Better cooperation between industry and universities, cleaner and safer forms of energy, and waste management issues are some of the areas high on the state’s agenda László Palkovics, Minister for Innovation and Technology, told company representatives at an AmCham Business Forum.
Palkovics made his now regular annual visit to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary on September 16, and spoke about the issues and plans Hungary has in the area of innovation.
Having given an overview of the current macroeconomic situation, the minister moved on to the vision the ministry is focusing on right now: That Hungary will be one of the top five European countries in which to live and work in by 2030.
To achieve that, the ministry defined four main focus areas: Creative Hungarians and innovative enterprises; transportation; clean, smart and affordable energy; and a clean country.
In the field of energy, for example, coal-based power plants should be modified and converted to become “green”, rather than shut down. By doing so, jobs could be spared and green targets better achieved.
“As far as carbon neutrality is concerned, as a conservative government we have been criticized for not signing the 2050 target figures,” Palkovics said. “As for the 2030 figures, we can do that but it would be irresponsible to define target for 2050 when neither the technological, nor legal or financial conditions are there.”
Currently, permissions for 2,700 MW of photovoltaic capacity has been given to companies. Of this, some 800 MW are generated by solar energy, but its share will rise as of 2020. The minister also talked about nuclear energy, stressing that more research should be done on its waste management.
He also touched upon general waste and water waste management: the networks are old and large amounts of investments are need to, for example, deal with the upgrade of the sewer system.
Moving on to innovation, Palkovics underlined the importance of cooperation between industry and universities.
“We need to bring the different participants together,” he said. That was the reason why the government has restructured the basic research networks, not with controversy.
“We would like to provide the conditions for this basic research network to cooperate with others.” Another crucial element will be science parks, which are to be built around universities; there will be such facilities in Zalaegerszeg, Debrecen, Pécs and Győr, etc., the minister said.
“We would like to have our universities cooperate with industry.” Participating in a technical trial is as good as writing a scientific paper and appearing in the citation indexes, he added. He said there was a need to increase financial support in the 2020 budget and beyond as Hungarian research and innovation is not well financed. Local research and educational institutions also find it hard to cooperate with their European partners, the minister said.
As of 2021, the European Union’s Horizon Europe program will allocate EUR 100 billion, the largest amount yet, for R&D. If Hungary does not participate, the country will lose, the minister warned.
“That is why we need to force our universities to cooperate with their Western European peers. Despite what most would think, that the European education system is harmonized by the Bologna process, the only element that is common is student mobility. Universities are unable to cooperate with each other at a professional level – so this, too, has to be changed. Also, Hungarian universities are not visible in international rankings, and the state must increase its expenditure.”
Education generally remains a basic issue, he admitted. “We are continuing to modify the vocational educational structure”, he said. New types of training, including a five-year program called a “technicum” will be introduced, from which students can move onto university.
On digitalization, Palkovics mentioned that Hungary is placed 11th in the world in terms of internet accessibility/coverage and 4G coverage.
“We would like to maintain this position for 5G; we have already made some steps,” he explained. “The 5G tendering process is running, let us see what the applications will come.”
Many AmCham member companies are part of the Artificial Intelligence Coalition. “I have received a promise that, by the end of October, an action plan will be deployed and the strategy will be ready by January,” the minister said.
“Money will be there, the structures will be there, so now we need to work,” Palkovics said. “We believe that we are very innovative in Hungary, which is partially true,” he added. “We also need to show that to others.”