Exactly ten years ago, the Institute of Physics, Belgrade received the Sretenje Order of the Third Degree, one of the most important orders that individuals or institutions can receive in the Republic of Serbia (shown in the picture). At the ceremony hosted at the House of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, on 15 February 2012, together with other 24 recipients, the then-president of the Republic of Serbia bestowed the order on the Institute for merits in scientific and research work. A decade later, the circumstances, both in society and at the Institute itself, have changed, however, judging from various indicators, the Institute has held onto the key role in the field of sciences and innovations in Serbia.
‘Our vision is as follows – as the national institute of the Republic of Serbia, the Institute is a leading scientific institution which has sufficiently developed to expand its societal relevancy’, says Dr Aleksandar Bogojević, the Institute’s director, explaining that the year of 2022 has been particularly significant for further advancement of the institution, which has promoted excellence in physics and related sciences for 60 years. Specifically, while reflecting on the tenth anniversary of the Sretenje Odred, the director reminded that there were two mutually interconnected processes underway – the beginning of the construction and equipping of the Verrocchio Centre as a priority project of the Government of Serbia, and the implementation of the Serbia Accelerating Innovation and Growth Entrepreneurship Project (SAIGE), which is funded by the partnership of the Republic of Serbia, the World Bank and the European Union.
In 2018, six years after receiving the state order, the Institute became the first national institute of the Republic of Serbia. Pursuant to the new Law on Science and Innovations, which was adopted in the meantime, the Institute has confirmed and renewed this status – the process of re-accreditation of the Institute as the national institute was completed by a Government decree on 10 February, in accordance with the current legislation, the Institute will maintain this status in the following ten years.
In addition to the above-mentioned Law, the scientific and research sector has gone through significant changes in the previous ten years – the Strategy of Scientific and Technological Development “The power of knowledge” has been adopted and the manner of funding of research has been altered. The Institute has successfully adapted to these changes – an indicator of the spirit of the institution is that the Institute’s researchers have won a record number of projects in the Science Fund’s competition calls (seven in the IDEA programme, four in the PROMISE programme, one COVID and one Artificial Intelligence project). Thanks to the work of the Innovation Centre of the Institute, a series of grants from the Innovation Fund has been won, as well as other projects which promote the advancement of innovations.
Along with domestic, the researchers of the Institute have been successful in winning European projects and grants too, with one of two ERC grants awarded to Serbia being realized at the Institute – in the last four years, 24 projects funded by European funds, were realized at the Institute. Thanks to the engagement of researchers linked to the Institute, the Republic of Serbia became a full member of CERN on 24 March 2019, which is now one of the strategic partners of the Institute. The impressive network of European partners of the Institute encompasses The Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics, INFN, and German Electron Synchrotron, DESY.
To further ties with domestic institutions, the Institute recently has launched a process of establishing strategic partnerships with leading institutions in Serbia – the first strategic partner that the agreement was signed with is the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Belgrade. Additionally, the Institute has gone to extraordinary lengths in the communication of science to people – in addition to ongoing work with the media, until the outbreak of the epidemic, the Institute held extremely popular forums at the Big Hall of Students’ Cultural Centre, and along with other programmes, the Institute has developed a noteworthy video series ‘The Garden of Physics’ which has over 10 000 followers on social media.
‘A gradual succession of generations occurred’, states Director Bogojević, explicating that the retirement of older, more experienced researchers was accompanied by the continual resurgence of younger staff. Nowadays, there are 230 researchers working at the IPB, with two-thirds being doctors of science, and, interestingly, 58% of researchers are younger than 45, and 42% are female.
Photo by: IPB – Bojan Džodan