The reform includes 30 specific legislative and non-legislative measures aimed at promoting the connection between science and business, commercializing scientific results, and using scientific knowledge for the formulation of public policies. The goal of the reform is for intellectual property created at Czech universities and research institutes to transform into value for society.
"Strengthening the innovation ecosystem and establishing more effective collaboration between the academic and private sectors have always been one of the main pillars of our program statement in the field of science, research, and innovation. Utilizing research in practice and building a knowledge economy has always been my long-term priority, whether as a university rector, Minister of Education, or currently as the Prime Minister. After all, it is also one of the key conditions of my vision for Restart Czechia," said Prime Minister Petr Fiala.
The reform focuses on strengthening the supply from research and the demand from businesses or government administration.
"In the Czech Republic, we have top-notch research in various fields, Czech scientists are respected abroad, and we have the most modern research infrastructure here. However, excellent science is not translating into economic and societal value as much as it should. Compared to other developed countries, only a fraction of companies based on scientific knowledge is established here," warned Minister Helena Langšádlová.
A part of the reform involves legislative adjustments, especially the recodification of the existing law on the support of research and development from public funds, which will now designate knowledge transfer as one of the main roles of research organizations. Additionally, changes are proposed in the law on universities and various other norms.
However, a key part of the reform focuses on shifting the mindset of stakeholders throughout the entire system and connecting all its parts: the academic world, business, government administration, and the financial sector. The financial sector, in particular, can play a significant role in the shift toward a science-driven economy. Therefore, the reform also includes the intention to create a transfer investment fund in collaboration with the European Investment Bank, which has already gained the support of the Government Committee for Strategic Investments.
"We see great potential in investments in the knowledge economy, which is why we recently announced an investment in a transfer fund focused on biotechnology. However, the entire infrastructure must be ready for it, not just the research results but also a well-targeted investment fund that can identify promising projects and develop them. We perceive the announced reform as an opportunity to prepare these conditions on all sides," confirmed Tomáš Salomon, CEO of Česká spořitelna and one of the conference speakers.
The reform is based on the belief that the driver of change must largely be the business sector, for which innovation is a condition for development. Therefore, the reform also focuses on various forms of tax incentives for companies engaged in research and development.
"We have long pointed out that the setup of tax deductions for research and development is inadequate in our country. Other tools that would facilitate companies engaging in risky activities with potentially high added value are currently completely lacking. In this regard, we are entirely unique in Europe. The transfer reform is clearly heading in the right direction by addressing these tools. It will be a challenging journey, but we are certainly extending a helping hand in this," added Martin Jahn, Vice President of the Confederation of Industry and Transportation of the Czech Republic and a board member of Škoda Auto.
The academic community also sees a more significant appreciation of the results of scientific work as essential. There is no difference whether it is basic or applied research.
"The evaluation of results is not only about applied research. Abroad, we see that many breakthrough discoveries with significant economic and societal impact arise from basic research. In the history of Czech discoveries, this eventually holds true as well," mentioned Jiří Homola, Vice Chairman of the Government Council for Research, Development, and Innovation and a member of the Academic Council of the Czech Academy of Sciences, referring to breakthrough discoveries by Antonín Holý, who played a key role in the development of drugs against hepatitis B and AIDS, and Otto Wichterle, who introduced contact lenses to the world. "I consider all measures that stimulate research organizations for transfer and help them develop their transfer activities to be very beneficial," he added.
Universities, institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and other research organizations have their transfer offices, and the reform focuses on strengthening the transfer ecosystem in this part. Some of them have managed to pave the way for knowledge transfer in recent years.
Martin Fusek, Director of the transfer office IOCB Tech and one of the pioneers of knowledge transfer in the Czech Republic, confirmed this: "For many years, transfer was only discussed at the governmental level in our country, yet a number of very professional and successful transfer offices were established. I am glad that now something is not just being talked about, but something is finally happening. The reform is necessary. I particularly appreciate the support for academic spin-off companies. The reform removes some obstacles at the legislative level and also focuses on financing."
Although strengthening economic competitiveness and strategic resilience in key technologies are among the main goals of the reform, the reform also pays attention to transferring knowledge to government administration and shaping public policies. Science to policy is one of the fundamental areas of knowledge evaluation that appears throughout the reform in a range of measures, from supporting specialized units for knowledge transfer into public policies (so-called policy labs) to supporting research capacities of ministries.
"Truly effective public administration cannot do without a good understanding of even very complex societal phenomena. For this, strong research background is needed. We never deliberately built it here, and it's time to fix that," added Minister Langšádlová.
The presentation of the individual steps of the transfer reform was followed by a conference that thoroughly dealt with various areas of the reform. This event marked the beginning of a series of activities that will not be solely led by the Government Office of the Czech Republic. The key to success is the collaboration of all stakeholders. During the conference, a project was presented that the European Commission will support, aiming to enhance the setup of the transfer ecosystem in the Czech Republic and is expected to commence this spring.