Tadeusz Markowski, President ofthe Committeefor Spatial Economy and Regional Planning at the Polish Academy ofSciences, advocates stronger links between academia, gouernment and industry..

Polish research is still distorted - it is constantly adjusted to the market economy, new economical structure, as well as to new requirements brought about by the opening up of the economy, greater exposure to external competition and accession to the European Union. The impacts of these factors are multiple and difficult to precisely define. At the same time, many attempts are made to reform both universities and independent R&D institutions, causing significant resistance in the scientific milieus and the need to consider various political agendas. Thus, any presentation of the state of Polish research, without properly outlining the entire complexity and context of transformation, seems extremely difficult. The assessment of the achievements of Polish science is only one issue, the other being an assessment of how research is organized in Poland. Most certainly there is a clear correlation between the two, yet there are notable examples of institutions in all areas of science where performed research is on the highest European or even worldwide level.

The system transformation and a rapid change of the economic structure in Poland meant that R&D institutions became scattered physically as well as in terms of their capacity. The level of formal cooperation between science and economy is low - as shown by:

  • A low number of patents per capita;
  • A low index of scientists' mobility (ie. the share of R&D employees in the total number of employees in enterprises is 7.5%, while the average for OECD countries is 50%);
  • A low level of expenditure on R&D - 0.57% of GDP in 2005, compared to 2.24% in OECD countries;
  • A relatively low international competitiveness - the success rate in the 6th Framework Programme of the EU was only 15.85%.

The separation of R&D from practice is further confirmed by the proportions and structure of research funding. Applied research amounts for 25% of available funds in Poland and 50% in the EU, while fundamental research amounts to 40% of available funds in Poland and 15% in the EU. The share of the budget sector in funding research is relatively high - in 2000, it amounted to 63% in Poland1 and 34% for the 15 EU countries in 1999 (Information on the State of Polish Science - Ministry of Science and Higher Education). This index is constantly improving -in 2008, it was 56.1%.

European statistics, which measure the innovativeness of an economy by the number of patents submitted, omit the transformation specifics of post-communist countries. In effect, this is the measurement of patented inventions and not the measurement of innovation. In the ESPON Atlas, Poland - along with other post-communist economies -belongs to countries with less than 50 patents per million inhabitants, whilst the most advanced countries have more than 500 per million inhabitants. The innovativeness of Polish business amounts to 2-3%. of activities performed by the enterprises from the “old EU”. The share of Polish inventions on the EU market is measured per million, despite the fact that every enterprise needs to differentiate itself in order to function on that market2.

In my view, however, attention should be paid to a principal fact, which took place during the systemic transformation and changes in the structure of the Polish economy. As a matter of fact, Polish science and research corresponded to another economic structure (autarchic and material consuming), one not recognized by open global markets.
With an opening economy, Polish private enterprises and Polish branches of foreign companies have adopted simple but effective and successful strategies in absorbing and copying technologies and management processes existing in foreign companies. As a result of such strategics, the interaction on the border of the R&D sphere and practice was broken. At the moment, structural changes in the national economy and the tendency to copy other countries are being slowed down. Gaining a further competitive advantage is possible by improving the processes of internal innovation and cooperation with institutions of higher education. Both parties should look for new areas of cooperation. It must, however, be stressed that public higher education institutions represent very inert structures and require extensive reforms. This would be essential if we want to meet the challenges of a knowledge-based economy.

The National Centre for Research and Development
Poland has recently attempted to adjust the institutional, organizational and financial structure to new challenges, however, this will be slow and long.
In 2007 a new central institution was set up - the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR)3, which aims to support scientific institutions and enterprises to develop their capabilities to create applications and solutions based on R&D results in order to boost the economy for the benefit of society as a whole.
The centre is a specialized and professional governmental institution identified by scientific and business communities as the main organizer of applied research programmes, whose results will be used by the economy and the public sector.

The main task of NCBiR is to manage and implement strategic scientific R&D programmes, which translate directly into innovative developments.
Other tasks include providing support for commercialising and transferring scientific research results to the economy, ensuring solid conditions for scientists' development, particularly the participation of young scientists in research programmes, and implementing international scientists' mobility programmes.
The centre is financed from the state budget and European Union funds. In addition, NCBiR implements the tasks commissioned by the Minister of Science and Higher Education. In 2007, the centre was granted ERA-NET and EUREKA projects and asked to supervise contracted research.
In 2008, the Minister for Science forwarded two strategic programmes and one strategic project to NCBiR;

  • Advanced Technologies for Energy Generation;
  • Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information;
  • Integrated System for Reducing Energy Consumption in the Maintenance of Buildings.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education bas become more active in promoting applied research over the past three years. The ministry allocates research grants that are supported by the structural funds obtained from the EU, mostly on applied research and the development of technically-oriented study programmes. These grants aim to stimulate the creation of large scientific and research consortia between universities, which arc to cooperate with independent R&D institutions and enterprises.

The situation in the market of applied regional research is particularly interesting. Poland is certainly not yet a leading nation, however, the level of Polish regional science milieus has notably improved. This has come about as a result of the increasing importance of regional policy in Poland, a transfer of aid funds and creation of a strong Ministry of Regional Development, which seeks scientific milieus' backing for efficient implementation of an regional policy. Poland's accession to the EU has created a specific recipient of regional research in the form of the Ministry of Regional Development. Technical assistance funds related with EU structural funds at the disposal of the ministry allows for a dynamic development of highly applicable regional research. The ministry commissions experts' opinions and inspires research in academic centres as well as in private institutes.

In 2009, the ministry signed a contract with the Polish Academy of Sciences, Committee for Spatial Economy and Regional Planning that brings together Polish regional scientists (formally the committee acts as the Polish section of the European Regional Science Association). The committee prepares reports and experts' opinions. and organises scientific discussions, etc. Some of the major centres for regional research that cooperate with the committee and the ministry include universities and academies from Warsaw, Poznań, Cracow. Lodź, Wrocław and Gdańsk. These academic centres, at the same time, offer significant support for the decision-making bodies on the regional level.

Loosely summarizing, we can list some of the biggest barriers existing at the intersection of practice and science. The barriers outlined are the results of my own personal observations. However, I would hazard a guess that further in-depth studies would confirm rather than undermine these. Without claiming to have compiled a complete list, as far as enterprises are concerned, the following is likely to include the most important barriers:

  • Fragmentation of companies;
  • Lack of network links - excessive competition rather than cooperation - the stage of clusters (embryonic globalisation) requires the setting of competition and cooperation at a higher level in terms of interterritorial connections;
  • Lack of global company headquarters that commission research, sponsor development and create their own image of socially responsible companies;
  • Many cities with scientific potential suffer from the lack of company headquarters. ie. direct decision-makers;
  • Lack of institutions that lower the risks of investing in researches (incubators, lack of risk capital, distorted legał and mental basis of risk capital).

However, it seems that the most significant barriers exist with public higher education institutions and with the systems that finance research. In terms of science, the most important barriers, amongst others, are:

  • Flawed systems of academic careers;
  • Low salaries;
  • Concurrent employment;
  • Alienation of the academic environment from the world of practice;
  • Lack of skills in preparing applications for research grants, including European grants;
  • Insufficiently sized research units, and a lack of commercial professional services background for researchers (a dearth of scientific research managers, brokers and dealers handling the commercialisation of science, technological marketing, and so on);
  • The structure of research and knowledge, which is still incapable of coping with the changes that have taken place in the economy;
  • Inability to work in interdisciplinary research teams;
  • Absence of a talent spotting system;
  • Negative choices of academic personnel;
  • The conservative structure of the academic world.

The scientific and didactic activities of universities are one of the most important mechanisms encouraging economic creativity and innovation, and are decisive for the development of regions. In the modern economy, higher education institutions and business form network systems. Their development, however. requires the creation of support from the public or governmental sectors, whose role should be to take notice of and strengthen these 'new undertakings'. Therefore, it is necessary to develop and create new forms of cooperation between corporations of scientists, local and regional authorities, and enterprises. This implies the nced to conduct prognostic studies on the future development trajectories for academic centres and settlement units anticipating the needs and requirements of the economy. The methods of integrated management for the development of territorial units should be applied 10 ensure cooperation between academic centres. The business environment and the local municipal and regional authorities.

Primarily, there is a need to have sufficient knowledge of the role that higher education institutions play in social and economic development. It is essential to establish professional structures that could mediate between science and practice, including the recreation of a strong economic self-government. In the higher education institutions that aspire to develop research and developmental thought, the didactic burden on scientific research workers should be lightened and vocational education should be separated from Master's and doctorate studies (populism and elitism). It is essential to rejuvenate academic personnel and reeruit foreigners with sound experience in conducting and organising research. There is a great need to consolidate and restructure research teams, which should also entail enforcing the circulation of personnel in order to create strong research centres.