New Year’s speech: a billion from OP JAK, 70th anniversary celebration and higher energy costs

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At the beginning of his New Year's speech, Director Michael Prouza thanked the employees at all three facilities for coping with the difficult situation in 2023, when owing to their joint efforts FZU managed to overcome all the difficulties.

"We had to dig relatively deep into our reserves. I think we used up about half of the Reserve Fund in the past year, but we managed to keep our quality and valuable teams in the research and administrative areas of the Institute without any layoffs," Prouza said, adding that we do not have to continue this practice in the coming years thanks to the success in the OP JAK competition.

In the Johannes Amos Comenius Operational Programme, the Institute of Physics has been awarded three projects and is involved in three others as a partner.  Out of the more than 12 billion crowns allocated for successful projects in total in this programme, FZU receives more than one billion crowns. The successful teams will be able to use the money until mid-2028.

Before the end of 2023, also the results of the OP JAK call for research infrastructures were announced, in which six infrastructures with the participation of FZU were successful – CzechNanoLab, MGML, PALS, CERN, AUGER and CTA. The only unsuccessful infrastructure for us is FERMILAB. "The call was for investments, i.e. primarily for the acquisition of instruments and other equipment, but there is a small part for salary support, which will help us not only in 2024, but also in the following years," Prouza commented on the results. Unfortunately, despite the success in the competition, some of the FZU infrastructures have had to deal with significant funding cuts.

On the other hand, the positive news for 2023 is the increase in the budget of the Academy of Sciences by approximately 7%, which is in contrast with the pessimistic expectations that still prevailed in mid-2023. Although the Academy has to meet its commitments and support the redevelopment of the building complex for the three institutes of the third scientific area in Hybernska Street and, based on a decision of the Czech government, also the funding of the tokamak upgrade at the Institute of Plasma Physics, the Institute of Physics can still, in the director’s opinion, count on an increase of more than 5% in the contribution for long-term activities from the Academy of Sciences. "In absolute terms, it is a little over CZK 26 million that we receive in extra money. The positive thing for all of you is that all this money will be used to increase institutional wages," the director said.

What the director sees as less positive is the situation regarding electricity costs. Although the price of power electricity has dropped, distribution costs have increased by more than 40%, so compared to last year, FZU will be paying approximately 2 million more for power. Currently, government support to reduce the impact of high energy prices is no longer available, but the Academy of Sciences still substitutes such support quite significantly.

What the director considers most critical this year is the investment budget, from which the institute needs to co-fund projects, purchase equipment and carry out renovations, and where the Academy's direct contribution this year is two to three times less than needed. Therefore, it will be necessary to search for funding solutions. The construction of a new energy-passive building at Slovanka, which would address the lack of space for some divisions, also remains uncertain. We are currently awaiting a final statement from the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic regarding a possible grant for this building.

At the end of his speech, Prouza recalled the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Institute of Physics – a successful series of lectures dedicated to the history of the division, a social event in Rudolfinum and a poll vote on important personalities of the Institute. Based on the vote result, plans are underway to name the lecture halls after Jan Tauc in Cukrovarnická, Adela Kochanovská in SOLID and Vladimír Dvořák in the main building in Slovanka.

"I hope that 2024 will be a successful year, full of challenges but also opportunities for further development of the Institute of Physics. We have a lot to look forward to not only in January, but also throughout the year and I hope that together we will be able to take the Institute one step further," Prouza concluded his speech.