Plenary Meeting of the National Councils for S&T Policy of the EU Member States


The Plenary Meeting of the National Councils for S&T Policy of the EU Member States was held in Prague (Czech Republic) on 25-26 May 2006. 

Member states represented: Austria (DI, Dr.h.c. Albert Hochleitner, Dr. Ludovit Garzik, Ms. Simone Mesner), Belgium (Mr. Pierre Moortgat), Czech Republic (Mr. Miroslav Janecek, Mr. Jan Marek), Denmark (Dr. Bruno Hansen, Mr. Stein Larsen), Estonia (Ms. Anna Laido), Finland (Prof. Erkki Leppävuori, Mr. Esko-Olavi Seppälä), France (Mr. Dominique Chagnollaud, Mr. Gerard Coutin), Germany (Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte, Dr. Wolfgang Rohe, Dr. Andreas Stucke), Greece (Prof. Iacovos Vasalos, Ms. Vicky Gerontopoulou, Ms. Eleni Loverdou), Hungary (Prof. Pal Tamas, Mr. Pal Koncz), Ireland (Ms. Mary Cryan, Mr. Declan Hughes), Lithuania (Prof. Eugenijus Butkus), The Netherlands (Dr. Veronique Timmerhuis), Poland (Prof. Michal Szulczewski, Mr. Leszek Grabarczyk), Slovak Republic (Dr. Marta Cimbakova), Spain (Mr. Conrado Espi Rodriguez), United Kingdom (Sir Keith Peters, Dr. Peter Brooke).
Invited speakers:
Nobuo Tanaka – Director of Science, Technology and Industry, OECD
Jaroslav Dolezal – National Executive of Honeywell, Czech Republic and Member of Research and Development Council
Lenka Lhotska – Gerstner Laboratory, Czech Technical University, Prague
Lubos Lukasik – Director of Company Competitiveness Division, CzechInvest
Jan Slovak – Co-ordinator for Strategic Science&Technology Projects, Masaryk University, Brno
In 2006, the theme of the debate was: Government–Industry–Science Co–operation in fostering innovation and technology absorption.
The meeting was chaired by Mr. Miroslav Janecek, member of Research and Development Council of the Czech Republic.
First the participants presented main tasks and major changes in the structure and composition of the National Councils.

Information from Plenary Meeting of National Councils for Science and Technology Policy of European Union Member States


The conference was opened by Mr. Nobuo Tanaka, the Director of the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology, and Industry, who delivered a presentation on the topic 'Government–Industry–Science Co–operation in fostering innovation and technology absorption'. He emphasized that a growing number of regions are focusing on innovation (EU, USA, Japan, Korea, and China). Countries successful in the innovation process have common attributes, such as functioning product and labor markets, appropriate international openness, high investments into knowledge (education, IT, and R&D), success in the creation of new technologies (robust growth of productivity and innovation, for instance in the service sector), high share of corporate financing for R&D, varied base of innovators (significant role of small technology-based firms operating, among others, thanks to a supportive financial system), solid regional support for national development (for example, vibrant innovation clusters), high quality of networking between innovators, and very strong ties between science and industry.

Further, Mr. Tanaka mentioned key trends in the innovation policy in recent years. These trends include not only reforms in universities and public research organizations, higher investments into corporate R&D&I, and increased emphasis on networking and cooperation, but also concentrating attention on the assessment of policies and mechanisms used to control the entire research and development system. Important for the proficient management of the innovation policy is a solid mechanism coordinating cooperation between individual ministries. Priorities need to be set with the broad participation of representatives from industrial sectors, research institutions, the public, and the government. It is necessary to support the quality of research through competitive financing as opposed to institutional financing. Mr. Tanaka also spoke about the need for continual improvement of systems used to assess research workers, institutions, and policies with regard to future plans. It is necessary to introduce new organization models, support intersectoral research and regional innovation activities, increase the autonomy of public research organizations, and the like.

According to Mr. Tanaka, the Czech Republic should stimulate competition on the product market by eliminating administrative barriers, simplifying administrative rules that apply to companies, improving legislation, and enhancing tertiary education. It has been shown that the highest productivity-increasing effect can be achieved by investments into R&D by foreign private organizations.

Mr. Tanaka emphasized that China has a great research potential in its human resources. Although Europe used to be the cradle of technologies, countries like China follow innovation processes throughout the world and pay attention to mobility, clusters, and the like. Participants in the conference agreed that China has exceptional reserves talented workers, and some European countries fear that numerous knowledge-based firms may migrate to such countries as China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where the conditions are more favorable than in Europe.

During the subsequent part of the meeting, representatives of the Czech Technical University of Prague and the Masaryk University of Brno gave presentations on the topic 'Stimulation of Research for the Growing Service sector, the Role of Governments in This Process, and Cooperation between Universities and the Service Sector'. The participants in the conference paid close attention to an overview of activities conducted by both these leading research and development centers. Ms. Lhotska from the Department of Cybernetics at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University spoke, among other issues, about a weak spot in the organization of its organization, i.e. marketing. An ongoing problem is transferring the outcome of laboratory work to the market and finding optimal ways of making the outcome as widespread as possible. To improve contacts between the service sector and universities, it is necessary to improve strategies at the governmental level and to create a structure facilitating transfer of knowledge between the service sector and universities. Necessary for controlling the entire process is understanding the complexity (integrity) of relations between regulations, competition, and innovations. Using three case studies, including the CESNET network, Professor Slovak, the Vice-Rector for Strategy and Development of the Masaryk University of Brno, explained the key aspects of innovations in the service sector. The traditional sectors of tertiary education and research and development are taking the shape of the service sector more than ever before. Further, universities and R&D institutions are becoming service providers and consumers. In the future, a substantial portion of research and development will entirely depend on services. The role of governments should consist of stabilizing the information and communication infrastructure, and there should be legislation guaranteeing intellectual property rights and stable financial markets.

The CzechInvest representative, the Director of the Company Competitiveness Division Mr. Lukasik, informed the participants of the mission of his institution. He focused on existing programs that have been created for drawing assistance from the Structural Funds and presented operational programs that have been proposed for the 2007-2013 programming period.

The representatives of the Councils of United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany spoke about small and medium enterprises (SME) and ways of assisting the development of their research and innovation activities in the midterm outlook. Their presentations included some interesting forms of financing SMEs with the aim of integrating them into the innovation process. For example, the Netherlands has introduced innovation vouchers, and SMEs randomly selected by draw receive up to € 7,000. With such a voucher, they can approach an officially listed institution and establish a partnership. The main purpose of the program is using the simplest possible approach to create ties between SMEs and R&D institutions.

Another important topic is the diffusion of knowledge. The participants agreed that a suitable means in this regard is networking and improving education not only at the university level, but also at the level of specialized schools. Networks can be interconnected, allowing students to obtain necessary information on the corporate sector and vice versa. A number of countries create clusters and develop contacts between regions. A constructive cluster policy not only has a positive impact on economic growth, but it also strengthens the entire system that supports research and development.

The participants in the conference agreed on the need for educated and continually trained human resources capable of conducting activities in the area of R&D&I.
The first day of the conference was concluded by a dinner organized under the patronage of Mr. Jiri Havel, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economy.

On the second day of the conference, Ing. Dolezal, CSc. a member of the Research and Development Council, presented to the participants a general overview of research and development in the Czech Republic. His presentation was centered around an analysis of the motivation an international corporation, namely Honeywell, has to invest into a country from the Central and Eastern European region.

The presentation of the representative of the Austrian Council focused on the highly successful program of 'Competence Centers', which has been functioning for close to ten years. Three types of centers have brought a significant improvement in the cooperation of various types of organizations at the regional and sectorial levels. Centers focus on research in such areas of electrical engineering, energy, physics, natural sciences, material research, etc. The participants agreed that building excellence centers can be successful only if increased emphasis is put on the quality of research. As regards this issue, the representative of the Danish Council mentioned the need for monitoring the international quality of research activities and distinguishing national values. He described a new model for financing fundamental research based on allocating funds according to quality (Note: the basic element of assessing the work of R&D institutions is their self-evaluation, which, however, is subsequently subjected to a critical review).

The Greek representative described the role of the Greek Council. He mentioned that Greek authorities are focusing on assessing the local innovation potential and drafting a new law that will make research, development, and innovation activities more transparent. Further, the Greek delegate reviewed some programs targeting the development of innovation that Greece has introduced in recent years. These programs have targeted, for example, networks of private and academic institutions in specific areas of sectorial technologies (PAVE), strengthening commercial use of the outcome of research performed by universities and research institutions (PRAXE A&B), support for technology parks and research centers (ELEFTHO), creation of new technology and research networks for cooperation between public research institutions and private corporations (ESPRO), and development of research centers with the participation of users (AKMON).

The Hungarian representative presented the outcome of a sociological study targeting the area of R&D. The main conclusion of the study was identifying the need for positive role models (R&D heroes).
Final conclusions
  1. General recommendation: The support of evironmental development for innovation is essential in forstering new ideas in competition which could attract the best participants and their practices.  
  2. Key factor. Human resources and their education. Many countries consider the excellent education concerning the needs and expectations of innovative business activities as the most important aspect of the future development. The most substantial aspect of this development should be the fast transfer of innovative scientific ideas to the business. At the same time business should clarify its needs and expectations towards the universities and higher vocational colleges.  
  3. Governments are obliged to set the conditions for promotion of excellency of research at the national level. Only perfect performance of research can produce excellent results expected by the best innovative enterprises.  
  4. The essential issue for the successful innovation process is the assessment of quality and relevance of R&D and their results. The assessment process including set of criteria used so far is proposed as a topic for some of the next Councils´ plenary meeting.  
  5. Some countries reported that as one of possible ways how to help SME´s to develop a midterm view of their research and innovation activities could be the creation of specific programmes targeted on linkage of SME´s and universities. These activities can be created either as state or as regional ones.  
  6. There is only one major possibility how to help the SME´s to be more innovative and to improve cooperative interconnection with R&D sector. This way comprises the measures leading to eliminate low intensive innovation SME´s and to increase their capacity to absorb the results of R&D. As the key factors for helping the SME´s can be taken good availability of innovative advice and solid infrastructure for knowledge dissemination.  
  7. The European Commission has prepared a new Framework programme for Competitiveness and Innovation which could help SME´s to get access to financial resources.
The Agenda of the meeting and PowerPoint presentations written for purposes of plenary meeting are available on the bottom of this page.

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