Improving the research excellence and internationalisation of Czech science system
Czech Republic has increased its public funding to R&D considerably from 0.56% in 2008 to 0.87% in 2014 but mostly due to the increase of the EU Structural funds devoted to R&D. On the output side, however, the Czech Republic is still lagging behind as regards to the scientific excellence. It has close to the EU-28 average number of international co-publications (37.6% with 2013 reference year) and only 5.7% of Czech scientific publications were among the 10 % of publications most cited worldwide (2000-2013, fractional counting). Also in the excellence indicator the Czech Republic has only little improved its scores between 2008 and 2012, virtually no progress has been made towards increasing the number of PCT patents and highly cited publications. Similarly to other countries of the 2004 accession, the Czech Republic FP7 funding share decreased as compared to FP6 and is now at 27.3€/inhabitant higher than the EU13 average of 17.8 €/inhabitant but significantly lower that the EU15 average of 95.2€/inhabitant (StE 2015). The Czech Republic ranks among countries with the greatest share of non-mobile researchers (including transfers inside the country), a share of more than 50% as compared to around 30% in the UK, Sweden or Belgium, whereas mobility is an important factor of increasing research excellence.
One of the objectives of the updated national RDI policy from 2013 is to stimulate research excellence and internationalization. Also the Smart Specialisation Strategy from 2014 underlines their importance for the Czech research system. The Czech Republic has designed several intruments supporting the Czech researchers in participation in the EU programmes, EUPRO II being the largest programme, aims at increasing Czech participation in international R&D programs and bilateral activities.The RETURN programme (2009-2019) with €17M of the total budget supports the leading Czech scientists willing to come back the Czech research organisations after a period spent abroad. The new Operational Programmes foresee instruments supporting Czech teams applying for Horizon 2020 funds and other EU-level funding measures. Still, the main funding instrument of the Grant Agency of the CR (basic science funding agency) is a standard grant project, to which are allocated nearly three-quarters of the budget thus about €97m in 2014. Projects aimed at excellence in basic research started only in 2011 and received 17% of the budget, junior grants (started in 2014 and replaced postdoctoral grants) got 11% of the funding and international bilateral grants amount to 1% of the total funding. The interim methodology of institutional funding allocation is already taking into account the excellence by awarding additional points for the awardees of the ERC grants. The Czech Republic has also significantly invested in research infrastructures (cf. National Roadmap of the Czech Republic of Large Infrastructures for Research, Experimental Development and Innovation for the years 2016-2022) also with the aim to attract foreign researchers.
The current public funding allocation system tends to spread thinly the resources with limited incentives for research excellence and therefore fails to achieve critical mass. There are limited financial incentives (RETURN programme) and no regulatory policy measures that encourage brain circulation and opening up of the Czech research system. The attractiveness of the new research infrastructures might need to be coupled with other soft measures in order stimulate foreign and local researchers to seek employment in the regions where those infrastructures are located.