Zoltán Birkner president, NRDI Office
Zoltán Birkner believes that the domestic research, development and innovation (RDI) system could reach its full potential by 2024, with expenditure on RDI reaching 3% of GDP by the end of the decade. In the coming years, state support for innovation is expected to exceed HUF 100 billion a year, with national laboratories receiving HUF 121.5 billion together with EU funds by 2026, he added. He also said that the results so far are encouraging, as since 2010, the amount of money spent on RDI in Hungary has tripled, reaching HUF 318 billion last year.
The head of the NRDI Office sees the fact that the network of innovation institutions covers all parts of the country and that more and more young people are joining R&D activities as a positive process, as the Office was only in contact with 2,000 young people a few years ago, but now it is in contact with around 11,000. The role of the NRDI Office is to be the driving force behind the new RDI system, to reach out to stakeholders and to offer opportunities in this field to as many people as possible, he stressed.
According to Zoltán Birkner, one of the great challenges of the decade will be to link science with customers, the economy and society, i.e. to strengthen the link between knowledge production and knowledge exploitation. Linking innovation and technology was successful in the previous cycle, now it is time to link innovation and creativity, he said, referring to the ministerial structure before and after 2022.
The President of the NRDI Office sees academia as a central player in the innovation institutional network, as their intellectual capital and nationwide network of connections keep the whole RDI system in motion. Its role, in the government’s view, is not just education, but to participate in economic and social cooperation that can bring them new orders. In the coming years, the market exploitation of the knowledge accumulated in higher education institutions could also become more valuable, he added.
Zoltán Birkner noted that every year thousands of students are introduced to the entrepreneurial mindset through the Hungarian Startup University Programme (HSUP). Those who can find investors for their ideas will soon have access to further opportunities, as a new scheme is planned to provide investment capital to many more initiatives than now, up to several hundred a year, he added.
Dániel Magyar director, ELTE Innovation Centre
At the event, ELTE representatives highlighted the importance of social innovation, as the university coordinates the activities of the Social Innovation National Laboratory (TINLAB). Lénárd Darázs, Deputy Rector General and Scientific Director of TINLAB, stressed that innovation is no longer limited to engineering and natural sciences, but also includes research into social innovations. ELTE itself is also paying special attention to this field, which has great potential for innovation, and researchers from pedagogy, humanities and social sciences are now involved in the developments, he added.
According to Dániel Magyar, Director of the ELTE Innovation Centre, social innovations are important because they often determine the success of technical innovations. In the applications of self-driving cars or smart cities, for example, the main question is less and less about technological perfection and more about the viability of the related business and social models. Of course, social innovations are different in many respects from technical ones, with different strategies and funding opportunities, but their importance is also the reason why the EU is allocating more and more resources to research in this area, he stressed.