In a seek for cohesion between science and business (3)

Edgaras Leichteris 120120502115047

 End, begining No.9

Maybe our scientists lack healthy entrepreneurship, and businessmen – scientific approach? Therefore, sometimes it is hard to find a common language for them.

E. Leichteris. Let me say what I think about this. In my opinion, we need to strengthen Lithuanian science, and not necessarily in this entrepreneurial sense. When science becomes stronger, it would be beneficial to turn financial taps off for the science to learn some entrepreneurship. While there are funding schemes operating and scientists are allowed to do only what they are willing to do on state funds, scientists are not motivated to switch to some applied area. This is what businessmen often remind of. They say: “We come to talk with scientists, and they are not even interested in what we are saying since they have received funding and work only with the thinks that seem important to them. And we, businessmen, need to receive tangible results and produce final product.

If you would have power to decide, would you direct all the grants allocated to science to the applied area? Would you require every scientist to produce something specific?

E. Leichteris. In order not to be accused of disrupting or ignoring fundamental science, I must say that fundamental science has to receive certain funding at all times. Fundamental ideas give rise to the solutions required for practical needs.

This must also be understood by politicians.

E. Leichteris. We often tend to put fundamental and applied science in opposition. It is necessary to understand the right proportions and areas to focus funds and efforts rather than switching between extremes. All these things come from discussions, smart specialization or even disputes.

Maybe the association Knowledge Economy Forum could affect both businessmen and scientists to start thinking innovatively and cooperate or gather into natural clusters?

E. Leichteris. We are trying to do that, but every time the government changes we lose hope. We need to start everything from the beginning. Four years is almost the period required for listening and starting to understand our aspirations. Without the government and politicians, it is difficult to change something. Maybe the changes will take place after European support cease. When we talk to German scientists and others we see that they do not get funding so easily. They are even jealous, and wonder why we interfere in EU framework programmes for this is supposedly their money, and we should use funding from Structural Funds.

Let us summarize what has been said.

E. Leichteris. I think that many things today depend on scientists’ courage to act. It is very important to stop funding all the bureaucratic units inside universities and institutes. This most often does not concern the state but rather the very institutions, which are still overgrown with superstructures. It is important to encourage scientists to experiment not only in their specific area but also to cooperate with business. This is also an internal matter of universities and other scientific institutions. In turn, the state must use attractive bait in different areas to promote cooperation between science and business. By the way, this is what is being done currently.

The same is being done in the area of business: business is encouraged not to forget communicating with science. The same is happening in the state policy with the help of EU smart specializations reminding of the importance of the dialogue between science and business. Little by little, scientists and businessmen get involved into these games, and this is demonstrated by some statistical data. Things are moving and changing for the better, though perhaps not as fast as expected. By the way, ambitious changes usually bring opposite results. At the moment when the scale is being pushed to one side, emerge interest groups acting in opposition and forcing to move in the opposite direction.

In fact, a person must be given at least an illusion of the freedom to choose. Psychological factor is very important. Nevertheless, let’s get back from science policy and psychology to embedded systems we have started our conversation with.

E. Leichteris. If I understand correctly, embedded systems is the area where you can have a synergy of different sectors and technologies. This is what is required by EU in search for smart specializations. We need to have enough knowledge and skills to discover ourselves in these activities for the interest of united European system. It is also important to justify how we are exclusive and unique in our research areas.

I remember when Lithuanian Space Association was established in Lithuania. This seemed funny for many people: what is common between Lithuania and space? We have to realize that this is an umbrella for certain technologies that has been used in Lithuania for many years – lasers, electronics, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, textile, and even food processing technologies. Lithuanian textile manufacturers designed fibre that is currently used for spacesuits parts and clothing. We could easily find more similar examples around since even in the most complex electronic equipment we can find embedded systems designed by Lithuanian scientists. It is important that our scientists offer their promising works, participate in international projects, because only in this way they will be seen in the international arena of research.