«I'm so happy to see you that I'm dizzy!» admitted a student of the RTU Latvian Maritime Academy (LJA), when RTU students met with President Edgars Rinkēvičs on November 27. The President visited RTU, where he also met with the university management, became better acquainted with the work of scientists and inspected the RTU student campus in Ķīpsala.
RTU management presented the university's strategic goals and future development plans to President Rinkēvičs. RTU Rector Tālis Juhna emphasized that for the growth of Latvia, it is necessary to develop close cooperation between science universities and industry, as such; it is important for RTU to prepare excellent engineering and high-tech specialists who will contribute to the technological growth of local companies and, therefore, Latvia, with their knowledge in research and development (R&D) units.
RTU intends to create three initiatives of excellence - the Hydrogen Center of Excellence, the Microchip Testing Center, and the Baltic Innovative Particle Therapy Center, where research will be conducted about how to treat oncological diseases that have been difficult to cure until now with innovative methods.
To introduce these initiatives in greater detail, President Rinkēvičs was offered a meeting with the scientists involved in the projects. In the RTU Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications Laboratory of Fiber Optics Transmission Systems, which deals with microchip research, professor Sandis Spolītis introduced E. Rinkēvičs to the achievements of scientists - world records that RTU scientists have achieved through their research into the possibilities of how to transfer data with as little energy and heat as possible that could transmit as quickly and securely as possible with smaller devices.
Meanwhile, RTU doctoral student Kristaps Paļskis, who is working on his doctoral thesis at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), discussed the Baltic-wide innovative particle therapy center and research related to the use of accelerator technologies in cancer treatment; while his CERN colleague, RTU Faculty of Materials Science and Applied Chemistry, Particle Physics associate professor, and accelerator technology institute director Kārlis Dreimanis briefly told about the involvement of RTU scientists in CERN research.
In addition, Māris Kaļinka, associate professor of the RTU Faculty of Civil Engineering, demonstrated the «twin» of the Ķīpsala student campus created with the help of 3D measurements and detailed the contributions of RTU scientists, performing three-dimensional scanning of cultural heritage objects in Ukraine this summer that recorded damages and obtained data to help plan the strengthening and restoration of the cultural monuments of war victims.
RTU Environmental Protection and Heat Systems Institute researcher Ruta Vanaga presented her invention – a smart and dynamic facade system that will be able to adapt to changes in the surrounding environment and accumulate solar energy for use in the heating of buildings.
The President also inspected the RTU Science and Innovation Center, where conditions have been created for students, entrepreneurs, and scientists to create innovative products and develop science-intensive ideas. For example, the underwater drone, created by RTU student Kārlis Bērziņš and RTU Riga Business School student Toms Rožkalns, which can perform survey and search operations in Latvian climatic conditions, as well as obtain various types of real time data and information about the water ecosystem.
He also had the opportunity to get acquainted with the RTU student campus and several scientific laboratories. In the RTU Water Research and Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory, Professor Linda Mežule spoke about water purification technologies; while in the 3D Concrete Printing Scientific Laboratory, leading researcher Māris Šinka presented future construction technologies and materials for making concrete structures.
On the other hand, in the Personal Protective Equipment Testing Laboratory, Professor Inga Dāboliņa showed the wide range of equipment designed for testing masks, respirators, and filters, as well as specialized clothing, including protective clothing and work clothes, as well as various textile materials.
«It is necessary to significantly increase funding in higher education and science right now, by actively investing both state budget funds and funding available to Latvia from European Union funds. Such investments would ensure that research processes and therefore knowledge develop and remain in Latvia. These are skills that would help more and more products created at the university to be successfully commercialized and the results of applied research to be patented and used further, for example, in the establishment of start-ups here in Latvia. It would also be an opportunity to offer niche products created in Latvia internationally, strengthening Latvia's role in global supply chains,» President Rinkēvičs concluded after visiting the laboratories.
He emphasized the need to work on the creation of a national investment plan and more targeted investments in strategically important areas for Latvia, especially in the development of science, and expressed his satisfaction that RTU has made important decisions in improving the study and science process to promote excellence in these areas. He appreciated the progress achieved and RTU's commitment to creating such an innovation ecosystem for practical cooperation between the academic and business environment.
At the end of the visit, President Rinkēvičs addressed RTU students and answered their questions regarding higher education policy and foreign policy and discussed the work of the president.
Promotion of the excellence of science and higher education in Latvia is one of the priorities of the President. It is also one of the main settings in the work of the State Competitiveness Commission established by the President.