The Widening No. 19
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Focus on central and eastern Europe

Welcome to the latest edition of your favourite newsletter on R&I policy in Widening countries, a roundup of news and analysis on research and innovation policy and investments in central and eastern Europe, delivered to your inbox twice a month. Sign up here. 

- By Florin Zubașcu | Executive Editor -

In this week’s newsletter we are taking a close look at the pushback against proposed changes to Poland’s research funding agencies, as well as examining the government’s efforts to build the country’s space sector. We also have a story on how universities in the region struggle to get more involved in the EU-funded European Universities Initiative. And an in-depth analysis of Portugal’s progress in developing its R&D capabilities in the 40 years since joining the EU, shows that time and consistent policies are critical ingredients.  

The latest news

BASIC RESEARCH IN POLAND ON THE BRINK: Leading Polish scientists have hit out at government plans to scrap the country’s basic research funding agency, the National Science Centre, with 48 winners of European Research Council grants signing an open letter to the president and prime minister demanding it is retained. Back in August, Poland’s science minister announced plans to create a new overarching research agency after the parliamentary elections next month. Thomas Brent has the story.

FLY ME TO THE MOON: Poland is set to significantly increase its contribution to the European Space Agency. The local industry is excited about potentially securing leading roles in international space projects, but there are concerns about the absence of clear objectives and whether the higher level of funding will be maintained. Anna Rzhevkina reports

EUROPEAN UNIVERSITIES: The EU scheme for building university networks across the continent is poised to expand, but universities in eastern Europe say structural problems make it harder for them to get involved - and some fear it promotes brain drain. Read the full report from Mădălina Cocea in Romania.   

EASTERN VENTURE BEARS FRUIT: Coventry University’s campus in Wroclaw opened in 2020 after Brexit made it harder for EU students to go to the UK. From an initial cohort of 12 the university expects to enroll 180 – 200 students in the coming academic year. More about this here.

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY? We welcome opinion pieces and other contributions on R&I policy in central and eastern Europe. Send yours to

In other news

CUTS, CUTS, CUTS: In the previous newsletter I wrote about the Romanian Academy, a behemoth overseeing more than 70 research centres and institutes that has not been reformed since communists came to power in the 1940s. Now, the government plans to cut its budget and merge underperforming institutes.

A reform is obviously long overdue and the government is coming under pressure to speed things up as it looks for creative ways to prop up its budget and to avoid losing EU pandemic recovery funds if it misses deficit targets previously agreed with Brussels.

AN EPIDEMIC: And it turns out that the problem is not limited to the Academy. The austerity bug could spread across the entire research system, as the Romanian government moves to block new hires in research institutes and ban the advertisement of any new vacancies.

The National Council for Scientific Research published a statement condemning the austerity plan and saying budget cuts would further impair the country’s research system, already one of the weakest in the EU. Researchers are still waiting for the government to make good on its decade-old promise to boost R&D investment to 1% of GDP.

CZECH BUDGET WOES: Meanwhile in the Czechia, the research community is also worried about the dire financial situation of the higher education sector. Some university researchers recently staged protests with banners that read “I think, therefore I am […] and I can’t afford rent”.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Rectors’ Conference, Charles University rector Milena Králíčková said universities are not asking for a handout but higher education needs more money to strengthen its capacity and handle growing student cohorts.

According to Milan Pospíšil, chair of the Council of Higher Education Institutions, “public expenditures for higher education have stagnated in recent years, while the budget chapter for the Ministry of Education has significantly increased.”

Mark your calendars 

26 SEPTEMBER, PRAGUE: A Science|Business Widening conference in partnership with Charles University. We will gather R&D leaders in the public and private sectors from Brussels and across the EU, who are eager to discuss how bridge the east-west research and innovation gap in the next EU framework programme. Registration is open.

21-22 NOVEMBER, WARSAW: Horizon4Poland’23is the country’sbiggest matchmaking event for Horizon Europe applicants. It will bring together entrepreneurs and leading innovation institutions in Poland with counterparts from across Europe, with the aim of increasing cross-border cooperation in Horizon Europe competitions. More details here.

3 OCTOBER, PRAGUE: CZARMA Conference – the Czech association of research managers and administrators is organising its annual conference at Charles University in Prague. Registration is now open.

15 NOVEMBER, BRNO: The Velvet Innovation conference aims to “inspire and connect people dedicated to innovation -without demolition”. This should be interesting. Get tickets here.

SCIENCE|BUSINESS CONFERNECE: Later this autumn, we will be holding the annual Science|Business Widening conference. Location & date to be announced soon.  

Science|Business Widening group

We held the first founding members group meeting of our Widening initiative in January, leading to fruitful discussions about the future of the community. You can find out more about becoming a member at this link.


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