Bulgaria Is Having A Hard Time Attracting Funding For Science

Bulgaria is among the countries in the European Union (EU) with the least number of projects and grant funding under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program. Towards the end of March this year. 234 Bulgarian organizations participating in the 504 project consortium have managed to attract a little over EUR 76.5 million in pure funding. This is below 0.1% of the total budget of the Framework Program, which is EUR 79 billion.

This places Bulgaria on 24th place from 28 countries in the EU, with Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia and Malta remaining behind, according to the Ministry of Education and Science (MES). Bulgaria is yet to absorb another 17m euros from the program.

Bulgaria has attracted the most money for safe, clean and efficient energy – EUR 13.5 million, for projects in the field of information and communication technologies – EUR 7.1 million, and for the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Young Researchers and Researchers Program, – EUR 6.1 million. There are also grants for future penetration technologies, nanotechnology, ecology, food, transport, nuclear research and more.

It is a curious fact that the beneficiaries of the projects are not only scientific organizations and higher education institutions but also companies. At the forefront of the most attracted funds besides Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, the Technical University of Sofia, institutes of the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAS) are two companies – the Bulgarian semantic software company Ontotext AD and the publishing house ” Pensoft EOOD as well as the Municipality of Sofia. Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” is in the first place in participation in project consortiums – participates in 23.

Among the public scientific organizations, the largest beneficiaries are the Institute of Mechanics, the Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge and the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Among the private ones – the Applied Research and Communications Foundation and the Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia. According to MES data, 43% of the money is spent by scientific organizations, 15.5% by higher schools and 27% by business.

“The Horizon 2020 Program finances three types of activities – research, innovation and coordination: the bulk of the projects of the Bulgarian organizations are related to co-ordination activities for which there is a possibility for single participation and for the others a consortium of at least three legal entities of three countries, “Dimitar Asenov of the Science Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Science told Dnevnik. According to him there was a “white swallow” – a Bulgarian private scientific organization headed by a consortium of 10 partners from Great Britain, France and Germany, working on a project in the field of Health, Demographic Change and Well-being.

“It is worrying that only 19 of the 37 state universities are implementing projects in the framework program, and we have to ask ourselves what are the expectations of society towards other universities – just being higher education institutions receiving a state subsidy or being institutions, where to do science, and if it is the second one, we should see them in the program to be able to participate, “says Dimitar Asenov. According to him, there is nothing more natural than any country to do so that as much money as possible under Horizon 2020 comes to the country.

Under the Horizon 2020 Program by the summer of this year. there will be 335 sessions open for 20 billion euros. According to the Ministry of Education, Bulgaria still has the opportunity to break through and to complete as much as possible the funds spent. The successor of the program will be Horizon Europe.

“The Horizon Europe Program will not be radically different, but the negotiations continue, with a planned budget of 100 billion euros, of which 94 for research, it is expected that over 10 billion will be for revolutionary innovations,” explained Dnevnik Vladimir Manolov from the Science Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Science. According to him, the spheres of funding will be the same – health, energy, climate, food and digital industry.

For the first time there will be clear areas for intervention in the new program, as well as cluster applications. It is expected that there will be a new tool – European Innovation Council.

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