The Riigikogu discussed problems relating to research grant funding, forestry and the ecological condition of rivers.
The Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna replied to the interpellation concerning the decrease in the volume of the funding of research grants in 2021 (No 56), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Mihhail Lotman and Helir-Valdor Seeder.
The interpellators referred to the fact that the Estonian Research Council had published information on the conditions of the call for applications for postdoctoral, starting and team grants for 2021 on its home page. It notes that the estimated volume of the call is 6.2 million euro, which is significantly smaller compared to previous years. In 2020, the call amounted to 16 million euro and in 2019 to 18.8 million.
The interpellators wished to know how the Ministry of Education and Research was planning to ensure the sustainability of research and development under the conditions of decreasing grant funding.
The Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna said that grant funding would not decrease in 2021. “On the contrary, the Ministry of Education and Research has consistently increased the research grant budget. In 2020, research grants were boosted with 2.04 million euro and this year with four million euro. In 2021, a total of 46.31 million has been earmarked for research grants in the research budget of the Ministry of Education and Research,” Kersna said.
She noted that, in addition to consistently increasing the volume of research grants, the Ministry of Education and Research had also significantly raised the stable funding of research institutions, that is, baseline funding, which had as much as tripled over the past five years, rising from 13.9 million to 46.3 million euro. “Estonia is indeed one of the few European Union countries that have allocated one per cent of their gross domestic product to research and development from their state budgets.” The Minister expressed gratitude to the previous Government for that decision. In Kersna’s words, in addition to research grants, research and development was also being funded from several other general and targeted measures.
The minister drew attention to the fact that while 56 million euro had been added to support research and development in the state budget for 2021, it had been divided between the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the sectoral ministries according to the principle of 40:40:20 on the recommendation of the Scientific Advisory Board. The research and development budget of the Ministry of Education and Research had increased by 22.4 million euro. Kersna emphasised that the research grant budget had not decreased this year. Research grants were funded with 42.31 million euro in 2020 and with 46.31 million euro once again this year. While the volume of new beginning grants is smaller in 2021, the volume of the ongoing grants is all the larger.
The minister pointed out that, in the case of research grants, it was necessary to take into account that research grants were awarded for up to five years with a duration of five years and such a fluctuation between years in research grant calls was a problem and definitely needed solving. “We have also asked the Research Council to make additional proposals to the ministry on how to further reduce the fluctuation between years,” Kersna said.
The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Riigikogu Press Service
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