06.09.2017 change 06.09.2017

Ministry of Science wants to set up Łukasiewicz Research Network; draft bill after consultation

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The Ministry of Science wants to connect dozens of research institutes in the Łukasiewicz Research Network. It will launch in March 2018 and carry out research work in areas that are a priority for Poland. Consultations on the bill establishing the network ended on Friday.

The project, prepared by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, lists 36 institutes that will be incorporated into the network (35 of which are currently supervised by the Ministry of Development and one by the Ministry of Digital Affairs). As stated in the explanatory memorandum, at least in the initial period of operation of the network, the institutes subordinate to the first of these ministries will have the greatest potential to meet the objectives due to the scope of their activities.

The goal of the network is to conduct research work that is crucial from a national policy perspective, and commercialisation of their results.

"The network will ensure a more effective collaboration of the research institutes that will be part of the network through, among other things, uniform management of finances, human resources, real estate and intellectual property rights. It will also enable effective supervision of the activities of the integrated institutes" - reads the project\'s justification. The network will serve as a "bridge" between science and the economy.

The network will be coordinated by the Lukasiewicz Centre, which will be a state-owned legal entity. The tasks of the institution will also include providing financial means and cooperation mechanisms for the entities within the network and commercialisation of research and development results. The Centre will also carry out research projects. Its headquarters will be located in Warsaw. The Ministry of Science and Higher Education estimates that in the first year of operation of the Łukasiewicz Centre, operating costs will amount to PLN 26.4 million, and in nine subsequent years - PLN 16.6 million.

The Łukasiewicz Center will be headed by a president (appointed by the Minister of Science) and up to vice presidents, and a board composed of six members and a chairman. A board of advisors composed of 20 members, including 10 members of the socio-economic or financial community, five representatives from the academic community and five institute directors, will advise the president.

According to the draft bill, each of the institutes that will join the network will be headed by a director and a board. Directors will be appointed by the president of the Łukasiewicz Centre for four years. At the request of a director, the president may appoint up to two deputies. The board will be composed of 10 to 15 members. Not more than 40% of its composition will be employees of the institute. The remaining members will be appointed by the president at the request of the institute director. Entrepreneurs and universities will be the key partners for the institutes in conducting their operations.

The employees of the Łukasiewicz Centre and the institutes will be employed in two divisions: research and support.

The activities of the institutes that will be part of the network will be financed with funds from the basic subsidies - those that have so far been awarded to individual institutes. They will also receive funds currently awarded to other research institutes that will not be included in the new structure (and that will gradually receive smaller grants). According to the draft law, in the next two years (from 2019) grants for statutory activity of institutes not included in the Łukasiewicz Network, will decrease by 50% and 75%. As a consequence of these changes, from 2021, after taking over the entire statutory subsidies by the network, it will receive nearly PLN 289 million. However, funding will not be taken away from research institutes that deal with health care (16 institutes supervised by the Minister of Health and three institutes supervised by the Minister of National Defence).

According to the provisions of the draft law, the Łukasiewicz Network is set to start operation on March 1, 2018. Some of the provisions of the law will enter into force at a later time.

Introduction of the Law on the Łukasiewicz Research Network requires the amendment of twenty other laws, including the Law on Higher Education, the Law on the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Law on the Research Institutes.

In the first draft of the bill, presented in April this year, the Ministry of Science envisaged the establishment of the National Institute of Technology (NIT), which would include dozens of research institutes. After the public consultation of the project in early May, it turned out that there were objections against the clause concerning the removal of legal personality of the research institutes that would form part of the NIT.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education proposed a new concept of integration of research institutes - the Łukasiewicz Research Network - in which institutes would retain their distinctiveness. However, they will lose (as in the original draft) the powers to confer doctoral degrees and habilitation - even though the scientific community had objections against this provision.

Currently there are 114 research institutes in Poland, including among others. Institute of Meteorology and Water Management - National Research Institute, the Institute of Mother and Child, Research and Academic Computer Network (NASK), the Polish Geological Institute - National Research Institute, supervised by 16 ministers (including defence, health, development ministers). The institutes conduct research in almost all areas of science. Each of them has its own legal personality.

Szymon Zdziebłowski (PAP)

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