Companies need applied research!

Evzen TOSENOVSKYI would not like to enter the discussion, whether the economic crisis will end by itself or we will stop it by not believing in it or the end of the crisis will be an outcome of clever political interventions. On the other hand, I would like to point out, that one day the crisis will end and it is important to prepare for it.

I will begin with the view of the politician, who is for several years active in academia. I regularly give lectures to students and researchers throughout the Czech Republic and also for example in the national centre of research excellence focused on information technologies–project IT 4 Innovations–which is based in Ostrava. In this context, I would like to point out that the Czech Republic is prepared quite well. Researchers are very keen to work, they come up with non-traditional ideas and solutions for various different problems.

However, the bureaucracy connected with many of the calls for not clearly defined European projects complicates their lives. The EU is realising that research and development conducted in universities is absolutely crucial for each country. Only qualified experts can motivate students and spread the new scientific and technological know-how and by that improving the competitiveness of the EU as a whole. These factors substantially influence the economic and innovative progress of the society. We have to focus on the whole process–from the basic research to the applied research and development–latter being demanded by businesses. The cooperation between the state and companies is absolutely necessary for each developed society.

I have experience with companies from the Moravian-Silesian region, which went through complicated restrucurings during the 90’s. This period has brought much destruction, nevertheless it also brought necessary modernization and new technologies. If the crisis does not last too long, the modern technologies of our companies will be an important competition advantage for them.

We have to also ask ourselves, why we are not very effective in gaining financial resources from the 7th Framework Programme, which runs until 2013 and has more than 50 billion Euros to allocate. Our 23rd place from 27 member states should be an alarming signal for us. This experience can motivate us to be more effective in the newly prepared 8th Framework Programme, which is named Horizon 2020. This programme is for the period 2014-2020 and there will be almost 81 billion Euros. The intensive efforts to cut red-tape and simplify procedures for funding, removing fragmentation and duplication of programmes led to the merger of three main research and development funding programmes (Framework Programme, Competitiveness and Innovation Framework, European Institute of Innovation and Technology) into the single strategic programme Horizon 2020. I hope this will at least partly support investments.

However this is not enough–that is why I look at the problem from the view of the ODS politician. This party knows well, that the economy needs to grow in order to allocate something. Therefore we support efforts that will give financial resources to scientific research activities of universities and applied research. Companies have capacity and they are technologically prepared, however without the cooperation with universities and the faster application of basic research into practice the readiness will not be much of use.

After the crisis, old products will not be sold–everybody will strive to grow again, they will need modern products with a higher level of automation. Companies will not cope by themselves. If fourth fifths of the VaVpI 60 billion Czech crown budget will go to the Czech Academy of Sciences, this will be counterproductive. Basic research, pure science is of course an important area and it has brought many interesting discoveries. On the other hand the missing applied research means that companies, which are not able to conduct it, need to acquire costly licences of modern technologies abroad in order to remain competitive. For example in the Moravian-Silesian region, which is the natural industrial centre in our country, there are many companies that have the potential to innovate in practically all industrial areas.

I would like to also mention that the innovation cycle, not only in the Czech Republic, but also in the whole Europe is four to six years. In comparison, the cycle in the US and Japan is two times faster. Japanese and Americans are therefore quicker in applying also research that has been done in Europe and of course they benefit from it financially. The European innovation cycle is slowed down by various administrative barriers, verifications and certifications. This can be improved by supporting applied research, such projects can also stimulate students entering technical universities. The lack of experts in the technical fields is for many years an issue, this problem is likely to worsen due to missing intergenerational sharing of experience.

In conclusion, the view of the Member of the European parliament on the same topic. As mentioned above research and innovation have been my political priorities for many years and I also focus on them in the European Parliament. Recently we have been discussing that it is necessary for the EU to evaluate and promote access to venture capital. There are great opportunities in using this type of financing. Investments with certain results are not possible, more risk-taking is necessary.

By Evžen Tošenovský

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Category: CONTRIBUTORS, Evžen Tošenovský