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Focus on central and eastern Europe

Welcome to the fourth edition of The Widening newsletter, 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 -

This week we’re looking once more at the Czech Republic, as the government confirms it will need to fill a €3 billion research funding gap the country will be facing when it no longer has access to the EU Cohesion fund.

In addition, Thomas Brent has a story on how universities in central and eastern Europe are intensifying their lobbying efforts in Brussels. We also have a viewpoint from the former science minister of Montenegro on why the Western Balkans needs a large-scale research infrastructures.  

For more stories like this, sign up here to get the next edition of The Widening.

COHESION MONEY IS NEARLY OVER. WHAT NEXT? That’s the question boggling the minds of policymakers in Prague these days. Thanks to its economic growth, the Czech Republic will no longer be eligible for money from the EU’s cohesion fund, which is available to member states with a gross national income per capita below 90% of the EU average. The country is just under the threshold, but forecasts put the Czech economy above the line in the coming years.

At a Science|Business conference in Prague last week, a government official said the country should get ready for the time when it will no longer be able to use EU cohesion money to fund research and innovation projects. Thomas Brent has the story.

LOBBYING INTENSIFIES IN BRUSSELS: Universities in central and eastern Europe want to put their finger on the scale in EU debates on research and innovation policy and funding. University representatives in Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Slovenia say they need to make their voices heard in Brussels.

The CE7 coalition of seven universities hopes a new partnership with the League European Research Universities will give them more influence in shaping EU policy to better suit their needs.

In the Czech case, universities are thinking ahead and hope a permanent foothold in the Brussels lobby scene would help them weather the funding storm caused by the inevitable loss of cohesion funding for research. Read the story here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Universities in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have come together with EU member state universities to form a new cluster that aims to strengthen ties in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Milena Králíčková, rector of Charles University in Prague, said the goal of the grouping is for EU institutions to share best practices with the Eastern Partnership universities and also to support cooperation in research and education activities. The full story is here.

WESTERN BALKANS: The region endured horrible civil wars in the 1990s and lost its scientific and technological competitiveness. Now, policymakers and science managers are trying to reverse decades of brain drain and attract scientists back to the region.

Sanja Damjanovic, Montenegro’s former science minister says the Western Balkans urgently need to create a catalyst for this, by building a research infrastructure based on the newest heavy ion technologies. Her full viewpoint is here.

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY? We welcome opinion pieces and other contributions on the R&I divide from thought leaders in Brussels and EU capitals. Send yours to

The Ecosystem

VISEGRAD FUND: Four countries in central Europe have teamed up to set up a fund aimed at backing innovative start-ups in the region. The funds available are limited, but the people behind the idea hope it will help these countries overcome some of the barriers that hold back research and innovation in central and eastern Europe. Ian Mundell has the story.

START-UP GROWTH: Central and eastern European countries are now home to a rising scene of technology start-ups, but the region still lags behind western Europe in terms of the number of companies and the funding they receive. Some entrepreneurs say the region is being held back by risk aversion and a culture that has been slow to value entrepreneurship. The full story is here.

In other news

NEW JOINT LAB: The Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry (JH-INST) in Prague are to expand their cooperation by establishing a joint laboratory on 2D materials, according to a memorandum of understanding signed by the scientific directors of the two institutions on Monday.

The two institutions will work together on attracting scientists to work on atomically thin materials such as graphene. “It has been shown repeatedly that the long-term success of an institution depends on its ability to attract talent,” said Sebastian Schmidt of the HZDR.

CZECH COMPANIES IN HORIZON: The Czech Academy of Sciences has published data on the companies benefiting from Horizon Europe money. According to the academy, to date, the Czech Republic has 76 companies involved in Horizon Europe projects for which grant agreements have been signed or are in the process of being signed.

The analysis shows the 76 companies will get a total of €26.5 million in Horizon funding. The figures represent only the Horizon Europe projects confirmed since the launch of the programme in 2021 up until 15 September this year.

In Horizon Europe, Czech companies gained a total of €125 million, while in the seventh framework programme that figure was significantly lower at €77.8 million.

Czech science portal Vědavý analysed the academy’s data here.

ROMANIA: The national research and development institute for nuclear physics (IFIN-HH) in Bucharest  has signed a research and development cooperation agreement with the Belgian nuclear research centre SCK-CEN. The two institutions will develop joint scientific programmes.

IFIN-HH is the host of ELI-NP, Europe’s largest laser research facility, which has recently announced plans to expand cooperation with Moldova on doctoral and post-doctoral studies for students from the former Soviet republic.

Mark your calendars

BRUSSELS: The Lithuanian Research Development and Innovation Liaison Office in Brussels (LINO) will soon celebrate its 5th anniversary. The event will take place on 1 December at the Lithuanian permanent representation in Brussels. RSVP here.

LJUBLJANA: The University of Ljubljana will host EUTOPIA Week, a conference of the European university alliance bearing the same name. The event will take place between 21 and 25 November.

PRAGUE: The BIOEAST initiative is to host a conference on the Danube Lighthouse project on 7 December. The project aims to contribute to the EU’s research mission on restoring oceans and waters by 2030. More details here.   


The Widening: First assessment of the EU’s new east-west S&T initiatives

01 Mar 2023   |   Location TBC

Sustainable horizons: Does our future depend on science?

07 Feb 2023   |   Brussels

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