Ukraine is to become a part of the EU, but researchers are to joint it a little faster

On the Science Day in Ukraine, the National Research Foundation of Ukraine held an information event ‘Integration of Ukraine into the Global Research Area’. The event was held in the framework of HEOinUA – 101132682 ‘Horizon Europe in Ukraine as a key national contact point (NCP)’ funded by the European Commission.

Researchers, innovators, representatives of the government, the Verkhovna Rada, business, research foundations and organizations from Ukraine and other countries took part in the discussion on research funding; advocacy of researchers’ interests in Ukraine and abroad; recognition of researchers in the global research area, as well as grant opportunities for researchers.

During the welcoming remarks and panel discussions, the event participants told, in particular, about the successes and challenges on the path of Ukraine’s integration into the global research area.

Denys Kurbatov, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, said that funding for innovation and research does not fully meet the needs of researchers. “Despite the fact that in 2024 the funding was increased by 20 percent, the percentage of GDP for research does not exceed 0.4 percent. This is almost 5 times less than the European figures”, Denys Kurbatov emphasized.

As the Deputy Minister emphasized, the war has become a catalyst for cooperation with the global research community. To date, Ukraine has implemented the main recommendations of the European Commission regarding the science and innovation sector. In particular, the Horizon Europe Office in Ukraine on the basis of the NRFU was launched and is working effectively, committees responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Framework Program are working, and a regulatory framework for establishing national contact points has been developed.

“European integration is a challenge for Ukraine since it involves fundamental changes in education, research, innovation, and business. This is a new logic of personnel training, functioning of the state authorities, research institutions, universities, interaction with the public sector and society”, highlighted Mr Kurbatov.

Silvia Bojinova, European Neighborhood Policy Team Leader, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the EC, noted that integration into the European Research Area is important not only for Ukraine but also for the EU. She stressed that Ukrainian researchers are currently facing enormous challenges and, despite this, are performing crucial world-class research. Cooperation with Ukrainian researchers is in the interests of the entire research community.

Roman Hryshchuk, People’s Deputy of Ukraine, member of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Education, Science and Innovation, Head of the Subcommittee on European Integration, drew attention to the fact that the integration of Ukrainian researchers into the European Research Area is already underway. Ukrainian researchers are implementing joint projects with European colleagues and are already part of the European research community. “It’s just a matter of time before it is recognized at the official level”, noted Mr. Hryshchuk. “We are to become a member of the EU, Ukraine will join the EU. But researchers will join the EU a little faster”.

Olha Krevska, Director of the Directorate for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, told about digital solutions important for European integration of Ukraine. “Ukraine is called the ‘European tiger’ of digital transformation”, she noted. “Ukrainians have the opportunity to receive more than a hundred public services on the Diia portal, in particular, to register a business in a matter of minutes”.

Olga Krevska reminded that back in 2022, Ukraine joined the European Digital Europe program. This program helps European countries digitize all processes in society, business, and economy.  Currently, a call for the creation of European digital hubs is underway in the countries associated with the program, including Ukraine. By the end of 2024, digital hubs are to be launched in Ukraine.

Stanislav Vilchynskii, the Head of the NRFU, also said that integration into the global research area has lasted for years. During the war, these research contacts and connections have become a real ‘lifesaver’ for many Ukrainian researchers. Thanks to research organizations and foundations from different countries, thousands of Ukrainian researchers received assistance and resumed their work in Ukraine or abroad.

Professor Vilchynskii told that during the war the NRFU has come a long way. In early 2022, grant support for the NRFU was suspended, but thanks to the support of the Ukrainian government and the respective committee of the Verkhovna Rada, the Foundation managed not only to resume grant support but also to launch new calls important for the reconstruction of the country, recovery of the research infrastructure, and the increase of the defense capability of Ukraine.

“It was a huge, systematic team effort: the Scientific Council of the NRFU, the Directorate of the Foundation, the Scientific Committee of the National Council for Science and Technology Development, as well as the Foundation’s friends abroad, who used all possible and impossible contacts and sought funding to support Ukrainian researchers”, Professor Vilchynskii emphasized.

During the war the following calls were launched and completed: ‘Cambridge – NRFU 2022’, ‘Science for the Recovery of Ukraine in the War and Post-War Periods’. The following calls were launched and are underway: ‘Ukrainian-Swiss Joint Research Projects: Call for Proposals 2023’, ‘Science for Strengthening the Defense Capability of Ukraine’, ‘Excellent Science in Ukraine’, and ‘Infrastructures for Advanced Research’.  The Foundation plans to launch a joint Ukrainian-German call in the near future.

The Head of the Foundation stressed that participation in international calls is the most effective way to promote integration of Ukraine into the European Research Area. “Ukrainian researchers work together with European researchers and know which topics are of top priority for world science. They bring this experience to research institutions and universities.  In addition, this cooperation is a real research diplomacy, since Ukrainians tell the world about the needs and achievements of Ukrainian science during the war, as well as about the capabilities and ideas of Ukrainian research teams.

“The results of our work, the results of the Foundation’s grantees, give us the reasons to be optimistic about the future”, Professor Vilchynskii pointed out. “We are proud of Ukrainian researchers. They work in extreme conditions, implement excellent projects, and write articles. This work is important for science, society, and the country’s economy”.

During the information event, another significant occasion took place: Olga Polotska, Executive Director of the National Research Foundation of Ukraine, and Igor Markevych, Head of the EIT Community RIS Hub Ukraine, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation between the National Research Foundation of Ukraine and the EIT Community RIS Hub Ukraine. The close cooperation of these institutions will help to strengthen the support and development of national science, research and innovation.

In general, the event was attended by representatives of the European Commission, respective ministries of Ukraine, the Council of the Presidential Foundation for Support of Education, Science and Sports, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, national and foreign National Academies of Sciences, research institutions, program committees responsible for monitoring of the implementation of the Horizon Europe Program, the Horizon Europe Office in Ukraine and many others.