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The Warsaw Voice » From the News Editor » February 25, 2011
From the News Editor
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Magic Word
February 25, 2011   
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If one looks at the words Polish politicians, economists and scientists have used most frequently in their public remarks in recent years, the term “innovation” would probably emerge as the winner. The future of the Polish people, the country’s development and prosperity all depend on how innovative the economy becomes. This view is not held by Poles alone—it underpinned the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy. Although this is a document which has largely remained on paper, EU “futurologists” claim it is still valid in terms of the guidelines and needs it defines.

What should be done to ensure that innovation does not remain merely a buzzword and wishful thinking? Some solutions are presented in this issue of the Voice by two people, a politician and a scientist. Michał Boni, head of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s team of strategic advisers, does not hesitate to say that the government was wrong a few years ago when it tended to believe that removing disparities in the development of richer and poorer regions was of key importance for Poland’s development. But it has turned out that it is innovation that is the decisive factor. What is the best way to support innovation? Boni says a qualitative leap in terms of education tops the list of tasks that need to be accomplished. Poland has already seen a quantitative leap, with the number of college and university students having increased by almost 450 percent in the past 15 years. Now the time has come to improve the quality of Polish graduates.

But this is not enough. Prof. Krzysztof Jan Kurzydłowski, the other guest of this issue of the Voice, appointed recently as director of the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR)—one of the most important scientific institutions set up in recent years in Poland—says that success depends on how efficiently scientific progress will be translated into business success. On how quickly excellent ideas emerging in the laboratories of Polish universities and research institutes will turn up on the desks of company directors and how fast the latter will realize what is really worth investing in. The priority task for the NCBiR is to help create an innovative economy by making contacts between business and scientists easier and to encourage the two sides to work closely together.

This will not be easy. In Poland, state funding for scientific research is several times higher than funding provided by firms and economic institutions. Businesses are not very eager to support research and development because they do not yet see the potential for profit. The situation is quite the opposite in the most developed countries, a group Poland aspires to join. It is big business that provides most funding for research in those countries and benefits from research findings. Without sufficient funding, no modern laboratory in Poland will be able to compete with its better equipped and better financed foreign counterparts. If barriers hindering cooperation between scientists and business are not removed in the coming years, the word innovation will remain just a buzzword used in official speeches.
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