Innovations on show at launch of Czech House in Brussels

Brussels 15 October 2007A navigation system for the blind, audiovisual stimulation glasses for treating insomnia and a mobile health care application were among the innovations on show at the launch of Czech House in Brussels on 11 October 2007. The House is intended to serve the country's European Union Presidency in the first half of 2009. At the unveiling, the Czech Liaison Office for Research and Development (CZELO) had a stand where the curious could check out some of the latest innovative projects to come out of the Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague.

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The navigation system for the visually impaired was developed as part of a joint pilot project between the Czech Technical University, the Vodafone Foundation, their joint initiative the Research and Development Centre for Mobile Communications (RDC), and the Czech Blind United (SONS) organisation. Using the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies, the satellite system enables on-demand location recognition and navigation throughout the Czech Republic using mobile transmission of voice and data to the navigation call centre.

The audiovisual stimulation machine (AVS) consists of a pair of audiovisual stimulation (AVS) sunglasses and a smart system for treating insomnia, with integrated headphones, a control box and either a CD or MP3 player. Whilst the glasses contain light-emitting diodes (LED) for visual stimulation, the smart system generates a personalised sleep hypnogramme session to induce sleep in the user.

The main developer of the technology, Petr Kolman, was a biocybernetics student at the Czech Technical University in Prague when he devised his first AVS device for personal use. Discovering interest in his machine, Mr. Kolman, further improved it with new sleep programmes before launching his spin-off company Happy Electronics, which now sells his AVS products on the Czech market and via the Internet for around 250 euro.

Another spin-off company to hail from the Czech Technical University in Prague is Clever Technologies. Since its inception in 2005, it has worked to integrate the results of biomedical research at the university into medical and industrial applications. On display at the CZELO stand was its latest innovation, a bio-telemetric wireless system. The system's basic function is to scan, archive and process biological information, such as the electrical activity of the heart and brain of patients, and send it in real time to a health data monitoring centre.

According to the leader of the project, Jan Kaspar from the Czech Technical University and Clever Technologies, this innovative product holds great potential. "This easy-to-use application, with its fast system implementation, could make it very useful in many medical fields and could be used in autonomous medical homecare", he stated.

All of the projects were funded through the European Union's European Social Fund and helped through to completion by the Tripod Project at the Czech Technical University in Prague. For Mr. Kaspar, Czech universities, and technical universities especially, need more technology transfer organisations to help acquire the financial means to create spin-off companies from the fruits of their research.

"The problem in the Czech Republic is that we have out-of-date mentalities and university structures which prevent us from realising our full potential in terms of technology transfer", Mr. Kaspar stated. According to the engineering student, reforms of the university system are badly needed for the country's research and development (R&D) to make its presence known on the European scene.

Indeed, the innovations on show at the opening of the Czech House indicated that ideas and entrepreneurship are not lacking. Hopefully it is only a matter of time before the same can be said for budgets and the environment for technology transfer.


Leslie Versweyveld

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