Widening newsletter 27: Stakeholders hit out at Danish government suggestion that Widening measures be moved out of Framework Programme 10

07 Feb 2024 |

A position paper by the Danish government on the future of the EU’s research framework programme is causing a stir in the R&I community with its suggestion that Widening measures are not funded through FP10. In this week’s newsletter, we delve into the reaction in central and eastern Europe. We also look at why the new government in Poland has split up the Education and Science Ministry, at a call to place regions at the heart of FP10 and the EU’s industrial policies, and how backers of a Danube innovation valley are having trouble getting start-up investment to float downstream.

Latest news

DANISH WIDENING POLEMIC: Government ministries and research and innovation stakeholders from central and eastern Europe have given a resounding no to a suggestion by the Danish government to take Widening measures out of the next framework programme (FP10) and fund them through EU cohesion funds. But there is a consensus that the Danish position on FP10 should serve as a starting point to discuss the future of Widening measures, which are yet to be properly assessed on their effectiveness. The important point is that “If we want to remain sovereign and secure […] Europe has to be one”. Read the full story here.

SEPARATING SCIENCE AND EDUCATION: The victory of Donald Tusk in last year’s elections in Poland brought renewed hope among academics that science would receive the funding and recognition many feel it needs. High on the priority list was pulling the Ministry of Science and Higher Education out from under the roof of a combined Ministry of Education and Science. Now that has happened, the separation has been welcomed by academics and scientists alike, who hope that it reinforces the importance of science after three years of it lurking in the shadows of education. Anna Rzhevkina has the story.

DANUBE’S FUNDING BOTTLENECK: From the Black Forect to the Black Sea, the Danube region has big ambitions of becoming one of Europe’s most important innovation valleys. The trouble is, investment is not flowing downstream. The western and central regions of the valley, from southern Germany to Hungary, accounted for nearly 90% of the €157 billion invested in start-ups in the region in 2023. Not to be deterred, those working on boosting innovation are confident of overcoming this east-west gap. Ian Mundell has the story.

PUT REGIONS AT FP10’S CORE: The European Committee of the Regions has issued a rallying cry for the EU to place greater emphasis on its regions in a bid to boost the bloc’s innovation potential and competitiveness. In a series of recommendations, it says regions should be at the heart of the EU’s industrial policy and the future R&I framework programme FP10. “The next task for EU policymakers will be to hear the voice of regions...and rise to the challenge,” CoR member Andrea Putzu, who drafted the opinion, tells Science|Business. Read the full story here. [LINK]

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

KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER REFORMS KICK OFF IN CZECHIA: Czechia performs at a top level in a number of research fields but “is not able to make sufficient use of this potential,” the country’s prime minister Petr Fiala said at a January event to launch a new reform of knowledge transfer. 

The event kicked off the government’s efforts to capitalise on its academic talent through a series of 30 measures, at various stages of implementation, wrapped together in a knowledge transfer reform package. The measures are to be implemented by the middle of 2025. 

Helena Langšádlová, Czech minister for science, research and innovation, said the first steps have already been made and the measures were influenced by designs from systems in western Europe, Israel and the US. 

ROMANIA BETS BIG ON CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE: Romania is to invest over €321.6 million in 20 new centres of excellence targeting six key scientific areas. It is the largest investment into research in Romanian history, according to the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitalisation, announcing the news. 

The six research fields are: digitalisation, industry and space; agriculture, bioeconomy, natural resources, biodiversity and environment; health; energy, mobility and climate; civil security for society; culture, creativity and inclusive society. 

The goal is to “bring researchers from multiple fields together to produce interdisciplinary products that transcend the traditional barriers of science and research”, said Bogdan Ivan, research minister. 

INNOV8 BULGARIA: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Innovation and Growth has announced around €26.5 million to support the development of eight new digital and innovation hubs. This will bring the total number of innovation hubs in the country to 12, following the funding of the first four last September. 

These will provide support for start-ups and SMEs and public organisations to test products and technology in high quality conditions. Proposals for the creation of the eight new hubs are open until 18 March.  

POLISH-UK RESEARCH TIES: A new report has documented Poland and the UK’s research and innovation ties, suggesting that there is big appetite for closer collaboration. 

While the two countries share strong links, there are still obstacles to overcome, including a lack of awareness of available funding for joint projects, few established connections and difficulties in finding partners. 

The report draws on interviews with over 150 scientists and entrepreneurs in the two countries and was put together by Polish non-governmental organisation the Polonium Foundation in partnership with the UK Science and Innovation Network and the British Embassy in Warsaw. 

NEW ESTONIA-EIC SYNERGY: The Estonian Business and Innovation Agency (EASi ja KredExi ühendasutus) will from this year fund companies that receive a Seal of Excellence certificate after applying to the European Innovation Council’s Accelerator programme. 

Seal of Excellence gives a stamp of approval to proposals that are above the quality threshold to receive EU funding but miss out due to budget limitations. 

Now, Estonian companies that receive this label will be eligible for EASi ja KredExi ühendasutus grant support, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Information Technology, Tiit Riisalo has announced. The projects should have a clear impact on the Estonian economy. An estimated €8 million will be available through this scheme per year, with a maximum of €2.5 million available per project. 

NEW CZECHINVEST CEO: Jan Michal, currently a deputy director general in the European Commission’s communication directorate general, will take over as the CEO of CzechInvest  on 2 April. CzechInvest is an agency of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and supports businesses, investments and R&D in Czechia.

Michal, who has been at the Commission since 2017, will take over from acting CEO Petr Očko, who is deputy minister for digitalisation and innovation at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. On his appointment, Michal said he wants to continue to improve Czechia’s investment and start-up environment. “I would like to focus primarily on bringing in new investors or cooperating with existing ones, whether it is strengthening Czechia's self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing or attracting investment in a battery factory for electric vehicles, the so-called gigafactory,” he said. 

CALL FOR UKRAINIAN SCIENTISTS: The Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA) is welcoming applications for its IMPRESS_U initiative to support Ukrainian scientists’ integration into the international research community. The initiative is in partnership with the National Science Foundation in the US. On NAWA’s side, it has a budget of around €1.6 million to fund 10 projects and has already approved the first three. See here for more information.  

Mark your calendars

BRUSSELS, 14 FEBRUARY: The EU has finally voted through an AI Act to regulate the fast-developing technology. It makes the upcoming Estonian-led seminar on ‘European Leadership in Secure and Trustworthy AI, all the more pertinent. The event is organised by Tallinn University of Technology in partnership with the University of Tartu, Technical University of Munich, Radboud University, and the Estonian Research Council and takes place in Brussels. More details here

SOFIA, 22 FEBRUARY: The full-day Innovation Explorer conference in Bulgaria’s capital will welcome speakers including the country’s president Rosen Plevneliev, local business leaders, mayors, academics and trendsetters. The purpose is to set out and discuss how innovation can drive positive change in the country, with various panels addressing the country’s role in shaping the future world. Find out more here.

BRUSSELS, 11-13 MARCH: The Brussels-based research and innovation liaison offices of the four Visegrad countries, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia and Poland, will host a training for research project managers in February. Find out more here

KRAKOW, 15 - 16 APRIL: The Cancer Drug Development Forum is hosting a multi-stakeholder workshop on clinical research in central and eastern Europe. It will focus on the fast-growing clinical trial market in the region and how the conflict in Ukraine is playing a role in shaping it. Find out more here

KAUNAS, 21 - 23 MAY: The 20th International Conference of Young Scientists on Energy and Natural Sciences Issues (CYSENI), organised by the Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI) and Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry, takes place in May this year. The goal is to discuss issues and perspectives on natural sciences and the energy sector on a global scale. Registration is open until 9 February

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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