Representatives of the ORLEN Unipetrol Group and the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague (VŠCHT) have entered the third decade of their strategic partnership by signing a new contract for the years 2022–24. Besides drawing a financial donation, both parties have agreed to support education, including secondary school teachers, students, and the chemistry Olympiad. During the past 20 years, ORLEN Unipetrol has donated CZK 33.5 million to the University for educational activities, distributed more than 200 student scholarships, and participated in 35 research projects. The long-standing cooperation culminated in 2015 with the establishment of the University Centre. It is located straight on ORLEN Unipetrol’s production premises in Litvínov. It is a unique project of this type in the Czech Republic.
The focus of the cooperation between the ORLEN Unipetrol Group and VŠCHT Praha has changed several times during the past 20 years. Generally, it includes activities to raise awareness about and popularise chemistry, education, research, and development. “The chemical industry is facing significant changes. At ORLEN Unipetrol, we plan to manufacture up to 20 per cent of petrochemical products from recycled materials by 2030. Also, we intend to invest considerably in green projects and digitisation. Furthermore, we want to be carbon neutral in 2050 at the latest. Therefore, it is necessary to educate new specialists who can face all the current challenges,” says Tomáš Herink, a member of the Board of Directors at ORLEN Unipetrol, responsible for research, development, and production.
“The partnership with the ORLEN Unipetrol Group enables us to implement many public awareness and infotainment projects and support the education of the upcoming generation. Our students have a unique opportunity to test the acquired theoretical knowledge in practice. The collaboration also pays dividends in joint research and development when submitting proposals for scientific and research projects in the Czech Republic and abroad, including the European Union’s programme calls. Together, we have implemented 35 research and development projects directly impacting the developments in the chemical industry. The most recent projects include pyrolysis plastic recycling, biofuel production, or a patented method of dicyclopentadiene production,” says Pavel Matějka, Rector of the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague.
The most significant joint educational project was the establishment of the University Centre Litvínov VŠCHT – FS ČVUT – ORLEN Unipetrol. It is located in Chempark Litvínov and is the only location in the Czech Republic where a part of a public institution of higher education is situated straight on the production premises. Up to 50 students currently study directly in the heart of the largest chemical plant in the country. “The specific chemical production environment allows students to verify the acquired theoretical knowledge directly in practice throughout their studies. In addition, they can join a host of research and education activities offered or organised by the University Centre. Then, they can work on their qualification papers on some of the many industrial topics,” explains Tomáš Herink. He adds: “The University centre’s future plans include the efforts to get accreditation of a new study programme focused on practical instruction emphasising the study’s engineering, procedural and technological character. We always want to consider the broader possibilities that the graduates have in the job market.”
The cooperation also focuses on supporting primary and secondary schools. They can come to the company’s sites to take a tour around, attend lectures about the latest topics on the chemical industry, and do other learning activities. Thanks to close contacts with the ORLEN Unipetrol Foundation, scholarship and grant programmes are also available to secondary school students.
The ORLEN Unipetrol Group is the largest refinery and petrochemical company in the Czech Republic. It focuses on crude oil processing and the production, distribution and sale of vehicle fuels and petrochemical products – particularly plastics and fertilisers. In all these areas, it belongs among the critical players in the Czech and Central European markets. The ORLEN Unipetrol Group encompasses refineries and production plants in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, Paramo in Pardubice, Spolana Neratovice, and two research centres in Litvínov and Brno. ORLEN Unipetrol also includes a network of Benzina ORLEN filling stations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. With 421 filling stations, Benzina ORLEN is the largest chain in the Czech Republic. ORLEN Unipetrol employs more than 4,800 people. In 2005, ORLEN Unipetrol became a member of the ORLEN Group, the largest crude oil processor in Central Europe. In addition to its business development, ORLEN Unipetrol is proud to be a socially responsible corporation. Therefore, it pays an equal amount of attention to initiatives, focusing on the cultivation and support of sustainable development, education, local communities, and the environment.
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The University of Chemistry and Technology Prague (UCT) is a natural center of study and cutting-edge research. One of the largest educational and research institutions in Central Europe, it specializes in technical chemistry, chemical and biochemical technologies, material and chemical engineering, food chemistry, and environmental studies. Remarkably, of the more than 4,000 students at the school, 700 are enrolled in PhD programs on average. Some of the study programs on offer at UCT are unique in the Czech Republic and are key to the future of the entire country. The school collaborates with more than 100 academic institutions, namely within Europe but also in the USA, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
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