Supreme Audit Office says funds for research not being used to best advantage

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The Supreme Audit Office has criticized the Czech system of granting subsidies in the sphere of research, development and innovation as ineffective. The office claims that despite a growing amount of funds channelled into these areas, there are few registered patents and there is a clear lack of cooperation between the private and public sectors.

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In 2010 funding for research, development and innovation was roughly a fifth below the EU average. This problem was gradually addressed and in 2015 the money provided was a quarter above the EU average, but productivity in innovation was actually going down, the Supreme Audit Office says.

It is basing its claim on the results of an in-depth audit focussing on the 2014-2016 period. It says that despite the financial injection the number of Czech patents registered do not reach even a third of the EU average.

The main reason for the failing appears to be a lack of coordination and funds being channelled on the basis of ill-conceived criteria. Grants were handed out by the government’s Council for Research, Development and Innovation largely on the basis of academic productivity, namely the number of articles published in a given field. This motivated researchers to publish excessively and not focus on achieving results which would be applicable in practice and increase the country’s competitiveness, the Supreme Audit Office says.

An inspection into how the fund money was being used showed that projects that received grants were too vague, they lacked concrete aims and goals and produced few results applicable in practice.

The Supreme Audit Office moreover points to a lack of cooperation between the public and private sectors, which it says is well documented by the fact that while in 2016 the business sector put 48 billion crowns into research and development, only 3 billion went into cooperation on projects with public institutions of higher learning and the government sector.

On the other hand, the in-depth audit did not reveal any significant irregularities or abuse of the funds distributed.