Matej Bel University (UMB) with its Institute for Democracy has been awarded the largest international research grant in the history of the university, which will see UMB joining forces with leading universities to explore 21st century challenges of democracy.

The BRRIDGE project, led by Professor Kamila Borseková from UMB’s Faculty of Economics and Dr. Jozef Michal Mintal from UMB’s Faculty of Political Science and International Relations withstood tough European competition and received almost 1.5 million euros from the European Commission as part of the prestigious Horizon Europe research grant scheme.

The grant will enable a transdisciplinary team of researchers from four UMB faculties, united within the newly established Institute for Democracy at UMB, to cooperate with top experts from Central European University (CEU) in Austria, the European University Institute (EUI) in Italy, and the University of Galway in Ireland. The goal of the BRRIDGE project is to strengthen research capacities in the field of democracy and policy, and contribute to a deeper understanding of the current democratic disconnect that stems from changes in technologies, inequalities, culture and governance. Thanks to the BRRIDGE project, UMB finds itself for the first time in the role of a Horizon project coordinator, which is at the same time also the largest international research grant in the history of UMB.

As stated by the project coordinator professor Borseková “We are excited about this fantastic achievement, which came from hundreds of hours of hard work on the project design and communication with partners. We believe that the BRRIDGE project can catapult UMB among the leaders in the field of 21st century challenges of democracy and civic engagement.” As the co-coordinator of the project, Dr. Mintal remarked on the topic of the BRRIDGE consortium “…our partners in BRRIDGE represent one of the world’s top social sciences universities, and we are extremely glad that they decided to work with us.”

The strategy of how to improve the position of UMB in the field of democracy research and civic engagement, was also the main topic of the kick-off meeting, which took place on Monday, October 17, 2022, in Vienna at the CEU. Matej Bel University was represented by project coordinators Professor Kamila Borseková and Dr. Jozef Michal Mintal as well as Professor Alexandra Bitušíková from the University Center for International Projects. As Professor Erik Jones from the European University Institute stated at the meeting “…I am very inspired by this……I think it is a good set up, and I just want to emphasize how much the pieces fit well together and hang critically on one another in order for their success”.

Part of the first project meeting was also a lecture by human rights expert, professor and emeritus rector of CEU, John Shattuck, currently based at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and at Harvard University. In his talk, Shattuck praised the idea of ​​the BRRIDGE project and highlighted the valuable experiences that Central Europe can offer in countering challenges of democracy. At the same time, he outlined a captivating theoretical framework for thinking about this crisis through the prism of inclusive and exclusionary populism.