Potocnik calls for research policies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, pledging support in return

Janez Potocnik, the EU Science and Research Commissioner, has made a direct appeal to members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Academy of Sciences and Arts to assist the government in reforming
research and education.

Specifically the Commissioner called on the Academy to help the Government to draw up a roadmap identifying the key components for the reconstruction of the country’s scientific potential, and
to help train a new generation of scientists. The Commissioner also had advice for the Government on where to focus available resources.

But Mr Potocnik did not arrive in Sarajevo empty-handed: the Commissioner also pledged support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to the EU and offered the country formal association to the
Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

‘I am not blind to the situation that you are facing here for science, education and innovation,’ said the Commissioner. He listed as the principle problems a lack of: research infrastructure,
funds for investment, research personnel and strong governance of research and higher education. Most importantly, there is not yet a state-level strategy for research and development (R&D)
that addresses these problems.

Mr Potocnik likened the challenges faced by Bosnia and Herzegovina to those confronting the EU, although recognising their more extreme form in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He told his audience what
the EU has done in order to address its own problems, and suggested that these activities could be replicated. Activities include retaining researchers with attractive careers and ensuring
mobility; encouraging European networks of excellence; encouraging the pooling of resources and encouraging partnerships between scientists and entrepreneurs.

The Commissioner highlighted investment in research infrastructure as crucial. Given the lack of available funding in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he recommended focusing on important industry
sectors such as information and communications technologies (ICT), health, environment, energy and agriculture.

While the target of investing 3% of GDP in R&D is likely to remain out of reach for some time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an explicit target would be helpful, said Mr Potocnik.

The Commissioner assured the county’s scientists that they are not alone. He said that he would like to see Bosnia and Herzegovina join the EU, and that an important step on the road to this is
integration into the European Research Area (ERA). ‘In order to do this I will offer to your Government the possibility for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be formally associated with the Seventh
Framework Programme,’ he said.

Association to FP7 comes at a cost, but if Bosnia and Herzegovina were an official candidate country it could use funding available under the Pre-Accession Instrument to offset these costs.

‘I know you need more, so I’ll go back to Brussels to see what I can do,’ the Commissioner promised.

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