top research centre IJS celebrates 70th anniversary

Ljubljana, 27 March - The Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), Slovenia's leading science and research centre, will mark its 70th anniversary with a high-profile ceremony at Cankarjev Dom on Wednesday, featuring a talk about flying robots by top robotics expert Vijay Kumar from the University of Pennsylvania.

The IJS is the largest research centre in the country which by far transcends the Slovenian borders in terms of science and culturally, says its boss Jadran Lenarčič.

With some 990 employees, it covers a range of basic and applied research.

Its main areas of research are physics and reactor technology; chemistry, materials, biochemistry and the environment; and ICT with robotics and automation.

"All the main fields of research we have ... are of extremely high quality. If they weren't, they wouldn't be there," Lenarčič says, pointing to fierce global competition.

The IJS is now taking part in some 150 projects from the Horizon 2020 programme, and cooperates with research centres and universities from Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea.

As Lenarčič told the STA ahead of today's ceremony, the IJS was one of the most desired partners in European projects.

"I can say that by some European Commission standards, the institute is one of the 50 most desired research institutions in Europe.

"Given our size, given that we are smaller than many German, French or Italian institutes, we're practically at the very top in terms of EU funds we obtain."

He believes taking part in international research projects is key to the IJS's quality.

The institute has always been more than just a centre of scientific research and technological development, says Lenarčič.

It plays an important role in culture and in pioneering various national policies in nuclear energy, the environment, food and metrology.

With its knowledge and breadth, the IJS extends to many areas of social development, which should be further strengthened in the future, according to Lenarčič.

"If we get more funds, better working conditions and infrastructure, we hope to attract more foreign researchers to Slovenia, which is vital, as you cannot be competitive without cooperation and exchange with foreign countries."

Lenarčič says "there is no field where we are not among the best in the world."

Indeed, among the many of its breakthroughs, IJS scientists synthetised a compound of xenon fluoride in the 1960s, which had been until then thought impossible.

In the 1980s, they discovered the stefin enzyme and developed the first robots. They also launched the first internet connection and set up the first web site in Slovenia.

An important discovery was also a micro laser as well as ferromagnetic fluid, which had been considered impossible to produce.

Its researchers have taken part in proving the existence of the Higgs boson at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).

But looking ahead, Lenarčič says a major challenge will be securing enough research funds following funding cuts during the economic crisis. Lenarčič believes structural change will be needed to address this issue.

"We need a concept of Slovenia's development that will be based on knowledge ..., for which a comprehensive approach is needed. This won't happen overnight. Unfortunately, we've started to lag behind our competitors over the past 10 years."

The institute emerged from the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts' institute for physics, which was set up in 1946. But the year of its establishment is considered 1949, when the institute refocussed on nuclear energy research.

In 1969, it was renamed after physicist, mathematician and poet Jožef Stefan (1835-1893), the only Slovenian scientist who has discovered one of the basic natural laws.

The IJS became part of the University of Ljubljana in 1971, and has been an independent public research institution since 1992.