Jiří Hudeček

Director of the South Moravian Innovation Centre

From the online.muni.cz.

Jiří Hudeček, a graduate from the Faculty of Economics and Administration, leads an institution, which strives to help innovation companies and students with original ideas. We are talking about the South Moravian Innovation Centre, which was founded by Brno universities along with the South Moravian Region and the City of Brno in order to help increase the importance of the whole region on the global map of science, research and new technologies. “It’s only a matter of time for this goal to be achieved. Although it might not seem that there is something big going on in Brno at the first sight, there is great activity under the surface,” says Hudeček.

In the Czech Republic, it is still quite unusual for someone to their higher education only after some time after the secondary school leaving examination. You did so. How did it happen?
I studied at the grammar school in Lerchov, Brno, and I was so intoxicated by the school leaving exam that I forgot I needed to get admitted to a university. It was just after the revolution, when various opportunities to study abroad were starting to emerge, so I commenced my studies at a business college in Austria for two years. Then I wished to study in England, but I didn’t have enough money. I had several student jobs for about a year, and I finally started studying at Masaryk University four years later than my peers.

When you became the director of the South Moravian Innovation Centre, it was only three years after your graduation, but your curriculum vitae shows you have done quite a lot.
I worked during my studies, so I had rich experience in business and various types of work; my last job was in a large shipping company in Austria. However, when I was 29, I hit a brick wall, and although I had done everything to put it off, I had to join the military service. It was cancelled within six months, so I had caught it quite narrowly. My wife and I had considered our return to the Czech Republic, and the opportunity to establish and manage the South Moravian Innovation Centre caught my attention.

Why did it attract you?
I liked the vision to move the whole region around Brno, which I love very much, towards innovation. I saw the project would be supported by universities, including Masaryk University, as well as the regional and local authorities. It seemed very promising. In addition, as an economist, it made perfect sense to direct the whole region towards technological development. At that time, in 2003, investment incentives, which were attracting various assembly plants, were still very popular. However, they did not and do not have a great future. It can be seen that with growing real wages, Czech labour has become too expensive and unattractive for this type of work. So it was only a question of time for the assembly plants to move further east. Our future lies in brains, that’s what we need to realise.

Brno has been described as the future Silicon Valley of Central Europe, thanks to projects like CEITEC or campus. How do you expect this goal to be achieved?
Of course, it is still a long journey, but we are actually on the way. JIC strives to help create the environment, where one can start doing business easily, and where entrepreneurs are generally welcomed. If I were to talk about universities: when you study, getting a diploma at a prestigious school and studying in a pleasant environment is certainly very important. However, I would also like for people to study here because as soon as they get a diploma, they can easily start implementing their business plan right here.

How can the Innovation Centre help a young student or graduate?
There are plenty of ways, but, for example, we have a great thing we call MIC Minutes. You apply with your idea, either in the field of information or communication technologies, medicine, or chemistry, and we will set up an expert commission you can present your idea to; it will provide you with feedback on its strengths and weaknesses, will tell you what you should do and how, and possibly give you a tip on whom you could call to help you implement the project.

But many people are afraid of doing business.
And it’s such a pity. That’s why we’re trying to change it. In the long term, our economy can only depend upon small and medium-sized companies. The more people do business, the better for us all. Yes, it is hard to begin, of course, but what other time should one throw oneself into it than as a young graduate or student with no dependants or mortgages? You can go bankrupt three times or so and there’s no major problem. I would like to achieve that fifty percent of our graduates at least think about doing business, and I don’t mean running a café or pub, but establishing a technological company. To do that, however, we must create an environment without barriers and with supporting services, where people will not need to deal with the lack of money or contacts at the beginning. We strive to achieve this goal along with universities, regional or local authorities. 

What else is missing for this to truly run smoothly?
Today, I think it is only a matter of time – completion of infrastructure and replacement of generations. Although it might not seem at first sight that there is something big going on in Brno, there is great activity under the surface, and we will reap the rewards in ten or fifteen years. Links between universities and industry are becoming stronger, and big companies are moving their development centres to the Czech Republic and to Brno, because the schools produce better and better graduates. We can see it here on a daily basis that better and better companies are born in our technological incubators. 

What attracted you to study in Brno 15 years ago?
Initially, I did not want to study in the Czech Republic because it was quite a short time after the revolution and I didn’t feel I could get a good economic education here. Everyone who knew how tried to make it through practice. Of course, this has changed and is still changing, but that was my feeling at that time. I also chose Masaryk University because Brno is a perfect place to live. Its area is ideal, it is not utterly the country but it’s not an overpopulated city either; there is culture and nature, and everything is quite close, not just within the town, but also to Vienna, Prague or Bratislava.

How do you look back on the Faculty of Economics and Administration, where you studied?
As I have an idea of how it works abroad, I can see a big gap in relations with graduates. As an economist, I know it’s a shame with respect to those graduating from the Faculty of Economics and Administration. Who else than them can support the school financially? I would not feel offended if the school sent me a request for support of some activities and asked me for help from time to time. But I respect the university as a whole; today it shows a strong dynamic nature, freshness and flexibility, which drives Brno forward. It produces many quality graduates – in particular, the reputation of South Moravian IT students exceeded European borders long ago.

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