Gov’t rethinks state funding for sciences

The opinions expressed in this discussion do not necessarily represent those of The Prague Post.

New hope for science and research in the Czech Republic with the new appointment of Professor Haňka

Some Czech researchers complain about the lack of access to state funds.

The recently appointed new head adviser for science and research, Professor Haňka has a very important role to play.

I would like to add to what Professor Haňka said in this interview to The Prague Post some facts and figures regarding science and research in the Czech Republic.

Czech Republic is one of the top producers of genetically modified crops in Europe. Czech Republic is also well known for its competency in the fields of genetic engineering and the production of antibiotics.

Let us also bear in mind that more than 100 biotech companies operate in this country. Among others, Bio-Vendor was the first company to develop an ELISA kit that improved the likelihood of artificial insemination and the Contipro Group accounts for a 30% share of the global market in purified hyaluronan. Moreover ,many foreign pharmaceutical companies have opened production or research and development facilities in the Czech Republic.

Biotech companies have also been benefited from the €430 million TIP programme, a programme of the Ministry of Industry and Trade supporting the collaboration between business and academia, and the €250 million measure ‘competence centres’.

The Reform of the System of Research, Development and Innovation, which was finally approved in March 2008, and the European Economic and Cohesion Policy with its needs to develop a national strategy and necessary structures in order to receive funds from the European Union had considerable impact on research in the Czech Republic.

Czech scientists have not only been concerned about the emphasis on funding of research accommodating the business sector but also on the novel output-based allocation system for institutional core funding. In charge of the 2008 reform was the Council for Research, Development and Innovation (RVVI). RVVI is the main body for long-term research strategies and is chaired by the Czech Prime Minister. RVVI has been criticised by scientists for its inefficiency and its transformation into a ‘mini-ministry of science’. Prime Minister Petr Nečas had also complained that RVVI had become a battleground of interest groups, who have lost their focus on improving the Czech R&D system and threatened to recruit new members.

Between 2000 and 2007, the Czech Republic was one of the EU countries with the highest growth rates concerning R&D expenditures. Since 2008, previously announced increments of research funds have amounted to less. In 2011, about 1.5 % of the Czech Republic gross domestic product is being invested in R&D, which is less than the EU average of 2%.

Competitive funding is expected to continue to rise until 2014 by increasing the annual budget of the grant agency for basic research from €100 million by 40% and by tripling the €35 million budget for the Technology Agency.

The Czech Republic is also expected to receive €27 billion from Brussels by 2013. Most of the money are earmarked to be used for the improvement of the environment and transport infrastructure. Part of this funding has also been earmarked for research and education and will be utilised to upgrade research infrastructure and quality of tertiary education at universities.
Among others, CEITEC, the Central European Institute of Technology in Brno, got its go-ahead and is expected to be fully operational around 2014. CEITEC will initiate research programmes in Molecular Medicine, Structural Biology, Plant Genomics and Proteomics, Nanotechnology and Neuroscience.

The International Clinical Research Centre (ICRC) of St. Anne’s University Hospital Brno received approval to invest 100 million Euros from EU funds. In addition €80 million have being provided by MŠMT, the Ministry of Health and other sources until 2015. The particular centre is focussing on the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Several research programmes have already been established and the ICRC has reached partnership agreements with leading international institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic in USA.
I finally highlight Professor Haňka’s concern about the absence of the involvement of industry or private sources in the financing of new research labs or whole research institutes at universities in the Czech Republic.

Charalampos Xekoukoulotakis
E-mail: [email protected]

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