mpdIs Poland an attractive country for foreign scientists in the scope of conducting scientific research?

Definitely yes. But we do the best we can in order to increase this attractiveness.  Already today, Poland has a great research basis, allowing conduction of specialised studies in various branches of science. Human resources are our another great advantage – ambitious, well qualified young people, who start their career in the research and development area. It is essential that an increase of employment in the R&D area more and more concerns the sector of enterprises.

A large potential of doctoral students has a significant importance for experienced scientists, who want to form new research teams. What is more, more and more research units meet HR Excellence conditions, what guarantees a competitive access to offered work offers.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the National Science Centre and the National Centre for Research and Development offer numerous programmes for supporting programmes which are attractive for foreign scientists and complementary for activities undertaken at the European level. One of them is forming competitive scientific entities – Polish Perfection Centres – also based on the patterns from the Framework Programme called Horizon 2020. It is also necessary to mention the „Teaming for Excellence” competition, which is addressed to scientific institutions, aimed at forming consortiums with leading foreign centres. Polish entities take part in this competition and we are currently waiting for the results of its first edition.

Global scale competitive programmes are developed in Poland, also at the support of International Research Agendas Programme, run by the Foundation for Polish Science, and within the scope of Horizon 2020, there are financed so called  European Research Areas (ERA Chairs).

As far as scientific research conduction, a proof of Polish successes and increasing attractiveness is the number of laureates of prestige ERC contests, e.g. in the last ERC Starting Grants competition, six grants were given to Poles, three of which will be realised in Polish institutions. One of the aims of the strategy announced by Minister Gowin is increasing the scale of such positive phenomena.

An assumption of the greatest European research programme Horizon 2020 is a cooperation of science and industry. What are the possibilities and mechanisms supporting this cooperation in Poland? What works well and what should be improved?

Broad possibilities for enhancing cooperation of science and industry are present in the support offer of the National Centre for Research and Development. Being a platform of efficient dialogue between the societies of science and business, the National Centre for Research and Development supports commercialisation and other forms of transfer of results of research for economy, both by financing individual projects as well as joint research agendas. An example of a programme addressed to scientific consortia with a participation of an enterprise is Blue Gas – Polish Shale Gas, the aim of which was to support the development of technologies related with mining of shale gas.

A priority of the Ministry for the incoming years is increasing the innovativeness of Polish economy. It is realised by e.g. determination and categorisation of barriers which preclude a free transfer of new knowledge to economy as well as proposing solutions that can eliminate such barriers. Activities in this field are conducted within the scope of works over the White Book of Innovation. That document identifies legislative and organisational solutions, which will be used for preparing another act on innovativeness as well as other activities of the medium and long-term character, focused on increasing the innovativeness of Polish economy.

Observing the increasing interest of entrepreneurs in R&D activities, we want to develop this good dialogue between scientists and businessmen. We are working on the implementation of the mechanism called Seal of Excellence. The assumption is that in case of particular types of activities, conclusions, which fall within the criteria of perfection, which can not be supported within the Horizon 2020 programme, will be given a seal of excellence. Such mark can provide an access to financing of projects within the scope of national/regional programmes. Currently, the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development and the National Centre for Research and Development are conducting analyses aimed at implementing such mechanism in Poland.

I would like to also mention that cooperation of science and business will be the topic of one of the first events organised within the scope of programme conferences before the National Science Congress, taking place in September 2017 in Cracow.

In September, there was announced the strategy of a development of Polish science, which should be realised within incoming years. What are main assumptions and the aim of the reforms?

The strategy for scientific excellence is composed of three basic elements. Constitution for science, innovation for economy and social responsibility for science. First, we want to conduct a systematic change of the higher education. Second, to create a real creative partnership between science and business. Third, we want to make science go beyond schools and be addressed to people.

The first step in the field of systematic changes is an act on deregulation, which is in force from October 1, i.e. this academic year. Academic employees will not be forced to produce numerous reports and will not be subject to constant controls.

Another step will be the announcement of a new Constitution for science in September 2017 during the National Science Congress. Three teams selected in the contest shall prepare competitive concepts of the act. They will be later discussed during conferences and meetings organised by the ministry.

We also want to launch new paths of academic career and facilitate an academic promotion of the young generation of researchers, as well as to act for internationality of Polish science – for this aim, I will constitute the National Agency for Academic Exchange.

As far as the second pillar of the strategy is concerned, we have to build a real creative partnership between science and business. Increasing the innovativeness of Polish economy is the basis aim of the plan of responsible development. The act on innovativeness which are under current proceedings in the Parliament, offers a whole range of real advantages encouraging entrepreneurs and scientists to cooperate. What is more, we are reforming the way of functioning of the National Centre for Research and Development, the main governmental agenda, responsible for distribution of resources for innovation.

The third pillar is social responsibility of science. Science can not isolate itself from people. This is why we initiated a series of projects – we financially and essentially support the University of Young Explorer, in October, we launch a pilot programme of University the Third Age, which was previously deprived of a support of the Ministry. What is more, at the beginning of the next year, Science buses will go around Poland, i.e. mobile scientific laboratories, in which promoters of science trained at the Copernicus Science Centre will move around. They will visit as much as 400 schools.

What changes do you expect in Polish science and economy after the introduction of reforms?

An essential measure of the efficiency of our activities shall be, for example, a growth of the number of ERC grants for Polish scientist. As I mentioned, we have the first achievement in this field as in the last competition, three Polish scientists obtained the grant.

Additionally, we want to achieve the level of resources spent on research and development equal to 1.7% of GDP  by 2020.

An important task for us is basing a growth of innovativeness of Polish economy on Polish science. Thanks to the National Centre for Research and Development, we will grant over PLN 50 billion for the development of the economy innovativeness by 2020.

Since now, the competitiveness of Polish economy has been based on low salaries. It is high time to end this and cooperation between science and business is one of conditions of a success of our economical and social plans.

When basing on research and development, the level of financing higher education schools must be higher. Investing in reconstruction of Polish industry through science shall be transformed into economic growth. In the upcoming years, insufficiently financed universities, which are autonomic but also need „central programmes” and a strong support of the government, will be more often appraised on not only the number of graduates but also on actual scientific achievements, which will translate into e.g. the economical growth. Higher education schools can be a partner for business in the area of modernisation of Polish economy, and in the reconstruction of the economy basing on knowledge.

One of challenges Poland is facing is a growth of internationality of schools and science. How to increase the interest of foreign scientists in Poland that they wanted to work in Polish scientific units?

The ministry of science and higher education wants to attract foreign researchers and students thanks to the quality of Polish science and innovative infrastructure.  Currently, information concerning conducted scientific research in Poland is published on numerous websites. In order to develop a complex source of information on the possibilities that Poland offers to foreign scientists, there are ongoing works on creating a service within the portal, addressed to foreigners interested in conducting scientific research in Poland. The „Research&Go! Poland” website will include information on scientific entities, modern research infrastructure, possibilities of financing of scientific research and conditions and costs of living in Poland.

Foreign researchers are also encouraged to come to Poland by various programmes supporting mobility. One of such programmes is POLONEZ competition by the National Science Centre. It is addressed to foreign scientists, who want to conduct research at Polish scientific entities at favourable conditions. In November, there will be a completion of the second edition of the POLONEZ competition.

It is also worth to mention programmes encouraging foreigners for developing their scientific career in Poland, which are realised by the Foundation for Polish Science (e.g.  TEAM, TEAM-TECH, HOMING). One Foundation programme which is worth special focus in the context of attracting foreign scientists is the International Research Agendas Programme. Its aim is to create Polish specialised, world’s leading scientific units, using the best global practices in the scope of identifying programmes and research subjects, personal policies, management over R&D activities and commercialisation of the R&D works results. Addresses of this programme are notable scientists from Poland and abroad, representing the ERC Advanced Grant level.

 Are there any Polish scientific centres to which you would invite foreign scientists today?

There are numerous Polish scientific centres in which research are conducted at the highest level. These are mainly entities, which were granted category A+ by the Committee for Evaluation of Scientific Research Institutions, being awarded by the highest grade of the quality of conducted research and R&D activities.  Another group worth mentioning is KNOWs (National Scientific Leading Centres), i.e. scientific centres selected within particular areas, which ultimately are to become Polish flagship institutions, competing with the best entities in the world. It is also worth to recommend Polish research centres which obtained HR Excellence in Research logo granted by the European Committee and which offer the highest standards of employment and conduction of studies.