Bartosz Bednarz, Interia: High inflation and weak zloty are worrying?
Wojciech Kamieniecki, director of the National Center for Research and Development: – Most of the resources at the NCBR’s disposal come from European funds. They are converted from euro at the current rate – from this point of view, there will be a little more money to support the beneficiaries by weakening the zloty. On the other hand, the cost of project implementation will increase due to increased inflation.
– I believe that this increase in costs will be higher than the benefits resulting from the euro / zloty exchange rate. So, on balance, it worries me.
Grants already pay attention to this problem of rising costs?
– So far, there is no such problem in the context of inflation. I have not come across this yet. It happens, of course, that when running projects, the costs are different than assumed; then we do the analysis and if it is justified by objective factors, we recognize possible higher expenses.
Are you already preparing at the NCBR for the settlement of the financial perspective 2014-2020?
– This is not as simple a question as it may seem. We will not close the whole perspective until 2024. However, the year 2023 will be very busy for us – there will be an accumulation of project settlements. On top of that, we will have a new perspective, with which we will start in 2022. We are making some organizational changes now and are getting ready for the next ones – we are also talking to the managing authority about additional opportunities that it can offer us, in order to efficiently settle everything to the end 2023
These preparations also mean increased recruitment?
– We have obtained approval to employ additional people in the project accounting department, but these are slight increases in jobs compared to what we have. Single percentages. We focus on changing the procedures that facilitate this settlement; on digitization and automation – here is the main source in which I see increased efficiency.
Will the algorithm evaluate the applications?
– I wish it were that simple. However, the conclusions must be assessed by an expert and we will not eliminate this human factor. However, we will increase the efficiency of his work by automating some processes – conditions that are zero-one can be checked automatically without human involvement. There are also such things that by monitoring how quickly a given process is completed and who is responsible for it, they result in greater work discipline. And of course – digital trade, i.e. eliminating the need to send paper documents for signature. These are the things that speed up the whole process.
The new perspective will start in 2022?
– According to the announcements of the Ministry of Finance, these are the predictions that in Q1 or Q2 2022 we will be able to announce competitions in a new perspective.
And what can entrepreneurs expect?
– I must make a reservation – these are things that are still being discussed. And while many issues are already closed between us and the Ministry of Funds and Regional Development, some changes in the Ministry of Finance or the European Commission may take place.
What do we have at the moment?
– The FENG program will be the successor to the SG OP program, in which the National Center for Research and Development implements a significant part of the value of the entire program for Poland. The entire allocation for Poland is EUR 8 billion. Of this, EUR 2.5 billion will be available to the NCBR.
And how will these funds be shared?
– We will continue to base the acceptance of applications on national smart specializations. It is a flexible instrument and it has presented no major problems to applicants. Some of the funds will be implemented in the form of non-repayable grants – these are Priority 1 projects which cover the most risky R&D activities. The grant application will consist of up to seven modules, including compulsory R&D or innovation implementation. In addition, however, there will also be, for example, the “greening of enterprises” or “digitization” parameter – these are two directions that the EU strongly favors today.
– In the second priority, we have less risky actions, therefore we will use feedback instruments. These funds will be used to develop, strengthen research and innovation capacities, use advanced technologies, and implement sustainable development.
What about equity instruments?
– The entire Alpha Bridge will be based on them. However, it will not be the same horizontal financing as it has been so far. We will put emphasis on technologies that are not supported by other entities, private or state investors. For example, in the ICT industry, start-ups find private capital even at an early stage of development. We want to be there where technologies are more difficult to implement, but important for the development of the economy. I also hope that we will have an amount in the VC and CVC funds, but decisions have not been made here yet.
So NCBR will remain the main institution financing R&D works in Poland.
– The division between what the NCBR does and, for example, PARP, will be a bit different. So far, the Center has dealt with R&D and PARP applications – those related to building companies’ ability to act. At the moment, the division will not be objective, but subjective. NCBR will provide services to large economic units as well as research units (universities, research institutes) and consortia. PARP, on the other hand, will deal with micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. It will be implemented in the entire scope: R&D, investments, implementation of innovations, internationalization, digitization. Both entities will have the same but different categories of applicants.
– A new category of enterprises has also appeared in FENG, which is beneficial for Polish companies. We will operate small (up to 499 employees, but the income at the same level as in large companies) and mid-caps (up to 3 thousand employees, but income at the same level as in large companies). These companies will be treated in a more preferential manner than large enterprises – they will receive more support compared to those that would have received under the current rules of division.
How many people do NCBR already have in Brussels?
– Five employees.
NCBR is the operator of the office and is to support Polish research units in Horyzoncie Europa. The first successes of the presence in Brussels are already available?
– Recently, several people from the Łukasiewicz Research Network took internships – they aimed at learning how to make contacts, build relationships with individual people working in committees that build appropriate competitions and initiatives under the Horizon Europe program. As a result of these internships, a special Foresight and Internationalization Center is being created in the Łukasiewicz Research Network.
– We have an EU database of universities and entrepreneurs that offer their partnership opportunities for various European programs. We will associate this database within the National Contact Point, which operates within the NCBR structures and the network of Regional Contact Points, with the base of Polish potential in this area. In December, a digital platform will be launched, which will cover all the opportunities of the Polish private sector, state-owned companies and research units. Using such a platform, it will be possible to build consortia and partnerships that can apply for EC programs.
– We provide knowledge. We are an entity that can conduct such processes at the national and international level. Therefore, we are starting on Thursday, November 25 this year. with the first of the series of annual NCBR conferences: “Horizon of Innovation”. We want to show the changes taking place in the Center. Our NCBR Think Tank will be widely involved in all activities of the Center, there will be well-known names from the field of science, business and state administration. This is to show that the position of the NCBR does not only result from the funds at our disposal and that we allocate for innovative projects, but also from the knowledge and experience that we have accumulated. Today, we are an important partner in the discussion on how to support innovation in Poland and Europe.
Poland’s percentage share in the Horizon 2020 program was 1.27%. In turn, our country’s contribution to the budget reached 3.23 percent. As Poland, we contributed more than we gained. According to the assumptions of MEiN, at the end of the Horizon Europe program, our participation in projects financed under it is to amount to at least 3%. its budget. Is this the way to go?
– Certainly not by the NCBR itself. There are many other institutions that need to get involved and, of course, entrepreneurs as well. It will be difficult, but it is not impossible. Looking at the growth dynamics – the increase in these projects within Horizon Europe – it is double-digit. It multiplies what was previously. We conduct very intensive activities in the country related to contacts with scientific units and universities, we organize meetings with rector’s colleges. Recently, I was at AGH in Krakow. We travel around Poland. We were at the Białystok University of Technology, Świętokrzyska University of Technology. We will be at the Silesian University of Technology. In addition, we actively present and show the scope of our activities in institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, in research institutes. Wherever there is such a possibility, we try to explain that participation in Horizon Europe is not an abstraction, that it is within our reach. We also plan a meeting in business organizations such as the Lewiatan Confederation and we meet directly with the management boards of State Treasury companies. We even advise on writing applications to the European Commission for funding, because we do not have a conflict of interest in the case of Horizon Europe, as in the case of the national applications we are assessing.
Bartosz Bednarz interviewed