Widening newsletter 29: Czechia targets knowledge transfer reforms to tackle ‘stagnant situation’ in innovation

07 Mar 2024 |

What’s the secret to winning Horizon Europe funding? We ask three of the best performers in Widening countries in our story looking at the dominance of Greek institutions. Elsewhere, we dive into efforts to improve venture capital investment for start-ups in central and eastern Europe, Czechia’s bid to improve knowledge transfer from its academic research base, and the views of the German research association Helmholtz on what should happen to Widening measures in the next Framework research programme, FP10.

Latest news

CZECHIA MUST CAPITALISE ON RESEARCH: Czechia has great academic science but is failing to capitalise on it, according to prime minister, Petr Fiala, who recently kicked off a series of reforms designed to improve the knowledge transfer system and to increase the number of academic spin-offs. While the changes are wide-ranging, some in the country’s innovation scene are not convinced they are ambitious enough. Anna Rzhevkina has the story.

GREEK DOMINATION: Greek research institutes and universities dominate the list of top performers for winning Horizon Europe funding among the Widening countries. What’s the secret to their success? We speak to the two leading organisations and to Estonia’s University of Tartu, the top-performing institution outside Greece, to find out more.

ADDRESSING THE INVESTMENT GAP: Private venture capital investment is in short supply in Europe these days, and even more so in the EU’s eastern states. To address this, the Healthy Investment Central Eastern Europe project has been set up by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The idea is to build up support infrastructure for start-ups in the region. This is one of just a number of initiatives aimed at tackling the investment gap. Ian Mundell has the story.

MAKE WIDENING MORE ATTRACTIVE: German research association Helholtz says that Widening measures aimed at fixing the EU’s east-west research gap need to be more attractive for everyone, including non-Widening partners. The association also argues in favour of using more EU structural funds for research purposes. Read our story here.

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

NEW VC FUND: A new Romania-focused venture capital fund has been launched with an €80 million investment target. The GapMinder Fund II launched on 14 February is backed by the European Investment Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. 

While mainly targeted at the Romanian technology market, the fund will also look to back start-ups in Moldova, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria. It will concentrate on business to business start-ups in financial technology, cybersecurity, automation and data and analytics. 

MALTA SEEKS RESEARCH PROPOSALS: The Malta Council for Science and Technology has opened calls for proposals for research with high commercial impact potential under its Fusion technology development programme. There is a preference for projects that fit within the country’s Smart specialisation priorities. More information on the call can be found here

CZECHIA TAKES ITS SCIENCE ABROAD: For the first time, Czechia has made science diplomacy one of its priorities for foreign diplomats. This will mean Czech ambassadors and diplomatic missions will promote of Czech science abroad. Over 40 projects are planned by embassies this year to promote advances in computing, research, development, innovation and higher education. 

Deputy minister for foreign affairs Jiří Kozák said this demonstrates the government’s commitment to increasing Czechia’s global competitiveness. “In the past year, we have integrated the agenda of scientific diplomacy into the work of our diplomatic network and we will continue to strive for greater links between Czech science and the world,” he said during a recent event

BULGARIA GETS BUSY: Bulgaria’s minister of innovation and growth Milena Stoycheva has been pursuing improvements to the country’s start-up and technology scene since her appointment to the post in the middle of last year. Her ministry has just announced the creation of a new joint technology transfer fund between the European Investment Fund, Bulgaria and Romania that aims to commercialise university research projects. This came before the ministry announced an agreement with the European Investment Bank for a new pilot programme to support Bulgarian start-ups with early stage investments. The programme will at first focus on helping companies apply for the European Innovation Council’s accelerator fund. Stoycheva also announced the opening of the country’s largest laboratory for space research in the city of Varna, as the country pushes for association to the European Space Agency. 

HUNGARY BACKS NUCLEAR: The University of Szeged in Hungary has joined forces with the Hungarian Scientific Society of Energy Economics and the large laser institute ELI-ALPS, in a tripartite agreement to support research in nuclear energy. Hungary has strongly backed nuclear energy as a carbon neutral power source, and this cooperation is to cement further research in the field, including on small-scale modular reactors. Read more about the launch of the partnership here

IVANOVA IN BUCHAREST: EU research commissioner Iliana Ivanova heads to Romania tomorrow for an event exploring funding opportunities, including through Horizon Europe’s Widening measures. The event is hosted by the country’s Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitalisation. Other speakers include Romanian MEP Dan Nica and Romania’s research minister Bogdan Ivan.   

Mark your calendars 

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

BRUSSELS, 14 MARCH: Poland’s National Centre for Research and Development is hosting an event at its Brussels office to shed light on the work of the European Research Executive Agency (REA), the EU’s largest funding agency. In attendance will be REA director Marc Tachelet to explain how the agency supports research and innovation. Find out more here

LJUBLJANA, 18-23 MARCH: Slovenia’s largest research institute, the Jožef Stefan Institute, is hosting a week-long open day event commemorating the life of the famed physicist the institute is named after and Slovenian science in general. Amongst the various awards, there are also roundtable discussions on topics such as disruptive technologies. 

BRNO, 18 – 19 MARCH: Alliance4Life, a partnership of life science institutions and universities from central and eastern Europe, is on a mission to improve research institutes in Widening countries and close the east-west research and innovation gap. With that goal in mind, it is kicking off the A4L_BRIDGE project, which will work to translate health research results into biomedical applications through steering institutional reforms. Find out more here.

BRUSSELS, 19 MARCH: BIOEAST is an initiative that brings together actors from central and eastern European (CEE) countries to collaborate on bioeconomy projects, such as agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and more. This month, they will host a clustering event in Brussels to bring together projects working on fresh water issues in the CEE region. Find out more here

KRAKOW, 15 - 16 APRIL: The Cancer Drug Development Forum is hosting a workshop on clinical research in central and eastern Europe. It will focus on the fast-growing clinical trials 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, organised by the Lithuanian Energy Institute 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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