The government believes it is important that, upon the transformation of the local research, development and innovation system, they ensure the smooth operation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences also during the transitional period as our core principle is that no value can be lost, Minister for Innovation and Technology László Palkovics said at a press conference held in connection with the Thursday special general meeting of the Academy.

He added that the government will finance the salaries of research institute workers until the new structure comes into being in April as planned, while the operating expenditures will be supplied by the Academy. The Minister also highlighted that they will announce new calls for proposals for the funding of research teams next year, and these will be available to all actors of the innovation eco-system.

“The budget of the Academy amounts to HUF 64 billion, of which the funding of research only amounts to HUF 17 billion, meaning that the Academy has the funds for covering the material expenditures that will emerge in the coming few months”, the Minister added in answer to a question.

Mr Palkovics stressed that, despite preliminary plans, he did not attend the Academy’s special general meeting because documents have been placed on the agenda which are beneath an academy’s general meeting. “These are partly information documents summarising the results of the talks held so far which have also been released in the press, and partly documents laying down the Academy’s concepts. However, the general meeting is not a working organisation, these documents do not contain items which should be presented to the Academy’s public body”, he pointed out.

He said the current state of the domestic innovation system is very far from the opportunities which the research community would be able to achieve and, he added, in the past thirty years no one has taken the cause of research, development and innovation seriously enough.

He pointed out that the government authorised the ministry six months ago to transform the Hungarian research, development and innovation system into a standard and effective system. He added that a recently published ten-point government resolution identified the tasks which will have to be carried out in the next four months, by 31 March.

The Minister highlighted that in Hungary at present research and innovation are being carried out in four, effectively separate systems: at universities, in state research institutes, in the research network of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and in the research systems of companies.

“The government wants to give, rather than take anything away, and therefore wants to make significant changes to the funding available for research and the conditions of research. To this end, it is also necessary to review the relevant structure, given that the Academy’s research regime has effectively remained unchanged for eight years”, he stated.

He highlighted that the currently proposed system corresponds to the EU’s research funding structure, and contains three elements: a research excellence system, the funding of research projects which seek to respond to various economic and social challenges, and the financing of the system of innovation.

“We believe that instead of financing institutes, we should and we must finance excellent researchers. The processes which are under way are not in any way connected to the Academy’s independence, and all the powers of the Academy’s public body remain intact as guaranteed in the Fundamental Law. At the same time, the mentioned expectations equally apply to its network of research institutes”, he observed.

He said the government is making every effort to provide help for the Academy with the transformation of the system. This is why a Research Network Scientific Presidential Committee for the Academy has been set up, a body comprised of 14 members, seven of whom are delegated by the Academy and seven by the government. “We expect this committee to table a proposal by the end of February, outlining how they propose to operate the Academy’s research institute network in the coming period. As part of this, the committee may propose that they do not wish to continue to operate certain research groups, they may propose to cooperate with other institutions, and they may even propose the closing down of research institutes”, the Minister said speaking about details.

In answer to questions, Mr Palkovics said before the special general meeting, on Monday afternoon, he met with László Lovász, President of the Academy, in person, and after the meeting they were both hopeful; however, the situation then changed.

The Minister also said in answer to another enquiry that in Hungary in 2017 total research, development and innovation expenditures amounted to HUF 517 billion, which represented 1.33 per cent of GDP at the time. “The goal is to raise this percentage to 1.8 per cent by 2020, at which point the EU average will be around 2.2 per cent. What we have most certainly achieved is the ratio between community and economic funds: today the ratios are one quarter to three quarters in Hungary. In 2021 the EU will change over to a different type of research funding system, the EU will spend some EUR 100 billion on this, and Hungary, too, will have to adjust to this new structure.”