Involving new member states has been an objective set by the EC and one that the reviewers have examined each year. For us, it was a legitimate aim, so early on we undertook a structured effort to characterise existing capacities (see Mac Ceestireo project). The results were decidedly disappointing with the exception of the IKU group at the Corvinius University of Budapest, an important player in the creation and in the existence of the NoE. Essentially we could only find good individuals in teams primarily engaged in other activities with no institutional will to reinforce them.
We have repeatedly said that a NoE, funded with the equivalent of 5000 euros per year per researcher involved, cannot solve such a major structural deficiency, and that this had to be dealt with at the appropriate level. We suggested a horizontal action led by structural funds and indicated that we were ready to co-invest (at least in the form of the time of PRIME researchers) in order to help such action develop. We also proposed such a direction to the ministers in charge of research of some new member states. We have to recognise that we were not successful in our attempts at persuasion.
We therefore decided to focus on two directions :
(i) Training activities. We offered young PhD and post-doc researchers the possibility of participating in all training events (we allocated specific budgets for this, and we even dedicated 2 summer schools to the ‘transition process’ comparing Eastern and Southern Europe) and we offered individuals in managerial positions to opportunity to attend our professional short courses.
(ii) Focusing our research efforts on indicators (because of the pressures of the Union to have adequate data).
What have been the results ?
(iii) The two dedicated summer schools in 2004 and 2005 attracted 20 students from new Member States (approximately half the audience), but students from new Member States have been quite shy in applying to other events : the other summer schools (with at best one or two students from NMS each), the PhD conferences (in 4 of these we have had just over 10 participants from NMS, 90% of these attending the Budapest PhD conference). One has to reflect on the difficulties students face outside their ‘traditional’ environment. The same applies to professional courses, where there has been limited interest among acting managers in life-long training.
(iv) A first seminar held in 2004 showed real interest in indicators from a number of groups (mostly from neighbouring fields). It took two years of effort and a really dedicated investment by the PRIME indicators coordinator, B. Lepori, to turn this into new research work with the incorporation of 3 new member states in the project on the development of new indicators on project funding . This has been the sole significant achievement, and, however interesting the results are, this raises questions about the future of research and innovation policies in new member states : in particular, how can the NMS not need such capabilities when German or Spanish regions readily support such developments ?
These conclusions follow the analysis by A.M. Inzelt presented at the Gif strategic meeting in 2007. She proposed three directions for the future, which, she recognised will bear fruit only in the medium to long term. (i) The community should keep focusing on the young generation, opening up all training events to them and, until they fully engage, go on developing specific events for them. (ii) Continue developing a pro-active approach for integrating teams from NMS in projects (as was done for project funding, but one must remember here the amount of initial investments made by PRIME to enable these teams to join the project). (iii) Put on the research agenda ‘topics that are focusing on CEE specific S&T and innovation policy issues’. While we have fully engaged with the first two, we decided not to engage in the latter due to the forthcoming closure of the NoE and the fact that we cannot expect our organisations to invest their own money in activities that typically relate to the old terminology of ‘subsidiarity’.