Innovation Council members at consortium meeting and innovation breakfast.

Innovation Council

Considering the mission of the INNO2MARE project to act as a driving force that brings together different actors within and between the ecosystems, it was of critical importance to establish a joint coordinating body – i.e., the Innovation Council, comprising representatives of the project consortium and the other key actors in the Croatian, Slovenian and Belgian ecosystems.

The Innovation Council functions as a forum for the exchange of intelligence, ideas, opinions and initiatives concerning the ecosystems’ innovative performances and feeds the development of the joint R&I strategy and action plan. The Council external members have the ambassador role, support talent attraction and retention, and facilitate the Citizens Connect activities where bottom-up civic participation is sought in tackling key issues in the Croatian and Slovenian innovation ecosystems through thematic discussions at dedicated annual events and campaigns in public spaces.

The Innovation Council was therefore established in May 2023 and consists of eleven members from the Slovenian, Croatian and Belgian ecosystems.

The Head of the Innovation Council is Prof. D. Sc. Saša Zelenika, Vice-Rector for Strategic Projects at the University of Rijeka, Croatia, whose portfolio encompasses innovation activities with special emphasis on knowledge valorisation and knowledge transfer. Vice-Rector Zelenika’s rich academic career includes positions such as Head of Mechanical Engineering at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, Dean’s Assistant, Department Head and acting Laboratory Head at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Rijeka. He was also Deputy Minister at the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sports.

Other appointed IC members of the Croatian ecosystem are: Vedran Kružić, D. Sc. Jakov Karmelić and Siniša Reljić.

Mr Kružić is the Director of the Regional Development Agency of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. He has many years of business experience at managing positions, and was also Assistant Minister for Digital Economy, Trade and Internal Market at the Ministry of Economy of Croatia.

Dr. Karmelić has, in turn, almost 40 years of practical experience in maritime industries as well as a career in academia at the Faculty of Maritime Studies of the University of Rijeka, where he works as a Guest Lecturer. He is currently President of the Association of Maritime Agents of Croatia.

Mr. Reljić is a renowned business development professional with over 43 years of experience in maritime industries, of which 25 years in the company Navis Consult, where he had the role of Managing Director and is currently Company’s Advisor.

Members of the Belgian ecosystem are D. Sc. Ali Anwar, Ghazaleh Kia and Deepak Mehta.

Dr. Anwar is working as a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Antwerp as well as a senior researcher with imec-IDLab. He serves as a reviewer and guest editor of various peer reviewed journals and conferences, leads/co-leads various activities in national and international research projects, including H2020 Novimove, H2020 5G Blueprint and H2020 Vital-5G.

Mrs. Kia is an accomplished R&D project manager at Seafar, overseeing several EU Horizon and government-funded projects. Prior to her PhD studies, she worked as a software engineer, developing SCADA for smart grids automation. She is a certified project manager by Google Careers.

Mr. Mehta is an Ecosystem Developer for MCA (Maritime Campus Antwerp). He is engaging the general public to embrace technology to solve societal challenges at the Arenberg Theater, Project Curious, HackBelgiumLabs, PC Solidarity and TEDxAntwerp.

Appointed members of the Slovenian ecosystem are Prof. D. Sc. Niko Herakovič, Jurij Mirnik, Martin Pečar and Assist. Prof. D. Sc. Marko Perkovič.

Prof. D. Sc. Herakovič is the Head of the Chair for Manufacturing Technologies and Systems as well as the Head of the LASIM Laboratory at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana. He is well known in transferring the scientific and research knowledge into real industrial environments. He received the national Puh prize, while with his team he was recognised as the best digitalization industrial project in Slovenia (Company Adria Dom) by the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce.

Assist. Prof. D. Sc. Perkovič is Vice Dean for Research and Development at the Faculty of Maritime Studies of the University of Ljubljana. He works on the introduction of simulator equipment for the education and training of future seafarers and is active in research with a focus on navigation safety, port and waterway design, pollution modelling and remote sensing. In 2008 he was appointed to the National Maritime Expert at the EC JRC Joint European Research Institute in Ispra.

Mr. Mirnik is an expert at the Strategic Development Department at the Port of Koper. He has a significant experience in topics related to maritime and port operations, transport systems, project management, security, and ICT, while his main area of work concerns managing European projects in the field of port systems and logistics.

Mr. Pečar is an experienced ICT entrepreneur and founder of two successful start-ups. He is also proficient in programming and machine learning, with excellent communication skills, including interactions with top managers, government officials, and the European Commission.

The excellent and broad expertise and skillset of the selected Innovation Council members is a strong foundation for the successful achievement of the tasks and obligations of the Innovation Council. In fact, the members of the Council have actively participated to the 2nd INNO2MARE consortium meeting held in Rijeka in September 2023, holding not only a regular Council meeting, but also actively participating to the Innovation Breakfast via a keynote speech “Maritime Transport Ecosystems for Impactful Innovation” of Deepak Mehta, to the Citizen Connect panel entitled “Innovation in Maritime Transport as contribution to sustainable communities” and to the brainstorming session “How to develop, attract and retain talent in maritime ecosystems”.

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