Whereas probably the most known thing about Romania is the legend of Dracula, Romania is much more than that. Think medieval towns, time-capsule villages, delicious cuisine, picturesque monasteries, virgin forests, majestic mountains, a blossoming art community, impressive landscape and, of course, high-quality education and excellent research facilities.
The Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitisation (MCID) is responsible for the overall research, development and innovation (RDI) policy described in its National Research and Innovation Strategy. While the Romanian Academy coordinates fundamental research in 14 sections, carrying out programmes of national interest via its institutions, MCID oversees the policy side with the help of the Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI), the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) and the Institute for Atomic Physics (IFA).
The main funding instruments of the National R&I Strategy are the Romanian National Plan for Research, Development and Innovation (PN3), the Core Programmes and the Operational Programme Competitiveness – Axis 1 (POC-AP1).
Together, PN3 and POC-AP1 allocate competitive, project-based funding through a set of tailored programmes to address the specific needs of the distinct R&D performers and their technology readiness levels, and to support inter-sectoral and cross-border collaboration. Proposal selection is based on peer review, complying with the international principles of evaluation.
Four consulting bodies help MCID develop, monitor and implement RDI policies: the Advisory Board for Research Development and Innovation, the National Council for Scientific Research, the National Council for Technology Transfer and Innovation, and the National Council for Ethics of Research, Technology Development and Innovation.
The RDI system in Romania consists of 263 public R&D organisations (56 public universities, 46 national R&D institutes, 65 research institutes and centres of the Romanian Academy, and another 96 public research institutes and centres), as well as about 600 private companies declaring their R&D activities. Meanwhile, the Network for Technology Transfer and Innovation (ReNITT) has around 50 specific organisations (technology transfer centres, technology information centres, technology and business incubators) and four science and technology (S&T) parks.
The RDI sector employs 43,973 people nationwide. This includes 18,249 (41.5 %) with a PhD or postdoctoral degree, 37,393 (85.0%) with a higher education degree, and the remaining 6,580 (15.0%) possess secondary education certificates. The vast majority of Romanian R&D staff members (31,271 or 71.1%) are active in the public sector, while the remaining 12,406 (28.2%) work in privately owned institutions. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the employees work full time; 27,168 (61.8%) are categorised as researchers, 6,195 (14.1%) as technical staff, and the remaining 10,610 (24.1%) are listed as ‘other’.
EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion is an initiative of the European Research Area (ERA) that addresses barriers to the mobility of researchers and seeks to enhance their career development. This pan-European effort is currently supported by 42 countries, of which we will profile one in our quarterly e-newsletter.
In Romania, a long-stay visa for scientific research activities, identified by the symbol D/CS, is granted to foreigners once approved by MCID and the General Inspectorate for Immigration.
Currently, 29 research organisations are licenced under the Scientific Visa Directive (Directive no. 801/2016), hosting researchers from third countries including Moldova, China, Algeria, Turkey, USA, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, India, Egypt, Republic of Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Macedonia, and Colombia. They are carrying out research activities in universities/institutes across Romania and under various funding and programming environments, including the EU Horizon framework programmes, the Romanian National Research, Development and Innovation Plan, EU Structural Funds, and inter-organisational agreements.
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) are a reference programme for doctoral education and postdoctoral training in the EU. They support the mobility of researchers between countries, sectors and disciplines, helping them acquire new knowledge, skills and competencies. MSCA also promote excellence and set standards for high-quality researcher education and training in line with the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers. During Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), €16.20 million was directed towards Romanian RDI organisations involved in MSCA projects. Colombia is among the top 10 nationalities of fellows working in Romania, while the USA is in the top 10 destinations of Romanian fellows going abroad via MSCA.
Romanian entrepreneurial ecosystem
Romania welcomes foreign investments by providing special tax incentives and ensuring an investment-friendly business climate. The most intense R&D activity is taking place in the automotive, IT and automation sectors
The Romanian entrepreneurial ecosystem is increasingly dynamic and shows high potential. UiPath is the world-leading provider of robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) software, growing from around $1 million to over $100 million in revenue in less than 21 months. Following UiPath’s success, other start-ups grew rapidly. Most of the scale-ups operate in RPA, AI, cybersecurity, mobile technologies, and online applications.
Innovation in Romania is of great importance because it is regarded as creative driver and an economy booster. Human talent and R&D are crucial factors for enhancing innovation. Public expenditure on education and intensive staff training also stimulate innovation in high-performing economies.
From 2014 to 2020, Romania launched its strategy for strengthening entrepreneurship through policy measures focused on improving access to finance, responsive administration and entrepreneurship. The strategy addresses inclusiveness, job-creation in rural areas, entrepreneurship education and support programmes, aiming mainly at the vulnerable or disadvantaged social groups. Romania is thus addressing a legacy of disparities between rural and urban communities by supporting entrepreneurship and job-creation in underprivileged areas.
In 2019, Romania reported over 1.38 million entrepreneurs, which is the highest number in decades. The fact that 37.5% of them were women shows Romania’s progress in gender equality as well as other inclusion criteria (SBA, 2019).
Special programmes and recommendations have been delivered to foster entrepreneurship among women, Roma and refugees in the country. Entrepreneurship programmes were designed for socio-economically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
National Student Enrolment System
Over 1.4 million students enrolled in over 7,000 study programmes starting as from 2015.
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