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Polish Science Minister outlines research strategy to CORDIS News

In an interview with CORDIS News, Poland's Minister for Science and Information Society Technology, Professor Michal Kleiber, underlined that his country is investing a great deal of effort and money in boosting its research performance. But Poland has demands on the European ...

In an interview with CORDIS News, Poland's Minister for Science and Information Society Technology, Professor Michal Kleiber, underlined that his country is investing a great deal of effort and money in boosting its research performance. But Poland has demands on the European Commission as well, and the minister outlined how he believes the research framework programmes should be adapted in order to be more accessible to his compatriots. Although Poland currently occupies tenth position in terms of participation in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), this is not good enough, as far as the minister is concerned. Indeed, Poland is currently paying more into FP6 than it is receiving in the shape of funding awards. 'This situation is of course not acceptable for Poland,' says Professor Kleiber. 'As a result of the introduction of new instruments in FP6 [Integrated Projects and Networks of Excellence], the gap between Member States widens,' says Professor Kleiber, referring to the low participation rate among the new EU Member States. Poland, together with the other Visegrad countries and Slovenia, has therefore drafted a list of modifications that would facilitate the participation of the new Member States. These include: the simplification of administrative procedures; the acceleration of negotiations and signature of contracts; the increased use of traditional instruments such as specific targeted research projects (STREPs); and programmes aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) or improving links between research and industry. Professor Kleiber is also proposing a new initiative, which builds on the Technology Platform scheme, but places a stronger emphasis on societal concerns. The 'European Social-Environment Platforms' would contribute to sustainable growth, and the development of social, economic and environmental sciences, says the minister. Only spending 0.56 per cent of its GDP on research in 2003, Poland clearly has a lot to do at home in order to increase its research competitiveness. The National Development Plan had foreseen increasing investment to 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2006, but this now seems unlikely. Professor Kleiber concedes that low research and development (R&D) expenditure is the main reason for the decrease in the number of inventions and patents in Poland. But rather than wallow in self-pity, the country has introduced a raft of initiatives aimed at supporting Polish research. The new National Development Plan, covering 2007 to 2013, will incorporate the objectives of the Lisbon strategy - making Europe's economy the most competitive in the world by 2010 through the development of a knowledge economy. A horizontal programme within the National Development Plan, 'Science, modern technologies and information society', will see the introduction of new instruments of scientific policy and more efficient use of public and private financial resources, says Professor Kleiber. The programme will fund the development of information technology (IT) infrastructure, a focus on high technology in those fields where Poland is strong internationally, and the creation of new links between Polish and international (especially European) science. The programme will also support multi- and transdisciplinary programmes, partnerships between research and industry, and the development of an environment conducive to R&D for industry, adds Professor Kleiber. And while public funding is limited, it is already being invested in building new research institutions, developing an education system fitting for a knowledge society, putting in place an information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, and strengthening the Polish venture capital industry, says the minister. Addressing criticisms of weak links between academia and industry, the Ministry of Science and Information Society Technology has also proposed the creation of research commercialisation units within higher education and research institutes, the establishment of active networks and a review of good practice around Europe. The government has already helped to create four 'macro regions', known as: 'Marine Cluster', 'Hi-Tech Highway', 'Central Innovation District of the 21st Century', and 'Aircraft Valley'. This attention to research has met with some success. Poland has not suffered significantly from brain drain as many of its neighbours have, and the country is involved in many international projects and programmes. 'It can be stated that Polish scientists are highly respected as research partners around the world and this is best documented by a number of joint publications - above the EU average,' says Professor Kleiber. The minister concludes by describing Polish science as 'top of the second tier of countries', and expressing his confidence that 'the potential is much higher and it can be better realised if the science sector in Poland is reformed and the financial resources spent on it are raised.'

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