Cooperation is not Exclusive, It Concerns Everyone, Says Mr. Komárek

The Programme of Applied Research, Experimental Development, and Innovations – Gama Programme for short – is nearing its end. In the four years it was running the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TA CR) used the programme to support hundreds of Proof of Concept projects in 33 institutions, thus helping to put promising ideas and technologies into practice. We discussed the unique Gama Programme and the knowledge and experience it yielded with the vicechairman of TA CR, Ing. Pavel Komárek.

8 Nov 2018 Iveta Zieglová


Photo: TA CR archive

Gama Programme is nearing its end. How successful was it?

I’d say it was very successful and not only with regard to the number of so-called sub-projects implemented by the individual research institutions. We were told that Gama has had a very positive influence on the way of thinking in the institutions that took part in it, more specifically public universities and research institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences. For example, the commercialization boards with entrepreneurs and financial experts on them have proven to work well; this discussion between business and the academia is very useful.

Has Gama changed Czech science and research culture?

I don’t know the answer to this. We certainly get some feedback when discussing Gama with experts; I just can’t say how big an influence it has been. Personally, I think that all the TA CR programmes change the way cooperation with the industry is perceived. Our projects focus mostly on cooperative research. They have to reach a specific goal. Companies and institutions have to deal with intellectual property issues, which naturally results not only in research institutions getting remunerated for their intellectual property but also – and this is far more important – learning how to cooperate with one another. Such cooperation can carry on in the future on the basis of both grant projects and contractual research without any state support, which is our main objective.

Did the programme meet your expectations or did it surprise you in any way?

As far as successfully commercialized results are concerned, it is mostly too early to say. Some of the sub-projects took up to two years which means the first results started to pop up a year ago; moreover, the road to commercialization is often long. However, based on the current results we consider the project to be successful. Firstly because of the number of sub-projects over 230 of which have finished and other 480 are currently being implemented. There were around 1500 applications filed, which is an impressive number. What surprised us was how varied the projects were. We expected them to be mostly technical but there were successful humanities projects as well which never occurred to us. For instance, there is the on-line psychodiagnostic tool Hypothesis from Masaryk University that is used by military hospitals. Gama also co-financed the Attentat 1942 computer game developed in cooperation with Charles University. With regard to this diversity, the programme exceeded our expectations. Another great thing is that it also arouse the interest of young scientists.

Gama was unique also in shifting part of the responsibility to the research institutions. In hindsight, how would you assess this model?

Gama programme was so far the only one that shifted the decision-making powers to the individual research institutions, which was an important change. If we have a look at similar programmes, e.g. structural funds, the grant-related decision-making rested with the managing bodies and the applicants were informed about the result in a year or worse, if they missed the call, in up to two years. And time is of the essence, especially in business. That is why we shifted this responsibility to research institutions so that a good idea can theoretically get supported in a matter of months. Moreover, any sensitive know-how remains within the given organization. Gama has shown us that this is a viable option. We used it for example with the National Centres of Competence that have consortia of twenty and more partners who can make decisions, naturally under certain conditions, about when and how they will use the funding.

Will the Gama Programme be continued?

This week the Research, Development and Innovation Council (RVVI) should be discussing the continuation of the Gama Programme, so-called Gama II. This programme is slightly different than we planned. It was supposed to co-fund large Proof of Concept projects using the National Innovation Fund (NIF) so that not only large research institutions get the funding because cooperation with the industry is not an exclusive matter, it concerns everybody. After NIF was cancelled in March 2018 the whole environment changed. That’s why, after consulting it with RVVI, we have prepared a programme similar to the first Gama which should last for the transitional period of roughly three years during which we’ll be preparing a new programme. Moreover, the national and European system of grants may also change after 2020. Even though we’re currently in a rather turbulent era, we want to preserve the Proof of Concept support so that there is continuity. From the very beginning, we were doing our best to make Gama a systematic programme, not just a short-term one.

 

Editor’s note: The interview was conducted before the RVVI meeting on 26 October during which the proposed Gama II Programme was discussed. At the time of this newsletter’s publication the proposition is going through an interdepartmental amendment procedure.

Gama Programme at MU

A project funded by TA CR within the Gama Programme started at MU in September 2015. Since that time 6 calls were made, 67 projects were accepted and evaluated 24 of which were subsequently given a grant. Most of the Proof of Concept projects have been implemented at the Faculty of Science followed by CEITEC MU, Faculty of Informatics, Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Arts. The last, seventh call was launched in the fall of 2018 and at the time of this newsletter’s deadline, it was still being evaluated.

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