RIO Country Report Poland 2014

The RIO Country Reports, co-authored by JRC policy analysts and independent experts, give an update on the performance of the national research and innovation systems, and examine policies to address key R&I challenges, assessing their effectiveness. They serve as a tool to inform EU and national policy-makers, and support policy learning in Member States (MS).

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The annual RIO Country Report analyses and assesses the development and performance of the Polish national research and innovation system and related policies in the perspective of EU strategy and goals.

The report highlights recent national policy and system developments occurring and assesses the match between national policy priorities and the structural challenges of the research and innovation system. It addresses among others:

  • The progress of Poland towards achieving the Innovation Union, focusing on areas where action is needed.
  • Progress in responding to the ERA actions, particularly in light of the ERA progress report findings published in September 2014.
  • Country specific R&D and innovation recommendations as indicated in COM(2014) 400 final '2014 European Semester: Country specific recommendations, Building Growth' adopted by the Commission on 2 June 2014 and endorsed by the Council on 27 June 2014.
  • Progress in tackling research and innovation system challenges beyond those outlined above.
  • Areas highlighted by the Commission's Communication on 'Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth' (COM(2014) 339 final) and its accompanying Staff Working Document 'State of the Innovation Union, taking stock 2010-2014' (SWD(2014 181 final).

The RIO Country Report 2014 builds on the experience of the ERAWATCH project. The ERAWATCH Country Reports from previous years are also available for download on this page.

Report year
Official publication date
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EU Report or Publication

Country Report file

RIO Country Report 2014_Poland.pdf
(1.6 MB - PDF)
National economic and political context

Poland maintained high public investments in R&D despite the economic slowdown in recent years, and the science budget for 2015 will be the largest in the country's history. In 2014, a major R&I funding programme POIR based on the EU Structural Funds was being negotiated with the European Commission, and smart specialisation strategies on national and regional levels were designed.

ERA priority 2: Optimal transnational co-operation and competition

Poland offers co-funding for researchers participating in international initiatives, and maintains the highest transnationally co-ordinated R&D budget among all the new EU member states, with a notable increase of this type of spending by over 51% between 2010 and 2013. Polish R&D priorities correspond to the grand challenges identified on the EU level. Poland maintains bilateral R&D co-operations with an extensive number of countries and the government actively promotes Polish involvement in Horizon 2020.

National R&I strategies and policies

The two high-level policy documents: SIEG and PRP shape the R&I support measures and introduce important legislative changes. KIS - a list of national smart specialisations - was adopted in 2014. PMDIB - research infrastructure roadmap - was updated in 2014. All these policy documents influence the priorities and modalities for funding R&I from the EU Structural Funds, based on operational programmes: POIR (on national level) and RPOs (regional programmes). The Polish government amended in 2014 the Act on Public Procurement and the Act on Higher Education to eliminate bottlenecks in funding and carrying out R&D projects and commercialisation of research results.

National Reform Programmes 2013 and 2014

NRP for 2013-2014 included inpolicy measures related to the establishment of a coherent policy framework with SIEG, PRP, KIS, PMDIB and POIR, which have successfully been implemented. The NRP for 2014-2015 listed numerous ongoing activities, but lacked any declarations on the previously planned (and recommended by the EC) introduction of R&D tax incentives for business enterprises.

ERA priority 3: An open labour market for researchers

Polish laws stipulate open and merit-based employment at PHEIs and PROs, but the research positions are not attractively remunerated, S&T graduates have uncertain job prospects in the research sector, and only few organisations formally implemented HRS4R. Portability of grants is limited, but foreign researchers can apply for R&D funding. Government regulations promote excellence in doctoral training.

Policy developments related to Council Country Specific Recommendations

The CSRs for 2014 recognized Poland's progress in increasing R&D intensity, and attempts at linking R&I and industrial policy. The document further emphasized the need to improve the effectiveness of R&D tax incentives for private sector organisations, and stipulated better adjustment of R&I support measures to different stages of the innovation cycle. The Polish government took no tangible actions to address the fiscal challenges but the design of new support measures from the EU Structural Funds, 2014-2020, involved explicit targeting of various technology maturity levels.

ERA priority 5: Optimal circulation and access to scientific knowledge

Researchers at PHEIs benefit from the Virtual Library of Science, publicly funded ICT platform offering access to scientific publications. Multiple projects aim at establishing or improving ICT infrastructure for science. Open access policies are hybrid, but the share of “gold” open access articles indexed in Scopus database, 2008-2011, was higher for Poland than the EU-28 average. Open access to Polish language academic journals is particularly popular and various organisations offer repositories of open access content.

Framework conditions

The R&I policy documents prioritize business involvement and increase in R&D investments. In the World Bank's ranking of ease of doing business, Poland was ranked below only 13 of the EU Member States in 2014. Nevertheless, policy measures still focus on supply-side instruments, with limited use of demand-side measures such as innovative procurement or technology standards.

Science-based entrepreneurship

Poland actively promotes science-industry collaboration and commercialisation of research results, including through the creation of spin-off companies. Dedicated measures support PHEI and PRO-derived companies, employment of innovation brokers at universities and training of technology transfer experts. Amendments to the Act on Higher Education from 2014 facilitated the transfers of university IPRs to the creators of technologies.

Funding trends

In 2013, Poland spent 0.87% of GDP on R&D, and both the overall spending on R&D and business expenditures were growing between 2009 and 2013. 64.46% of science budget were allocated as project funding, and 30.33% as institutional funding, divided based on outcomes of institutional assessments. Project funding is administered mainly by NCN (basic research) and NCBiR (applied R&D). The EU Structural Funds play a less significant role in R&D funding than GOVERD or expenditures of foreign-controlled business enterprises. R&I funding relies mostly on subsidies, with limited take up of of tax incentives.

Smart Specialisation

Poland identified national smart specialisations (KIS) taking into account results of a large-scale industrial foresight project, empirical data on R&D activities and public consultations. NCBiR launched so-called sectoral programmes, implementing the concept of entrepreneurial discovery process, with representation of business organisations in an industry sector proposing comprehensive research agendas. The programmes have differentiated focus of public interventions, depending on the identified needs, based on feasibility studies, of the R&D performers from a specific sector. Business performers commit also to co-funding of the programme in the public-private partnership model. Sixteen Polish regions prepared their regional smart specialisation strategies.

Knowledge markets

IPR framework in Poland is comprehensive, but legal enforcement is rarely used. Costs of patenting are low, and measures exist to support international patenting. Yet, th R&D performers and investors disregard the importance of patenting, and companies tend to rely on trade secrets rather than patents. Poland decided against joining the unitary patent system.

Evaluations, consultations, foresight exercises

Poland actively uses evaluations of programmes, support measures and institutions. When preparing new operational programmes, multiple evaluation exercises were carried out. The World Bank was also contracted to perform a comprehensive evaluation of the R&I support system, and the smart specialisation strategies. Public consultations of new policies, legislations and programmes are required by law and are run for all new policy initiatives.

Knowledge transfer and open innovation

Science-industry co-operation are actively promoted, with various support measures motivating PHEIs and PROs to engage in knowledge transfer, and innovation vouchers available for business enterprises to co-fund contracted research. Multiple R&D programmes distribute funds to consortia consisting of scientific and business organisations, and the amendments to the Act on Higher Education from 2014 facilitated transferring the ownership of IPRs to the technology creators, who might engage in further commercialisation activities.

Performance of the National Research and Innovation system

Even though the innovation performance of Poland has constantly improved, most of measures included in the EU Innovation Union Scoreboard remain below the EU-28 average, and the country is ranked as moderate innovator. Identified weaknesses refer to: numbers of international doctoral students, international patent applications, and foreign revenues for patents and licenses, while strengths lie in innovation funding and the education of the young generation.

Structural challenges of the national R&I system

The structural challenges of the Polish R&I system include: (1) limited reporting of business investment in R&D; (2) unsatisfactory synergies between the science and industry, restricting the innovative potential of the economy; (3) a need to concentrate financial resources on key strategic areas and RDI priorities; (4) the need for increasing internationalization and attractiveness of RDI system; (5) insufficient R&D efforts of domestic and foreign-owned business enterprises.

Meeting structural challenges

The Polish government failed to address the first of the previously identified structural challenges. In particular, systematic BERD under-reporting causes problems for the national R&I statistics. The remaining structural challenges are adequately acted upon within the policy mix, with dedicated support measures and legal actions, promoting science-industry co-operation, increasing internationalization, stimulating private R&D investments and introducing smart specialisations in order to concentrate public R&I funding.


Innovation framework for SMEs

Public policies support innovative SMEs and clusters. Multiple schemes help finance innovations, with public credit guarantees, government export missions and grants. SMEs can benefit from dedicated, fast-track R&D support measure, in which decisions are made within 60 days from application.

Venture capital markets

16 VC funds benefit from public co-funding to support their innovative investments, alongside numerous seed funds, innovation incubators and business angel networks. NCBiR launched a scheme "BRIDge", combining experiences and capital of established VCs with public co-funding for technology projects at different stages of maturity. Private funding is also available through crowdsourcing and a dedicated SME-focused stock exchange NewConnect.

Innovative public procurement

The use of innovative public procurement is limited, but Poland has a formal action plan related to the Sustainable Public Procurement. NCBiR piloted the use of pre-commercial procurement in 2013. The procurement plays an important role in defence sector, as Poland spends 1.95% of GDP per annum on defence, and these funds became an important source of investment for innovative firms. In 2014, amendments to the Act on Public Procurement facilitated the use of single source procurement in R&D projects.

The country in the European R&I landscape

The Polish GDP growth was coupled with disproportionally high increases of GERD, but GERD and BERD per capita remain low in comparison to the EU-28 average. GERD as percentage of GDP stood at 0.87% in 2013.

Main features of the R&I system

The R&I system is driven by public expenditures, with the role of private investors gradually increasing. The country is decomposed into 16 regions, with differentiated innovation performance.

Structure of the national research and innovation system and its governance

The sub-chapter outlines the institutions in Poland's R&I system, including ministries, funding agencies and research performers, and offers an overview of the key changes to the system in the recent five years.

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