Not all our readers have met us face to face yet, so we are going on with the interviews introducing our Brno Expat Centre crew. This part presents the Brnopolis chairman & BEC co-founder Vlastimil Veselý.
You have been serving as a chairman of Brnopolis NGO for the last three years. What did you do for a living before that?
My background is in IT research & business. I spent over 10 years at Brno University of Technology working mostly in applied research. After finishing my studies in the UK, I set up my own consulting company connecting IT developers, managers and investors across industry and academia. We were organizing seminars and other events for five years as a part of the global First Tuesday network. We were also helping them to find foreign partners and financial resources within European innovation projects (not to be confused with structural funds which have different rules and procedures).
What was the original idea behind establishing Brnopolis?
The history started in spring 2007 when our group of individuals with various backgrounds was discussing (for example at the OpenCoffee meetings) the need of having a laboratory of ideas where creative professionals could exchange experience and contacts for opening Brno to more intensive international cooperation.
Don Sparling and myself were invited by the South Moravian government and the Brno Municipality to participate in the Regional Innovation Strategy. In 2010 – after two years of discussions and specifications – we found a way with the city representatives to set up a centre helping local expats working here to adapt. Currently Brnopolis has two main activities – running the Brno Expat Centre (BEC) and organizing TEDxBrno conferences (and more TEDxBrno activities soon).
If you had unlimited resources, what would you do for Brno?
It would not only depend on resources, but also on the assigned role. Brnopolis has very limited resources and still has to bootstrap in a startup style. If we succeeded to get a five-year grant or met a patriotic philanthrope, our focus could be certainly more ambitious.
I can imagine we could play the role of a regional independent think tank providing responsible politicians with concrete visions and action plans for international city development – thanks also to our community of experienced professionals with international background.
What we are working on already now is establishing a truly international house where foreign nationals from creative (usually middle) class could have their informal meeting point and where we would organise our events. The place would serve not only for taking care of local expatriates, but as a trusted hub connecting Brno-based creative people and organizations with their counterparts abroad.
What change do you perceive in Brno regarding internationalization in the last ten years?
The optimist in me says a lot has been done. Brno is becoming a centre of international research and hi-tech business, at least within the Central European scope. Several research centers attracted experts and managers for international teams (CEITEC, ICRC, Recetox and more), international companies increase the number of foreign nationals hired (for example IBM, Red Hat, Infosys).
The pessimist in me argues we still lack sufficient infrastructure. Both hard and soft one. Direct flight connections, a highway to Vienna, English spoken at public institutions and complex care of adaption for foreign employees – this is often incomparable among companies and the BEC is still operating with just one third of the budget originally declared.
What do you enjoy most about living in Brno?
When I graduated I thought of moving to Prague. No doubt there is a lot more business opportunities, a larger international community and richer cultural life. Now I feel happy with my family in Brno and appreciate the size, location and especially the people here.
There is one curiosity in Brno illustrated in Milan Uhde’s quotation: “Brno does not like structures”. Indeed, we used to have and still have a strong “underground” activism, but few people are willing to force changes within the existing structures that are very conservative and often disconnected from international standards.
I know you are a wine lover. What is your favorite wine variety and where do you go most often to buy quality wine?
Usually I prefer red wine. Some people complain you can’t find high quality red wine in Moravia, but it’s not true. There is a couple of wineries producing superb Cabernet, Frankovka (Blaufrankisch) or Pinot Noir. You only need to know where to go because the awareness of the Moravian wine abroad is generally poor. In Brno I often buy wine in Vinná Galerie at Lužánky, the top wine bar is Petit Cru next to Koishi. I recommend to sit down there with cheese, a glass of wine and the chance to look around and find an undiscovered jewel among the wine bottles.
Vlastimil got his PhD at Brno University of Technology and MBA at Nottingham Trent University. The founder of the FIRST Innovation Park (one of two First Tuesday CZ successors) that has been connecting creative talents, ideas and ICT technology – especially for international innovation projects in the area of research and development – for almost 15 years. Currently he is the chairman of the Brnopolis NGO and the co-founder of Brno Expat Centre working there as one of its senior consultants. Born in Brno, father of two children, passionate about amateur photography, tennis and good wine.