Vladimír Albrecht studied mathematics at the Charles University in Prague and for 25 years worked for several biomedical institutes.
He then joined Technology Centre AS CR, where he was in charge of the NCP agenda (FP5, FP6, national NCP coordinator), and currently works as the analyst of the Czech Republic’s participation in EU-research (co-authored reports of Czech participation in FP5, FP6 and FP7). He founded the ECHO journal (dealing with EU research) and initiated the annual national conference CZEDER (CZEch Days for European Research).
He is a member of the European RTD evaluation network. Mr Albrecht welcomed the opportunity to work with the MIRRIS team and accepted the task of enlisting R&D decision makers to participate in the three policy dialogues organised in the framework of the MIRRIS initiative in the Czech Republic.
The third policy dialogue took place in conjunction with the 13th CZEDER.

MIRRIS is providing an extensive policy learning exercise to identify barriers to participation in EU Framework Programmes and debate how innovation systems in the EU13 can better address participation in the European Research Area. How do you perceive the benefits of this exercise for the R&D&I stakeholders in your country?

First, there is neither a simple nor uniform solution to the problem of the low participation of the EU13 member states in the last three EU framework programmes. The EU13 are simply not prepared to participate on a competitive basis in the EU RTD programmes which are based on excellence. Technology Centre reports annually on the low level of participation of Czech RTD institutions in the FPs. No one is a prophet in his own land, so the NCP really welcomed the fact that the MIRRIS initiative clearly signalled to the local RTD decision makers that they should pay more attendance to their country’s participation in the EU research programmes. If the lively discussions initiated in the policy dialogues continue and the MIRRIS road map recommendations are implemented then Czech participation in the FP will grow, with research teams acquiring new contracts and, of course, financial support for their research.

Can you give us a little background to the key challenges which the MIRRIS road map for your country identifies and seeks to address?

The first challenge involves an “understanding of the added value of participating in H2020“. It seems rather formalistic, but it is very relevant as the Czech R&D environment is too much focused on problems that can be solved by the national institutions on their own. This “national confinement“ has some clear consequences, e.g. few incentives to solve problems exceeding the potential of national capacities, a quasi-absence of representation in the HLEGs (high level expert groups) that strongly influence the research priorities of H2020, poor ability to coordinate projects managed by international consortia, non-competitive salaries of researchers, etc. MIRRIS identified and proposed more than 30 actions to overcome the difficulties. Recommendations aimed at enhancing synergy between H2020 and ESIF are particularly important.

Part of the MIRRIS approach has been to showcase successful initiatives in other EU Member States to increase the participation of researchers in EU-funded research projects, i.e. the sharing of good practice. Did you find this an important source of inspiration?

Yes I did. I would say that the Czech R&D institutions and universities as well as the top national decision makers should be more aware of good practices that are implemented in other countries. The example of how R&D is organized at KU Leuven is very inspiring for the big Czech universities. Ignorance of other practices is expensive since it might lead to the creation of flawed practices (as we know from our former system of evaluation of R&D institutions).


Although not expected during the lifetime of the MIRRIS initiative, can you give us an indication of the kind of action that could be implemented as a result of the MIRRIS road map to help boost your country's participation in ERA?

Unfortunately this question is rather premature. MIRRIS contributed significantly to the debate “Czech Republic in the ERA“. A month after the MIRRIS presentation at the 13th CZEDER, the National Convention on the EU (a discussion platform of the government – www.narodnikonvent.eu) organized a round table on the same topic. The MIRRIS initiative was mentioned during the discussions and the relevant bodies will now only start developing measures aimed at increasing Czech participation in the ERA. On the other hand, some important steps towards increasing the internationalization of Czech R&D have already been taken (2013) by launching two sustainability programmes (of research infrastructures). The support of infrastructure facilities will strongly depend on their successful participation in EU research programmes.


Are you confident that in future your country will succeed in widening its participation in the European Research Area? 

Yes, I am. The Czech Republic has made significant investments in research infrastructure from structural funds. Some of the newly built facilities have the potential to be used by top ERA teams, and this in turn will increase the internationalization of the Czech R&D environment. The future prospects of the newly built research infrastructure are dependent on our position in the ERA. However, I am confident that the level of our participation in the ERA is decisive, even for our national economy as a whole.