While Czech politics is often in flux, the ministries that the political parties fight to win control over show a surprising consistency. There have been few newcomer ministries over the last decades. Now, however, the deputy prime minister in charge of science, research and innovation, Pavel Bělobrádek, is pushing for the creation of a new research and development ministry which will better be able to fulfill the government’s targets for more dynamic and effective research and innovation.
The current coalition government set out in its basic programme the ambition to promote stronger and more effective Czech research and development. Links between Czech researchers and their European and global counterparts would be strengthened and steps would be taken to try and ensure that more practical use was made of research results by private companies and public institutions.
Cash for research and development has also increased with total Czech spending on R&D running at 1.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product last year. That is around twice the levels of a decade ago and the highest proportion in Central and Eastern Europe.
The ambitions were recently highlighted by the appointment of the country’s first research and development ambassador. The country chosen, Israel, is often cited as a role model for what the Czech Republic could be doing if R&D was being promoted properly and being a real motor for economic growth on its own rather than just a bit player.
But the Christian Democrat leader tasked over the last 18 months with spearheading the country’s research and development goals, Pavel Bělobrádek, says the current organization is not delivering the right results. There are too many uncoordinated research actors, such as the universities and academy of science, and the system is unclear and complicated with research bodies often having to report to several ministries with their results and requests. Bělobrádek, whose staff work out of the main government offices, originally believed that a new research and development office might fit the bill. Now, though, the thinking has moved on to the creation of a full blown ministry. He explained to Czech Television the context for that decision:
“The creation of a single central authority is just one of the conclusions of an international audit of Czech research. We weighed up several options and a ministry is one of them. It turned out that this is, technically speaking, probably be the most effective solution. If it were just a new authority it would not be sufficient.”
The last new ministry created was back in 2003 when the Ministry of Informatics was born. It had a relatively short life and was dissolved four years later with its competences shared out between three other ministries and many of its goals unachieved.
Pavel Bělobrádek says he is now searching for a wide ranging consensus that a new research and development ministry is the best way forward so that the new creation will not end up as a one term wonder. So far, the response seems to be favourable with some of the leading opposition parties also backing the idea. The proposal for a new ministry could go to the government in the Autumn and it could be up and running at the earliest by the start of 2017.
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