Expenditures on science are rising, yet we are falling behind Europe in innovation. The problem is in the support system.
Press release on audit No. 17/15 – 6. 8. 2018
The Supreme Audit Office examined support for research, development, and innovation in the Czech Republic between 2014 and 2016. Auditors focused on the support system - for example, its setting-up, the way of funds allocation, but also the impact of the distributed finances on research and innovation. The audit focused on the institutions under which research and development fall - the Office of the Government and selected departments1 as well as beneficiaries of the support such as selected universities and public research institutions2. The audit has revealed that the current system does not always create ideal conditions to bring results that can be applied in practice and does not contribute to increasing the competitiveness of the Czech Republic. Simultaneously, we are failing to solve some of the long-standing problems that accompany research and innovation.
Although expenditures on research and development in the public sector have been rising significantly since 2010, the innovation performance of the Czech Republic has been declining.3 In 2010, expenses on research and development in the Czech Republic were about one fifth lower than the EU average. In 2015, the amount of money invested in research and development was already a quarter above the European average. However, the Czech Republic's innovation performance declined in the same years - compared to the European average, from 88% to approximately 84%.
Despite the rising amount of funds, research and development are still accompanied by long-term problems that are not solved successfully. For example, there is a low number of newly registered patents - a problem known for at least 15 years - which is related to a small number of results that can be applied in practice. The number of patents in the Czech Republic does not reach even a third of the average value of European Union countries.
Another problem is a very poor cooperation between the private and the public sector, which is one of the basic prerequisites for the use of research results in practice. The business sector invested into research and development approximately CZK 48 billion in 2016, of which less than CZK 3 billion was invested into cooperation with public universities and the government sector.
This situation is a result of how the support system is set up. When deciding on the allocation of support to the institution, the evaluation of the Governing Council for Research, Development and Innovation played the main role. This evaluation was based mainly on the number of results of the institution - usually the number of articles published. The quality of the institutions, their outcomes, or other factors were not so significant. Thus, the system´s set-up encouraged research institutions to create an excessive number of scientific articles, but not, for example, to reach results that could be applied in practice. An exception represented the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, which mainly evaluated the quality of projects when distributing support to the beneficiaries. The others had the opportunity to do so as well. In 2016, only about CZK 13.7 billion were distributed for the support of institutions, which was approximately half of the state budget allocated to science and research.
In addition to the support of the institutions, the so-called targeted support, which the beneficiaries receive for specific projects, is also allocated. This support is distributed through thematic programmes that are important so that funds are used efficiently and are focusing on areas that need to be strengthened most. However, the audit showed that the focus of these programmes was general, lacking concrete and measurable targets from which it could be possible to assess how the distributed funds helped to change the given areas. The evaluation of these programmes was purely formal. In the year 2016, about CZK 14.3 billion were allocated for targeted support.
Supreme Audit Office
1] The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture.
2] Palacky University in Olomouc, Brno University of Technology, University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, Mendel University in Brno, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and its selected institutes and centres.
3] European Innovation Scoreboard 2017, viz http://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/innovation/facts-figures/scoreboards_en.