After 1989, Romanian society moved from communism to building a democratic and market based economy, aiming to reintegrate in the European family through its political, economic, social and cultural system. In this transition process, the higher education was considered to have a specific role in creating a research and innovation system at the European level. At present, Romania is considered a modest innovator by the European Commission and at the same time an efficiency-driven country, as opposed to other EU countries that are either in the transition process or are already in the innovation-driven phase.
The Romanian research and innovation system is fundamentally public-based (with 29% of research performed by the business sector compared to the EU average of 63%). The low level of private sector involvement in the research and innovation process is also reflected in the reduced level of public-private cooperation. Romanian universities have a relatively poor performance in the international rankings, while the level of internationalisation of the academic staff is below the corresponding level of other EU Member States. Additionally, the number of international co-publications with other countries is the lowest in Europe, showing that structural problems are negatively impacting the overall research and education system.
The main causes for this relatively poor performance are to be found in both the historical heritage of the communist regime and in the lack of a long-term vision of the policy decision-makers concerning the importance of research for the overall economy, which was under-financed when compared to its real necessities. For addressing these issues, the New National Strategy for Research and Innovation for the period 2014-2020 prioritises research and innovation as key instruments of the economic development. In this context, the main question refers to its actual implementation and the manner in which decision-makers understand to allocate resources for creating value in this sector.
There exists the opportunity of the Romanian research and innovation system to witness a stronger development. However, its future success will depend to a large extent on the capacity to create and apply structural reforms that will enable gradual developments in key areas (among others, creating a transparent legal framework, improving the educational and research partnerships with foreign universities and research centres, developing an internationalisation strategy for universities that will allow an increased visibility on the international stage, developing an education and research system more adapted to the realities and skills of the knowledge market).