The Widening No. 23
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Focus on central and eastern Europe

Welcome to the latest edition of our newsletter on research and innovation policy in central and Europe, a roundup of news and analysis delivered to your inbox twice a month. Sign up here. 

- By Florin Zubașcu | Executive Editor -

This week we examine the response to several cases of alleged fraud at universities in Widening countries that are under investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office; review the policy changes the Polish research community hopes to see once the new government is installed following the elections last month; and look into Bulgaria’s attempts to professionalise its network of National Contact Points.

Last but not least, be sure to register to the Science|Business Annual Widening conference taking place in Brussels on 6 December. To wrap up a dense year of activities, we will delve into the evolving R&D landscape shaped by geopolitical transformations. Rising east-west tensions prompt a strategic exploration of safeguarding R&D amid growing security challenges. More details here.

The latest news

EU PROSECUTOR LOOKS AT FRAUD CASES IN CEE UNIVERSITIES: Earlier this month, the dean of the University of Zagreb’s geodesy faculty was arrested alongside a fellow professor and 27 others, on suspicion of subsidy and procurement fraud worth over €2 million, including €1.7 million in EU funds.

Two more universities in Widening countries are under investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

The cases involve alleged procurement fraud of the EU Social Fund by Daugavpils University in Latvia, where damages are estimated at €600,000, and an investigation into Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu in Romania over suspected fraud of €1 million in Erasmus+ funds.

Thomas Brent has the story.

POLISH RESEARCH COMMUNITY WANTS A CLEAN SLATE: Last month’s election results sparked hopes for change in the Polish research community, with academics looking to the new government to reform the national science system, increase funding and improve their chances of winning EU research grants.

Political uncertainty is still in the air, but the three opposition parties that are likely to form the new administration have signed a coalition agreement outlining their programme in which they say science needs “depoliticisation”, that there should be a return of autonomy to institutions, and a higher level of funding.  

Anna Rzhevkina has the full story.

BULGARIA’S UNPAID NCPs: Bulgaria is looking to establish a professional network of national contact points to help researchers win Horizon Europe funding, but the programme’s current coordinator says this will be a difficult process.

As in every country eligible to win funding via the EU research programme, Bulgaria has a team of national contacts, however they have always filled the role on a voluntary basis.

This means that as things stand, national contact points have to juggle their day jobs with helping researchers to win funding. Creating a professional network is now on the cards, but it may take some time. Thomas Brent has the story.

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

CZECH TECH IN SPACE: Czech researchers and industry will work with NASA on its new X-ray satellite STROBE-X. The satellite will help scientists measure the mass and rotation of black holes and study neutron stars and incoming matter under strong gravity. Researchers at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy will help with the scientific preparation of the mission, while Czech space companies will be involved in the development and construction of a “high energy modular array”.

CZECH AI SECTOR EYES CANADIAN PARTNERSHIPS: A delegation of leading Czech AI experts from industry and academia visited Ontario and Québec to discuss potential collaborations, partnerships, and opportunities in Canada. The delegation, led by Petr Očko of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, included representatives of Czech AI companies Addai, Aiviro and Filuta AI, as well as scientists from Brno University of Technology, the AI Centre at Czech Technical University, and the Institute of Computer Sciences.

REGIONAL INNOVATION: The European Institute of Innovation & Technology has published the 2022 activity report for its Regional Innovation Scheme. The report is available here.

HORIZON WEBINAR SERIES FOR HUNGARIAN RESEARCHERS: The National Research, Development and Innovation (NRDI) office is organising a webinar series for Hungarian researchers who are interested in applying for EU funds. The series started on 10 November, with four more editions planned from next week up until Christmas. The dates are available here.

Mark your calendars 

28 NOVEMBER 2023: Conference on outstanding research careers organised by the V4 group of research liaison offices and the Young European Universities Network in Brussels. Details here.

28 NOVEMBER 2023: Joanna Drake, the European Commission’s deputy director general at DG RTD is to open a conference on how researchers can access EU cohesion funds for cultural heritage projects. Details here.  

29 NOVEMBER 2023: The Slovak Academy of sciences is organising courses in technology transfer and entrepreneurship. Sign up here.

6 DECEMBER 2023: Strategies for R&D resilience in shifting security paradigms. The public S|B Annual Widening conference. Register here.

12 DECEMBER 2023: Alliance4Life Conference in Brussels: a debate on Widening measures in Horizon Europe and in the next framework programme. More details here.

Science|Business Widening group

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


Strategies for R&D resilience in shifting security paradigms

Annual Widening conference

06 December 2023  |   Brussels

CHIPS meets Chips: Transatlantic cooperation in semiconductor research

By invitation only. Public online. 

12 December 2023  |   Brussels

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