Hungary could be among Europe’s innovation leaders by 2030, but the research and development system established in recent years could bring spectacular results within a few years, said the President of the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH) at the Innovation Day conference of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest on Tuesday.
Zoltán Birkner believes that the domestic research-development-innovation (RDI) system could reach its full potential by 2024, with spending on RDI reaching 3 percent of GDP by the end of the decade. State support for innovation is expected to exceed HUF 100 billion a year in the coming years, with national laboratories receiving HUF 121.5 billion (EUR 282.6 million) in EU funds by 2026, he added. He also said the results so far were encouraging, as RDI spending in Hungary has tripled since 2010, reaching HUF 318 billion (EUR 740 million) last year.
He said that the fact that the network of innovation institutions covers all parts of the country and that more and more young people are joining RDI activities is a positive development, as the agency is now in contact with 11,000 young people, compared to just 2,000 a few years ago. The role of the NKFIH is precisely to be the driving force of the new R& D system, to reach out to those involved and to offer opportunities in this field to as many people as possible, he stressed.
Zoltán Birkner said that one of the great challenges of the decade will be to link science with customers, the economy and society, in other words 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 structure of the ministry before and after 2022.
The President of the NKFIH sees universities as a central player in the innovation institutional network, as their intellectual capital and their nationwide network of connections keep the whole RDI system in motion. Their role, in the government’s view, is not just to educate, but to engage in economic and social cooperation that can bring them new orders. Another way of exploiting knowledge, the market exploitation of knowledge accumulated in higher education institutions, could also be valorized in the coming years, he added.
Zoltán Birkner noted that thousands of students are introduced to entrepreneurship every year through the Hungarian Startup University Program (HSUP). Those who can also 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.