Science parks and research centers
As part of an audit performed at six public universities and the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS), the SAO SR audited 13 projects, based on which seven university science parks (USP - parks) and six research centers (RC - centers) were established. Thirteen projects received funding in the total amount of EUR 429.63 mil. In the contracts, public universities and SAS committed themselves to the sustainability of the built parks and centers. Under the currently set conditions, the operation of USP and RC burden the budget of individual universities, as they do not always manage to obtain grants and thus have not sufficient amount of their own funds.
Disruption, as well as the suspension of calls for the Structural Funds, do not allow these parks to be developed to such an extent as to increase their chances of gaining a foothold in the European science area. The audit also found that the audited entities do not have developed specific sustainability strategies, in particular to ensure financial sustainability so that science parks are as independent as possible on funding from the state budget. Other shortcomings identified concerned, for example, the use of built spaces and devices procured from projects.
The identified non-compliance with public procurement procedures, exceeding budget items and identification of non-project-related expenditures also appear to be risky, as ineligible expenditures will have to be reimbursed by the entities, and that in turn will increase the drawing of the State budget. The SAO SR submitted several recommendations to the audited entities in order to eliminate the identified shortcomings.
The fact that the implementation of projects did not begin until 2013, i. e. only in the last year of the 2007-2013 programming period, also appears to be problematic. Therefore, in 2015, when the projects were to be completed, a decision was made to divide them into two phases. For projects moved to the second phase, contracts for the provision of non-repayable contributions based on calls from the OP Research and Innovation within the programming period 2014-2020 were concluded only in 2017. As a result, a different ratio of funding from the State budget was determined (in first phase it was 10% compared to 45% in the second phase), which resulted in higher budgetary pressures. Therefore, in order to eliminate the mentioned risks, the SAO SR recommends the implementation of projects in time and thus minimise the need for their phasing.
The area of ??research and development in the Slovak Republic is undersized in terms of the volume of financial resources and significantly lags behind the EU average. We are also the last within the V4 countries. The Czech Republic, which has adopted the National Sustainability Program I and the National Sustainability Program II, could be a model for solving these problems. They support the so-called large infrastructure with an annual amount of funding, for a period of five years after the end of the project. Thanks to two national programs, the newly established scientific and research centers in the Czech Republic have secured financial sustainability.
The full text of the press release about this topic in Slovak language is available here. Use the Google icon in the top bar for automatic translation into the desired language.