Ministry of Science Innovations
In 2010 and 2011, a new law regulating the principles of financing Polish science was introduced (some parts of the law are still to be introduced). The adoption of two packages of acts changed, among other things, the principles of financing research projects, which is of key importance for the financing of scientific research in Poland conducted by both enterprises and universities.
One of the most important changes is the abandonment of the principle according to which the funds for basic research (conducted mainly by universities and scientific institutes) were previously distributed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Now, the decisions as to which projects suggested by scientists or research teams will receive funding and which will be turned down will no longer be made by the ministry, but by special councils composed only of scientists. A special institution has been created for this purpose — the National Science Centre in Krakow.
The National Science Centre is structured after the European Research Council, an EU agency responsible for the distribution of EU research funds, such as the 7th Framework Programme. The Centre opened in 2011 and has already evaluated annual reports on hitherto “non-co-financed international projects” and has announced that it would continue to finance them proportionally to the funds received from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. It has also announced a few competitions for projects hitherto organized by the Ministry. These competitions include, for example, “a competition for experienced scientists to finance basic research projects aimed at carrying out pioneer scientific research, including interdisciplinary research, important for the development of science, exceeding the hitherto state of the art, and which may result in scientific discoveries,” “a competition to finance research projects, including co-financing of the purchase or creation of a science and research equipment necessary to carry out these projects,” or competitions to “finance research projects carried out by persons commencing their scientific careers.” The NSC is obliged by law to put special emphasis on financing research carried out by young scientists — it is obliged to allot at least 20% of its annual budget for this purpose.
The creation of the National Science Centre has brought changes into the method of division of tasks related to the financing of all kinds of research projects between the Ministry and its institutions — the newly created NSC and the National Research and Development Centre, which deals with research and implementation research. The Ministry will remain in charge of:
The National Research and Development Centre will distribute funds for:
The National Science Centre will be responsible for:
The above list shows that the National Research and Development Centre will continue to play a special role in the financing of innovations which, by definition, are to be applied in the economy. The main task of the Centre is to manage the strategic scientific research and development works programmes which directly translate into the development of innovation. The Centre is obliged to support activities aimed at facilitating the transfer of scientific research results to the economy. It is also responsible for securing favourable conditions for the development of the scientific staff. As in the case of the National Science Centre, this regards especially young scientists — the National Scientific Research and Development Centre is responsible for making sure that a large number of young scientists participate in research programmes. The scope of research programmes financed and supervised by the Centre is very broad — it covers the so-called strategic research programmes financed from the funds of the Ministry, national programmes, as well as the supervision over international programmes in which Polish scientists or entrepreneurs are entitled to participate.
Apart from financing research projects as such, a very important part of the system of supporting innovation are programmes aimed at supporting the professional development of scientists, e.g. Top 500 Innovators, (the deadline for submission of applications was mid June 2011). The programme will consist in sending 500 employees of science and research units, technology transfer centres or innovation managers qualified for the programme on internships and trainings in prestigious foreign research institutions (such as the Harvard University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The aforementioned programmes are not the only sources of financing research projects carried out by universities and companies. The EU funds have been playing a very important role in the financing of research and development in recent years. These funds are distributed not only by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, but also by a number of other institutions.
What’s important, the reform of the system of distribution of funds for scientific research aimed at making Polish science and economy more innovative, is accompanied by the reform of schools themselves. The main goal of the reform is to give schools more autonomy regarding e.g. the election of their own authorities and the right to decide about their organizational structures. Schools will also have more say in setting their priorities with regard to the scientific research conducted by them. All this combined with a more competitive system of distribution of research funds (thanks to the handing over by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of its competences in this area to the NSC and the NRDC) should increase the competitiveness of Polish science and promote schools that will most actively and efficiently obtain funds for innovative research. On the other hand, many programmes promote co-operation between schools and business. This should be conducive to a more efficient transfer of knowledge and technology between these two sectors.