The Widening 34: The Future of Widening

23 May 2024 |

Momentum is building for the EU’s next research and innovation framework programme, FP10, to have a budget of €200 billion. But what place is there in the programme for Widening measures? This week, we delve into how Europe’s research community wants the scheme to change and evolve. We also look at why reforms of Poland’s Academy of Sciences are proving controversial, moves to fight back against predatory publishers in central and eastern Europe, and why Slovakia needs help to increase its participation in European Innovation Council calls. 

The latest news

THE FUTURE OF WIDENING: We analyse 15 FP10 position papers to find out what Europe’s research community thinks of Widening measures. There is a lot of consensus and some disaccord. The general verdict? Widening should live to fight another day, but it might need a bit of tweaking. Read our story here.

PREDATORY JOURNALS STALK THE REGION: Predatory academic publishers that charge for publication without carrying out peer review or editing, continue to haunt researchers in central and eastern Europe, where the pressure to publish more papers – regardless of their quality - is baked into an academic culture stretching back to Soviet times. Movements are underway across the region to tackle the issue. Read Mădălina Cocea’s story here.

TWO PLANS, LITTLE CLARITY: Poland’s Academy of Sciences is overdue for a reform. The Academy itself put forward a proposal last year, but the government sidelined this to work on its own plan. Now with a new government in place, there is little clarity about whose proposal is being developed. On top of this, one professor fears the reform could impact the autonomy of its institutions. Anna Rzhevkina has the story.

THE EIC BLUES: Widening countries struggle to win funding from the EU’s main start-up fund, the European Innovation Council (EIC). There are systemic reasons, and the EIC is trying to fix those through various schemes. But the EIC needs to take a more hands-on approach, argues Jaroslav Bukovina, head of the policy unit at Slovakia’s research and innovation authority (VAIA).

A LITTLE EXTRA: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s Regional Innovation Scheme. A lot of time, money and effort has gone into supporting regional innovation ecosystems in Europe’s moderate and emerging innovators, and now the EIT wants to help start-ups involved in the scheme to reach higher levels of commercial success. This story first appeared in our new paid access Funding Newswire, a weekly guide to the evolving terrain of EU and international research funding.

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY? We welcome opinion pieces and other contributions on R&I policy in central and eastern Europe. Send yours to [email protected].

In other news

GOOGLE BACKS BULGARIAN AI INSTITUTE: Google is investing a further $2 million in Bulgaria’s Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Technology. Half of the money will go towards cloud computing resources and the other half will be dedicated to funding PhD fellowships. Google has already invested $3 million in the institute, which was launched in 2022. 

ISRAEL TENSIONS: The University of Ljubljana in Slovenia is considering terminating any cooperation individuals at the university have with Israeli research institutions over concerns about Israel’s actions in Palestine. In a statement, the university said it does not have any inter-institutional agreement with Israeli institutions, but is involved in some joint Erasmus and Horizon Europe projects with Israeli participants. 

SLOVENIA-INDIA COOPERATION: Slovenian science minister Igor Papič held talks with India’s ambassador to the country about strengthening joint cooperation on science, innovation and higher education. The pair highlighted green technology and hydrogen as areas of particular interest. 

SLOVAK SCIENTIST CONDEMNS FICO SHOOTING: Slovakia was rocked last week when prime minister Robert Fico was shot several times in an apparent assassination attempt. Political tensions in the country remain on a knife edge. The presidency of the Slovak Academy of Sciences condemned the act, saying, “we consider the attack… an unprecedented act, undermining democracy, stability and the values of civil society that have been built up over the years”.

CZECHINVEST OPENS OFFICE IN TAIWAN: CzechInvest, a state agency that aims to develop Czech technology firms’ potential, has opened a new office in Taiwan to support business and innovation collaboration between the two countries. It is the third CzechInvest office in Asia after South Korea and Japan. “Taiwan is the world leader in the production of the most advanced chips, and we see a huge potential for synergy between Czech and Taiwanese companies, especially in the field of innovation and research," said Jan Michal, CEO of CzechInvest. 

NEW CZECH VC FUND MANAGER: Prague-based venture capital firm Tensor Ventures has been chosen to manage Czechia’s first VC fund backed by EU post-COVID recovery funds. In total, Czechia plans to invest around €133 million in VC funds, with the implementation managed by the European Investment Fund. Tensor will make investments in digital companies and start-ups at the earliest stage. The Czech government and EIF will launch further funds using recovery fund money in the future. 

CZECH START-UPS ATTRACT NORTH AMERICAN SUITORS: Czechia’s minister of industry and trade, Jozef Síkela, has said that the US and Canada are “very interested in Czech companies and start-ups,” during a trip to North America. “Our companies and startups have a lot to offer in areas such as innovation, IT, cyber security or biotechnology, so I'm glad that there is a lot of interest in them both in the US and Canada,” Síkela said

CZECH-GERMAN COLLABORATION: Czechia’s Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Germany’s Max Planck Society to support collaboration on research, mobility of researchers and joint funding opportunities. CEITEC, based in Brno, is a research centre for life sciences, advanced materials and nanotechnology. “Brno also aspires to become a leading centre for fundamental research in the Czech Republic, and CEITEC's collaboration with the Max Planck Society will help fulfil this ambition,” said Pavel Tomančák, director of the CEITEC consortium. 

LITHUANIA AND GERMANY, PARTNERS IN SCIENCE: Lithuania stressed the importance of scientific collaboration with German partners at a recent event organised by the Lithuanian Science Council, the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and the German Research Foundation. The council’s president Jūras Banys noted every fourth scientific paper that appears in the press in Lithuania  is prepared jointly with German researchers. The event could also be the start of closer scientific ties between the two countries. 

LITHUANIA SIGNS ARTEMIS ACCORDS: Lithuania has just become the 40th signatory of the US-initiated Artemis Accords that establish practical principles for the safe and sustainable exploration of space. Aušrinė Armonaitė, Lithuania’s minister of economy and innovation, said signing the accord will bring new opportunities to apply innovations and for cooperation in the space industry. 

LATVIA’s VIEW ON FP10: Latvia wants to double the budget for Widening in FP10 and place it in pillar one of the programme. The country published its FP10 position paper last week. You can read more in our article here

Mark your calendars

BRUSSELS, 27 MAY: A networking and matchmaking event that explores opportunities within the European Defence Fund will take place in Brussels later this month, hosted by several research organisations from central and eastern Europe. Read more here

VIENNA, 4 JUNE: Startups, investors and corporations will connect, share innovative ideas and start collaborations at the Connect Day 24. The Slovak Business Agency has more details here.  

BRNO, 13 JUNE: European Research Council president Maria Leptin is to visit Prague where she will give a speech at the “ERC Scientific Mini-conference”. More information here.

KYIV, 18 JUNE: Founders, investors and public institutions will gather in the capital city of Ukraine to talk about uplifting the tech ecosystem in the war-torn country. Read more about PowerUp Ukraine here.

WARSAW, 29-30 OCTOBER: The Deep Tech CEE Summit offers a chance to dive into the goings on in central and eastern Europe and connect with like minded entrepreneurs. There is also an investors’ day on 28 October. Find out more here. 

The Widening newsletter is a roundup of news and analysis of research and innovation policy and investments in central and eastern Europe, delivered to your inbox twice a month. Sign up here.

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