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Unity through Knowledge Fund (UKF)

This practice is an initiative to counter brain drain and encourage the return and reintegration of skilled expatriates by connecting researchers and professionals in the country of origin with their expatriate counterparts overseas and by facilitating long-term research in the country of origin.

  • Responsible Organizations: Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (MSES), Republic of Croatia (Government)
  • ILO Regions: Europe
  • Country(ies): Croatia
  • Multilateral framework theme(s): Labour migration and development
  • Other Themes / Keywords: Knowledge/skills transfer
  • Start date: 2007


The practice aims to connect researchers and professionals in Croatia with researchers and professionals in the diaspora to promote a knowledge-based society.

UKF has identified a number of objectives to be achieved through collaboration with the diaspora:

- Support basic and applied scientific research that creates new knowledge and exhibits the potential to compete on an international level;

- Support research that directly and indirectly strengthens the Croatian economy, through the financing of innovations, patents, commercial and other applications of scientific results. In particular, support is given to investments made by the business sector in scientific projects;

- Support projects that contribute to the development of the research infrastructure in Croatia.


Activities, processes and steps involved:

In 2007, the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (MSES) established the Unity Through Knowledge Fund (UKF) to promote linkages between the scientific and professional communities in Croatia and abroad. The UKF is part of a larger project to promote research and development in Croatia. It is managed by two committees: a Steering Committee and an Approval Committee. The Steering Committee is responsible for the management, processing, and evaluation of projects, as well as developing UKF's strategy. The Approval Committee is in charge of monitoring and making the final evaluations and approvals of projects proposed by the Steering Committee. Committee members are nominated by the MSES and include individuals from academic institutions, industry, the diaspora and the MSES.

The Secretariat is the executive office of the UKF, and is in charge of operational activities associated with the program. The Secretariat is run by the UKF Program Manager.

The UKF funds projects through three programmes: Research Cooperability, Connectivity, and Young Researchers and Professionals. Each programme support two to three grants targeting certain individuals and goals.

Research Cooperability programme: Funds two grants, "Homeward" and "Crossing Borders." These grants provide support to Croatian scientists at home and in the diaspora for the implementation of medium-scale collaborative research projects, with the goal of encouraging the return of qualified Croatians and fostering partnerships between the diaspora and the scientific community in Croatia.

Connectivity programme: Funds two grants, "Gaining Experience" and "Homeland Visit." These grants are designed to promote the transfer of knowledge and skills. "Gaining Experience" opens opportunities for outstanding young scientists and professionals from Croatia to visit highly regarded research and development facilities abroad in order to establish cooperation and/or acquire new skills necessary for advancing science and technology competitiveness in Croatia. The "Homeland Visit" opens opportunities for outstanding researchers and experts of Croatian origin living abroad to visit Croatian knowledge-based companies, research and development organizations or public institutions to contribute to cooperation and facilitate knowledge transfers to Croatia.

Young Researchers and Professionals programme: Funds three grants, "My first research", "Reintegration" and "Research in industry and academia." The grants are designed to support "brain-gain", assist young researchers and professionals in their professional development, and encourage the stay of highly-skilled youth, as well as increase the mobility of young scientists and experts between academia, Croatian industry and diaspora in order to strengthen long-term cooperation between the two sectors.

Applications are peer-reviewed by experts from the fields of science, industry or innovation, from both within and outside the country. Outputs/outcomes of funded projects are reviewed to ensure that funds are used as designated. Since 2007, 91 grants have been awarded.

Target beneficiaries:

Young professionals, doctoral students, experts, scientists and second and third generation individuals of Croatian origin. In Croatia, the target groups are universities and institutes, technology-based small and medium enterprises, research and development centers, and young professional in public administration.


The UKF facilitates partnerships among Croatian scientists and professionals in the country, as well as individuals living abroad and among research institutions and businesses inside and outside the country.

Main outputs:

The following grants have been approved:

- Cooperability programme: 26 projects (3.9 million Euros)
- Young Researchers and Professionals programme: 23 projects (943,000 Euros)
- Connectivity programme: 42 projects (285,000 Euros)

Relevant criteria for assessment

1. Respect for migrant worker rights:

The UKF is designed to promote voluntary cooperation and equal partnerships between Croatians within the country and abroad. It provides for equal terms and benefits for scientists, experts and young professionals in the diaspora and in Croatia. It also has the potential to promote decent employment by encouraging innovation and technology in businesses.

2. Relevance:

The practice promotes the linkages between migration and development. It provides an opportunity for Croatians currently in Croatia and the diaspora to contribute to scientific research and enterprise development, as well as facilitates their professional advancement. It effectively builds upon the knowledge and skills of the diaspora, connecting scientists and experts abroad with those in Croatia, and promotes the development of the origin country through funding of scientific research and projects encouraging innovation in business.

3. Additional or spill over benefits:

The UKF has encouraged interest and investment in technology, science and innovation in Croatia. It may help transform the Croatian economy to include more employment opportunities in these fields.

4. (Positive) Impact:

The UKF is first case in which the Croatian is directly co-financing the joint cooperation of researchers working in Croatian universities, institutes, and small and medium-sized enterprises with researchers of Croatian origin working for international research institutions. The proposals are selected on very competitive basis mostly with the help of foreign evaluators (to avoid conflict of interest) and renowned experts in their respective fields. The final approval rate (the ratio between approved and submitted proposals) for all programmes is around 14 per cent, which guarantees the quality of selected projects and is in line with the approval rate for similar research financing in Europe. In the two last years, five top-performing scientists permanently returned to Croatia and have taken posts in Croatia's R&D institutions as a result of collaboration through UKF funding.

5. Potential for replication and extension (adaptability):

The UKF is inspired by other programmes designed to reduce "brain drain" in India and Israel. It can be adapted to other Balkan and Eastern European countries.

6. Innovativeness:

The practice is innovative in that it targets both Croatians within the country and abroad to harness skills and knowledge acquired. It recognizes the importance of fostering scientific and exchange networks and supports these networks through funding for research projects.

7. Sustainability

Calls for proposals had been closed in April 2011 as the funding for the programme from the World Bank was to close in May 2011. In July 2012, however, the Government of Croatia and the World Bank announced the signing of an advanced agreement for the preparation of further funding of the programme, and calls for proposals were opened again by the autumn 2012.

8. Effectiveness

From December 2007 through June 2011, the UKF launched 91 different scientific and technological projects, with 10 still on-going, and 325 project proposals were submitted during the same period.

The support that UKF has provided to high-quality research projects has also been recognized at the European level, as evidenced by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union for research and technological development (FP7). Projects financed within the UKF achieved a success rate of nearly 35 per cent among the applications for the call for proposals in the FP7 program.


Funding sources

  • The budget is set at five million euros of which 74 per cent comes from a World Bank loan and 26 per cent from the MSES.


  • World Bank. 2005. Project appraisal document on a proposed Loan in the amount of Euro 31 .0 million to the Republic of Croatia for a science and technology project,

last updated on 24.06.2014^ top