Science and business – opportunities and obstacles

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The 9th National PETROBIZNES Chemistry Fuels Gas Congress was held in Warsaw on October 2nd 2014. This year’s edition was dedicated to the strategies of Polish chemical companies in response to the current challenges posed by their presence on global markets. Professor Janusz Igras, the Deputy Director for Scientific Purposes of New Chemical Syntheses Institute in Puławy, participated in Innovations in the chemical industry discussion panel, which was organized as a part of “Chemical Market” session.

Barriers in the development of science and industry

At the conference, questions were asked about the obstacles for science and the scientists’ approach to those limitations. Professor Janusz Igras said: “It is difficult to give a concise answer to the question. However, two issues appear to be of importance at the moment. First of all, financing research by commercial enterprises seems to be crucial. The main problem with the acquisition of such finds is the number and the level of complication of procedures which make this process a difficult one.”

At Innovations in the chemical industry panel, there was a question concerning the expectations of the scientists towards government institutions. The participants wondered which kind of subsidies would constitute a tangible form of support for scientific research. Professor Janusz Igras mentioned tax deductions, a topic which has been discussed by entrepreneurs and scientists many times. He remarked that some proposals have already been made about the manner in which granting the deductions could function. Also, he indicated that there were difficulties with persuading the representatives of the Ministry of Finance to grant deductions for enterprises supporting scientific research. Alongside the long list of procedures, those are the two basic obstacles which hamper the acquisition of funds for research.

Cooperation of science and business

The Deputy Director for Scientific Purposes of New Chemical Synthesis Institute in Puławy remarked that if we took a closer look at the representatives of science and business, many barriers had appeared over the years due to historical reasons, and those obstacles persisted. In his opinion, it was fortunate that “there are scientific institutions which cooperate with businesses very well, such as New Chemical Synthesis Institute in Puławy”.

Seeing that the financing of Polish scientific institutions is insufficient, the main mission of such institutes as NCSI in Puławy is offering attractive technological solutions for the business. According to the Professor, “Poland is quite high in the per capita ranking of the number of new patents. Another element is the presence of science in the media, which is almost non-existent in Poland (…), as a result, we are unable to show to the society many commercial solutions which function well.”

Mr Igras believes that “Puławy” Competences Center is a good example of cooperation between business and science. The Center was created by Grupa Azoty PUŁAWY and scientific institutes which function in Lublin area and other parts of the country. “Puławy” Competences Center is “a platform of understanding, whose goal is to show to the agricultural entrepreneur the other dimension of fertilizer products, namely the added value of this product.

He drew our attention to the fact that selling does not involve merely the act of handing over the fertilizer, but also the added value of the transaction. One of the tools of this business and research platform is a postgraduate course for agricultural counselors. The course is an example of vocational education which teaches the students, who are mainly from the agricultural sector, how to use those products, and how to apply fertilizers so that their ingredients are used well.

Vocational education is an opportunity for development

Professor Janusz Igras also mentioned an interesting phenomenon which we have been witnessing for some time now. A couple of years ago, the so-called “university culture” was quite strong in the scientific circles, and being a university lecturer was highly prestigious. Doing research at a university was the condition of gaining respect in the scientific world.

In Professor’s opinion, we are now witnessing a change in higher education. The previous trend of esteem for the standard path of academic career and for theoretical knowledge is being replaced by a new tendency. It is to create vocational schools and colleges which provide practical preparation for the work in a specific research institution, industrial enterprise or manufacturing facility. An example of this educational trend is the Puławy Branch of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. The Branch is co-financed by Grupa Azoty Zakłady Azotowe “Puławy” S.A.

Mr Igras was confident that “there is the potential and there are the possibilities, and first of all I have noticed the change of our mindsets about the approach to science versus business relations, and about finding the best use of the modest funds which have been assigned for science.”

Based on the talk by Professor Janusz Igras, the Deputy Director for Scientific Purposes of New Chemical Synthesis Institute in Puławy at the 9th Polish National PETROBIZNES Chemistry Fuels Gas Congress.