How national research funding is allocated, who is appointed to key posts, and the link between business and academia are just some of the areas due to come under scrutiny in Bulgaria, thanks to a commitment to undergo an independent peer review of their country’s research and innovation policies.
Bulgaria was the lowest overall performer on the 2014 Innovation Union scoreboard, which ranks the 28 EU Member States based on their performance in areas such as patent applications, new doctoral graduates and R&D expenditure.
Now, it has become the first country to sign up for the EU’s new Policy Support Facility, which is designed to help governments reform their research and innovation policies.
‘For the European Research Area to work you have to lower barriers in between countries.’
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
The scheme was launched in Brussels on 3 March by Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Todor Tanev, Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Commissioner Moedas said he was impressed by Bulgaria’s commitment to improving standards. ‘Having a minister that comes here and says, “We are doing the reforms, we are committed to the reforms and please come with independent experts and tell me if I’m doing the right thing,” I think it takes a lot of courage.’
International experts from five other EU governments will provide Bulgaria with practical support and expert advice in areas such as public funding, research careers, the challenge of brain drain, and the gap between science and business.
The scheme is part of a range of measures designed to promote high research standards across the EU and, in turn, stimulate economic growth.
European Research Area
Speaking at the launch, Commissioner Moedas said the aim is to ensure a strong European Research Area.
‘For the European Research Area to work you have to lower barriers in between countries,’ he said. ‘You have to be sure that the national agendas are aligned. You have to be sure that recruitment of professors in universities is totally transparent. You have to be sure that gender equality exists. And all those points are part of the bigger picture which is the European Research Area.’
In addition to an independent peer review, the scheme promises back-office support from the European Commission to help implement reforms.
Minister Tanev said: ‘The results of the peer review will feed into the crucial efforts of the Ministry of Education and Science and the government to raise Bulgaria's science and innovation profile and to make it more result-oriented and beneficial to the society.’
The next country to benefit from the scheme is likely to be Hungary, which is preparing for a possible review later in the year. However, Commissioner Moedas said that many countries across Europe have also expressed an interest in the scheme.
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