Interview with Katalin Kalai from Bay Zoltán Ltd


Meet Katalin Kalai, a Project Manager at the Hungarian research organisation Bay Zoltán Nonprofit Ltd, one of SciShops’ project partners.


Q: Firstly, tell us a bit about your organisation, Bay Zoltán Ltd.

Bay Zoltán Nonprofit Ltd. was established in 1992 as the first non-profit research organisation in Hungary. Today, the company is Hungary’s largest and most successful institution for applied research. Its mission is to support the development of sustainable competitive advantage for Hungarian companies through innovation and technology transfer. RDI activities focus on the areas of materials, laser and nanotechnology, biotechnology, ICT, environmental technologies, logistics and industrial production technologies and control engineering. The company has developed contacts with a large number of scientists, research institutions, universities, enterprises, multiplier organisations and governmental agencies in Hungary as well as abroad.

Q: What is the motivation behind Bay Zoltán Ltd. getting involved in science shops?

When the coordinator organisation, SYNYO GmbH contacted us to participate in the proposal, we didn’t know much about science shops and participatory research. However, the concept seemed very interesting and to offer a new opportunity for us, so we decided to join the consortium. Hungary has very few science shops; there aren’t many national examples setting a precedent. Being a member of a large international consortium highlights different practices (both good and bad ones), provides learning opportunities and can strengthen our network.

In the project, we are involved in the process of stakeholder identification and setting up the Expert and Advisory Board. At a later stage, we will be one of the organisations establishing a new science shop.

Q: What does Bay Zoltán want to achieve through the SciShops project?

The SciShops project enables us to learn about science shops and community-based participatory research and, at the end of this learning process, we will be able to establish our own science shop – a special one, as we don’t have students to work on the projects, so we have to find our own way to implement activities. We are a research organisation focused on applied research, which can be a benefit for our science shop, as we have lots of experience in finding ready-to-use solutions to problems.

We are convinced that a science shop can help us to build new collaborations and engage with civil society in mutually beneficial way.    

Q: What challenges do you envisage?

Our relationships with the civil society sector are not particularly strong. We know that establishing trust between a science shop and the civil sector is very important. First, we have to build this trust, which could be challenging. Another sector-specific challenge is the fact that we have very few students in our institutions, so the traditional university-based science shop model does not work for us.

Q: You recently attended the Living Knowledge conference in Budapest. Tell us a bit about your experience.

Although it was the 8th Living Knowledge conference, for me it was the first one. Participating at a large international conference is always special: meeting people you have read or heard about is always very inspiring. Naturally I learnt a lot about science shops, community-based participatory research, civil society, participatory action research, etc. However, the networking opportunity was as important as the learning. I met several experts; we had a great discussion with the representatives of two Hungarian science shops: Corvinus and ESSRG, which will hopefully lead to future collaboration with them.

One of the most useful sessions for me was the one focusing on science shops in Central and Eastern Europe. What I learnt will definitely help us when establishing our own science shop.  Overall, it was a great experience, and when the project was mentioned very positively, I felt honoured to be part of the team.