Research agencies in central Europe crank up international funding calls

11 Jun 2020 | News

Countries in central and eastern Europe seek to boost the international footprint of their higher education and science

Polish and Czech funding agencies are trying to increase their international reach with new calls and programmes to lure in researchers from abroad and boost cross-border collaboration.

The Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA) announced a new programme that offers universities and other scientific institutions long-term financial support that will cover the stay of a foreign scientist coming to carry out fundamental research in Poland.

The first round of calls under the ‘NAWA Chair’ will provide foreign researchers in the humanities and social scientists, and their teams, up to €670,000 to cover mobility expenses and salaries. In addition, host universities and research institutions can apply for additional funds for fundamental research from the National Science Centre. Future calls will be dedicated to other scientific disciplines.

Wojciech Maksymowicz, deputy minister of science and higher education, said the new programme will support Poland’s broader strategy of boosting the international footprint of its higher education and science.

“A long-lasting effect of participating in the programme will be establishing a research team whose scientific and teaching achievements will greatly increase the renown of Polish entities and the scientific disciplines they represent at home and abroad,” Maksymowicz said.

NAWA was set up in 2017 as a fund dedicated to convincing expat scientists to come and work in research institutes in their home country, offering funding to cover the cost of resettlement, preparing their labs and setting up research groups. In 2018, NAWA financed 22 such researchers and planned to support an additional 25 researchers in 2019.

In the new programme, the agency will finance research institutes and university research centres to invite world-class foreign scientists to Poland. Successful candidates will be hired as guest professors for up to four years. “In this time, as outstanding scientists, they can become the hearts of strong scientific teams, do breakthrough research and help the entities apply for international grants,” said Grażyna Żebrowska, director of NAWA.

Scientists can apply until the end of July. NAWA expects projects to start after 1 February 2021 but no later than 31 October 2021.  They can only be submitted through NAWA’s electronic application submission system.

The Czech model

Poland’s neighbours at the Czech Technology Agency (TACR) are moving forward with DELTA 2, a programme for international collaboration launched last year. TACR recently launched the programme’s second call for proposals, which is based on a partnership with eleven funding agencies in seven countries outside the EU: Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The partners will help Czech scientists team up with colleagues from public  and private research institutes abroad on applied research projects and experimental development.

In common with Poland, the Czech Republic is also looking to attract back its scientific diaspora.

The government is also taking advantage of membership of the EUREKA network, an intergovernmental organisation established in 1985 to facilitate international cooperation in research and innovation. Within this framework, TACR has published joint research calls with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation and with research organisations in Singapore for projects in medical technology, smart mobility and advanced manufacturing.

TACR, together with the business development agency CzechInvest is also organising regular matchmaking events with the German-Canadian Centre for Innovation and Research.

Over the past few years, countries in central and Eastern Europe have increased their participation in international projects. Hungary has developed cooperation agreements in science and technology with 36 countries, while Slovakia organised joint calls with China, Israel and Belarus.

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