CNRS, INSERM, Institut Pasteur, not to mention universities and CHUs ... Despite the meritorious efforts of all players in the French research system, and the internationally recognized quality of its researchers, the results in the fight against Covid "
are not up to expectations,
"judges the Court of Auditors in a"
"(that is to say, carried out in a record time of four months) published Thursday.
The financial magistrates notably underline 4 systemic blockages which could be corrected.
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The scattering of funding
From January 2020 to March 2021, public research organizations received 502 million euros in additional funds to fight the pandemic, or 530 million euros by integrating European funds. At the national level, three ministries have released emergency funds: the ministry of health (60.6 million euros), the ministry of higher education and research (51.8 million) and the ministry of defense (9.47 million). The national research agency (ANR) also mobilized 32.2 million. The universities have also shown great responsiveness and committed 35.2 million euros. But "
this count illustrates the plurality and heterogeneity of funding channels
" notes the Court, stressing that in the end "
funding has proven to be too dispersed to respond to the challenges of the crisis, particularly in terms of vaccine research
Despite these numerous channels, the effort in favor of research remains less in France than that made by other neighboring countries with comparable means and scientific fabric: it is three times less than Germany (1.5 billion) or the United Kingdom (1.3 billion).
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Insufficient prioritization of initiatives
The financial support given to researchers, however positive it may be, has often resulted in a scattering of resources that do not guarantee against duplication and do not promote synergies. Several research units have been able to collaborate with companies, in particular thanks to the support of the Technology Transfer Acceleration Companies (SATT) and to companies sometimes falling within the scope of competitiveness clusters. "
But it is necessary to improve the transfer of fundamental research to industrial development, by better supporting researchers in the process of creating start-ups
", observes the Court. This requires active support for the biotechnology fabric, which still remains insufficiently developed in France to this day.
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While the majority of researchers praised the responsiveness of funders, including the ANR, they regretted the administrative cumbersome unsuitable in times of crisis, especially for obtaining prior authorizations.
Research organizations must converge, among themselves and with universities, in order to align their budgetary operating methods, and thus offer a simplification requested by the research community
" notes the Court.
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The absence of a leader
Finally, the magistrates underline that, unlike other countries with a strong scientific tradition in biomedical matters, the overall strategy, steering and structuring have been insufficient. This situation was amplified by the absence of a leader recognized by all. "
The organizational efforts expected by the creation of the ANRS-MIE (the ANRS-Emerging Infectious Diseases) came late and without immediate means
", indicates the audit. The Ministry of Health evokes the project of creating a new "
", without further clarification at this stage.