Science ministers from the west Balkans signed up to a regional R&D pact worth €200 million (£171 million) in Zagreb, Croatia last week. The strategy, which will run from 2014–2020, aims to lift the competiveness of researchers in these countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – easing their integration into global and European science and letting them access new sources of R&D funding.
‘It is important to show that the sector is prepared to spend “better”, “smarter” rather than just “more”,’ saysPaulo Correa, senior economist at the World Bank in Washington DC, who coordinates the project.
Economic and political upheaval in the 1990s saw science fall off the policy agenda in these countries. Research capacity deteriorated, links with industry disappeared and spending on science declined dramatically, the strategy notes. Even today, the regional R&D investment of €495 million per year corresponds to roughly the amount invested by the second-largest US research university in 2011. And scientific performance is substantially below that of the average EU country in both quantity and quality.
The strategy proposes reforms to improve these countries’ research bases, promote collaboration and technology transfer between research institutions and industry, push business innovation and innovative start-ups, and strengthen the governance of national research and innovation policies.