An initial sum of €240 million (US$265 million) will be made available to a newly created national institute that will fund research and innovation in Greece, and will support government efforts to pull the country out of prolonged recession and create new jobs.
The aim of the Research and Innovation Institute will also be to create a secure and attractive financial environment for participating academic institutions, research centres, companies and scientists.
The European Investment Bank – with its long, steady and generous support for research – will make available 75% of the sum (€180 million) at an agreed very low interest rate which could be 0.7% to 0.8%, while the Greek state will contribute 25% (€60 million) from the Public Investment Programme.
“It is the first time that an effort has been made to create such an institution in the country,” stated Undersecretary of State for Education Kostas Fotakis when announcing the project.
It is “the first time that an independent, flexible and meritorious organisation has been set up which will offer high finance exclusively for research to companies and individuals according to international standards”.
The institute will be part of the public sector and will work in the public interest, but will operate as a private non-profit company. Lack of state interference or bureaucratic practices, it is believed, will enable the institute to be effective.
Its creation inaugurates a new commitment on the part of government towards greater support for research and innovation on the one hand, and rebuilding the country’s moribund economy on the other.
The institute’s management will be carried out by a general assembly, to which every participating institution will have the right to elect a regular member and a deputy. The general assembly will elect a scientific council made up of nine regular members – scientists of international status who will be responsible for the institute’s policy.
The Research and Innovation Institute’s mission, laid out in a new legislation by the Education Ministry, is to operate with independence, flexibility and accountability.
While it will operate within the provisions of a legal framework and internal rules, it will also enjoy management and financial freedom without bureaucratic interference and according to the principles and practices of a private sector company.
The proposed model, according to the Ministry of Education, is already working successfully in a number of other countries and ensures sufficient distance from political interference.
Submitted projects will be evaluated as soon as possible and certainly within three months, and every effort will be made to exclude them from additional management responsibility throughout the process, from submission to completion.
The institute’s activities will be open to public scrutiny and invitations, and allocations and expenses will be controlled, documented and substantiated at every stage while annual budgets will be compiled and supervised by certified accountants.
The period of the institute’s financing is initially for three years, but if the results go according to expectations, the possibility exists for a further three years and rolling three-year periods thereafter.
The institute’s funds will be used exclusively to finance research. Further financing for the exploitation of the results of research will be sought from other European or private funds.
Technological institutes excluded
A controversial point of the legislation establishing the institute is the exclusion of technological institutes from participating, although individual scientists attached to their teaching staff are not precluded from submitting projects.
The European Investment Bank claimed that these institutions do not currently meet the specifications for inclusion and “their academic results show lack of cohesion which will not facilitate the management of the institute in the present stage”.
The government claimed that the technological institutes are currently being assessed within a wider scheme for the creation of the unified higher education area.