July 20, 2017

On September 16, 2015, GLL in cooperation with TRINITI Law Firm opened another season of think-tank discussions “Lietuva, Quo Vadis”. This time it was called “Road of Innovative Country” and aimed to identify the shortcuts on the road of the innovative country as Lithuania is defining itself and striving to become.

It was started as Oxford Debate by Kristijonas Vizbaras, a co-founder of Brolis Semiconductors, who expressed the strong belief in the potential of Lithuania bearing in mind its qualified labor force and well-established infrastructure and addressed the government for the formulation of solid state policy; and by Rimantas Kraujalis, chairman of the board at  Eksma, who  stated  that the long-term success requires creative reforms and decisions in education system and united efforts on the highest level of the governement.

The panelists elaborated on the suggested topics and started by formulating the major drawbacks on the way to faster progress. Rimantas Jankauskas, pro-rector of Vilnius University, admitted the poor quality of doctoral studies and the abscence of the post-doc culture. This situation was caused by the abundance of universities with formal status and weak scientific background as well as by awkward salary standards in the academic institutions of Lithuania. Even universities with rare high-quality doctoral programs are not able to attract most ambitious students and create competition necessary for the progressive scientific research.

Due to the same reason, the well-equipped laboratories and scientific valeys established thanks to European funding, lack bright minds with proper qualification (software and meatware) to make use of the hardware. “Tools and utensils are plenty. Hands and heads are missing – even the smartest LHC is useless without human input.” added R. Jankauskas. And time is a bad companion in this mismatch.

All panelists in general agreed that science and academia is a detached community with little to none connection and cooperation with business and education. It has the reputation of something very boring and compicated, therefore, children are not engaged to inquire and create rather than just consume, therefore, the general public has no access to popular scientific knowledge, for example, in museums or through media. In the long term, this has caused the lack of heads and hands in scientific research.

The parlamentarian Raimundas Paliukas, member of the science and culture committee, assured that laws are in place but agreed that the scientific development and education lack attention of the Government and are pushed to the bottom of the priority lists.

This situation will not change over night. However, it is possible to progress towards common understanding of the importance of science and innovations.

Algirdas Žiogas, doctor of biosciences with more than twenty years of experience at Swiss research centers, suggested to start the promotion of science from the Palace of Dukes where they should have a special exhibition of the history of Lithuanian science with educational programs for children and grown-ups. When science becomes popular and understandable as shopping at “Akropolis”, then all sorts of cooperation between science and business as well as financial engagement will follow.

Kristijonas Vizbaras strongly believes that the shortest way to the international exchange of minds in universities is financing the visits of well-known international lecturers. Big well-known names will attract the attention of academia worldwide and guarantee the safe spot on academic map of the world. If the researchers follow, the investors are sure to inquire, get interested and consider Lithuania for future projects.

In general, more generous financing of scientific research and academic activities would solve the number of old problems. According to Eurostat data, Lithuania spends 111 euros per person for the purposes of scientific research and development, while Estonia – 247 euros, Check Republic – 285 euros. This is far below EU average. To that Mr. R. Paliukas reacted by sharing the intentions of the government to increase the salaries of academic workers but admitted that it will not be remarkable.

However, the audience and penalists agreed that only remarkable shift in state priorities towards education from very early days, towards thoroughly directed scientific research, towards due respect of academia will make the obvious change and progress. Active public communication and debate is the first step towards agreement of polititians, businessmen and scieintists on top priorities and direction of the innovative country.

 See the photos of the event here.