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EXPO in Dubai offers a unique opportunity to introduce promising Czech technologies that are not yet well known in the world. "For example, the Czechs are working on how to grow plants in harsh desert conditions," said Karel Smékal from the Foreign Ministry. Desert cultivation is a crucial issue for the entire Gulf region.

Money is not everything. The oil-rich countries in the Gulf region are also finding it out. They have so far managed to secure enough food from well-functioning imports. Lukas Zamrzla, an agricultural diplomat in Abu Dhabi, pointed out that according to the Global Food Security Index, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman are among the countries with the highest levels of food security in the world. However, the coronavirus pandemic and disrupted international transport have sent a clear signal that there may be situations where the supply of various goods may be disrupted. The Czech agricultural diplomat said the Gulf states are realising that security, as it has been understood so far, is not the same as self-sufficiency.

Lukáš Zamrzla writes in an article for the MED magazine that one of the most discussed strategies in the UAE is that of strengthening food security until 2051. The Emirates are planning to invest in farms around the world, but also to support innovative domestic companies and to fund research into farming in challenging climatic conditions. For his part, Saudi King Salman has personally backed a sustainable rural agenda in the region's largest country.

Vegetables in the desert

The Czechs headed to this year's EXPO in Dubai not only with S.A.W.E.R. technology, which makes it possible to extract water from the air and which Commissioner General Jiří F. Potužník talks about in an interview with MED. They have also decided subsequent to the S.A.W.E.R showcase a complex technology for growing plants in the harsh conditions of the desert. The Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic is thus presenting itself together with domestic companies by combining a number of well-known practices, including the use of micro-organisms to revitalise the soil, enriching the soil with algae suspension and leachate from compost processed by earthworms or the subsurface application of watering. The S.A.W.E.R. system and innovative plant cultivation methods are complementary and may in future make it possible, for example, to grow vegetables in desert oases.

Karel Smékal, Special Commissioner for the participation of the Czech Republic in world exhibitions, is convinced that EXPO can make a significant contribution to accelerating the development plans of the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region. In addition to the overall diversification of the economy, industrial development or digitalisation, this applies specifically to agriculture. According to Karel Smékal, the Czech pavilion in Dubai is meeting the demand for modern technologies and the Arab states' desire to increase their food self-sufficiency and diversify their food imports. Therefore, Czech food companies will be presenting themselves as restaurant partners of the Czech pavilion at EXPO.

Not only nano and 3D printing

Nearly a decade ago, the prestigious American newspaper The New York Times wrote that "everything in Czech industry is nano". At that time, the young Czech nanotechnology industry managed to make more of a mark in the world. It would be an illusion to think that the Czech Republic is known everywhere in the world for nanotechnology - just as many buyers of 3D printers from Prague's Holešovice probably have no idea that Josef Průša is Czech. However, both nanotechnology and 3D printing are fields in which Czech footprints are internationally visible. Moreover, domestic products in these sectors have proven their usefulness during the coronavirus pandemic.

EXPO in Dubai is a chance to remind the world of Czech potential once again. For example, Prusa Research will show off its autonomous 3D printing farm - visitors will be able to generate a unique 3D model on a simple control panel, which the farm will then print and move to the dispensing area. Czech nanotechnology will be presented at one of the rotating exhibitions at the beginning of next year.

However, according to Karel Smékal, it is important that the Czech Republic makes itself known thanks to technologies that the world has not yet associated with our country, but are also very promising. These include technologies for future cities, new solutions in the field of energy or the aforementioned ability to grow plants in adverse climatic conditions. In this sense, all these Czech solutions could be described as other Czech flagships alongside the S.A.W.E.R. facilities.

Czechs next to Terra

The EXPO in Dubai, which was postponed for a year and whose organisers, as in the case of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, decided to keep the 2020 in the official title, focuses on three key themes - sustainability, mobility and opportunity. The exhibition centre is divided into three zones, each of which is dominated by a main pavilion directed by the local organisers - the Terra pavilion in the Sustainability zone, Alif (Mobility zone) and Mission Possible (Opportunity zone). The Czech Pavilion is located right at one of the entrances to the exhibition centre, adjacent to the Terra Pavilion, and as the Commissioner General Jiří Potužník points out, no visitor to the Sustainability Zone can miss it.

The Czech pavilion is linked to Terra primarily thematically, both emphasising the supply of water to humanity and the planet. Jiří Potužník remarked with exaggeration that he would like to place a sign in the Terra pavilion saying - "now you have seen the various theoretical possibilities and if you want to see how it can already work today, go to the Czech pavilion."

Karel Smékal points out that the theme of sustainability, which is also the focus of the Czech pavilion's creators, is related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was approved six years ago at the UN Summit in New York. This year's EXPO is the penultimate exhibition before the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals from New York is evaluated. The key theme from Dubai will also be taken up by the next EXPO in Osaka, Japan in 2025. The special commissioner for participation in world expositions thus considers the thematic focus of the Czech participation to be ideal, as well as the synergy between the technological and artistic focus of the Czech pavilion. "Czech glass, well-known in the world, is appropriately incorporated into our exposition in a way that enhances the effect of what we want to convey to the world," believes Karel Smékal.

And what would Karel Smékal consider to be the success of the Czech participation in Dubai? Apart from the number of visitors to the Czech pavilion, which may still be affected by the persisting covid pandemic, and possible medals for success in some of the categories evaluated, he sees benefits in other - harder to measure - factors. The World Expo will spread awareness of Czech technologies, which will ideally attract new investors, and enable domestic companies and scientists to gain new contacts abroad. Already during the preparation of EXPO 2020, a number of Czech companies and academic institutions have managed to connect and thanks to such cooperation they can better establish themselves on foreign markets.

Author: Jan Žižka

The article was published on the server on modern economic diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

České triumfy v Dubaji -