Sub-regional Observatory on Science and Technology recommended for CEE

6 July 2001 A roundtable on research, education and industry in Budapest (Hungary) has recommended the setting up of a sub-regional observatory on science and technology to boost innovation and competitiveness in the sub-region.

Participants from the productive, research and university sectors used the roundtable on Research, Education and Industry in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) Countries to alert Parliaments, Governments and local authorities to what they perceive as a critical situation in Central and Eastern Europe. Urgent, co-ordinated action was required, they warned, to preserve and develop research capacities in countries of the region and thus ensure the region’s long-term competitiveness.

From 12-14 October 2000, participants exchanged experiences and proposals at the roundtable, organized by UNESCO’s Science Policy and Analysis Division in co-operation with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Hungarian National Commission for UNESCO as a follow-up activity to the World Conference on Science.

Realistic, participants acknowledged that public support for financing research and development would remain dominant in the medium term. But while it was necessary to maintain and strengthen the public financing system, they argued for appropriate legal dispositions to diversify and mobilise the resources from the private sector and society at large. Investments in the R&D sector needed encouraging, they urged, as did self-financing possibilities and capacities.

Equal emphasis needed to be given to building absorption capacities to maximize the efficiency of R&D investments. The expanding role of international business called for new methods and management skills at all levels and from all actors in the science arena.

The financing of research being a key concern in all Central and Eastern European countries, even if the problems, experiences and approaches were very diverse, participants urged haste in developing regional co-operation to enable the CEE countries to pool initiatives, efforts and resources, as for example through regular consultations between R&D policy-makers in the region and those of the European Union (EU) countries.

An innovative form of co-operation proposed was the Sub-regional Observatory. Once established, the Observatory would undertake expert studies, under the aegis of UNESCO and possibly other international and regional mechanisms such as EU pre-accession funds, to analyse and compare the text of laws in the countries in the region and propose model laws for these countries concerning efficient financing of R&D.

In parallel, the Observatory would develop interdisciplinary training courses for lawyers and civil servants focusing on the complex interdependence of education, research and industry, copyright and labour law in the information society.

Business and administrative management programmes would be run and structures for technology research developed. A co-operation network of small scientific communities would be launched.

The Observatory would also set up a ‘best practices’ network to adapt methods of statistical data collection and analysis.

An R&D desk would handle the exchange of recent information on major research achievements in the region and provide advisory services for their commercial application.

The Observatory would also compile a database of international audio-visual, ‘popular science’ materials on new achievements and technologies for use on public television.

Among other recommendations, many dealt with the promotion of corporate sponsorship. Projects tabled included a scheme to develop business partnerships in the CEE, a pilot project to promote corporate fundraising for science education and the creation of National Associations of Business and Industrial Sponsorship.

The roundtable also proposed exploring the desirability of launching, under the general label of a joint UNESCO–EU Commission programme, a special fund for multilateral programmes involving the CEE countries in 2001-2007.

The National Commission of UNESCO for Slovenia has offered to host a follow-up meeting to the October roundtable before the end of this year.

For further information, contact Hungarian National Commission for UNESCO: