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The Czech Republic is an open European economy. Industry accounts for more than a third of GDP, considerably above the OECD average. An export-led recovery spurred by the automotive sector started in early 2013, after six quarters of contraction. Economic growth is expected to gather pace in 2014. While its STI system is catching up with OECD standards in some respects, the system as a whole is still lagging behind.
Hot Issues are major national STI policy priorities, as self-reported by countries in their responses to the OECD STIO 2014 policy questionnaire.
Improving the framework conditions for innovation (including competitiveness)
The Czech Republic’s business environment is in need of improvement: while the Ease of Entrepreneurship Index has improved over time, it is still below the OECD median (Panel 1j) and venture capital for innovation is scarce (Panel 1h). An aim of the 2013 update of the National Research, Development and Innovation Policy (NRDIP) (2009-15 with an outlook to 2020) is to create better framework conditions for innovation. The International Competitiveness Strategy for the Czech Republic (2012-20) introduced more than 40 measures and several hundred sub-measures with a view to creating conducive framework conditions for creative businesses, innovation and growth.
Reforming and improving public research system (including university research)
The public research system has gradually improved in recent years, but challenges remain. Public R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP are well above the OECD median, and publications in top quartile journals have almost reached the OECD median (Panel 1a, c); however, there are still relatively few top universities (Panel 1b). Following the above-mentioned evaluation and update, the NRDIP also seeks to increase the efficiency and responsiveness of public research and cut institutional funding from 56% of GBAORD in 2009 to 50% in 2013. In addition, a new annual performance-based evaluation is to be used to allocate funding to PRIs and universities.
Improving overall human resources, skills and capacity building
The indicators for innovation skills are mixed: tertiary education expenditure is at the OECD median (Panel 1s) and only 17% of the adult population is tertiary-qualified, compared to 27% for the EU28 (Panel 1t). However, adults’ technical problem-solving ability, 15-year-olds’ performance in science, and the share of doctoral graduates in S&E are either above or at the OECD median (Panel 1u, v, w). The 2009 White Paper on Tertiary Education is the basis for reform. Co-ordinated and executed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS), the reform aims to improve financial support for students, standardise PhD programmes, and increase university research. ERC CZ and NAVRAT (2012-19), both launched in 2012, support research excellence and researcher mobility with USD 80.6 million (CZK 1 065 million).
Encouraging innovation in firms and supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs
In spite of efforts to move to a knowledge-intensive economy, innovation performance is lagging. While BERD as a share of GDP is slightly below the OECD median (Panel 1d), innovation output is far below the median (Panel 1e, f, g). Both the NRDIP and the International Competitiveness Strategy seek to strengthen business innovation. In spite of the impact of the economic downturn on public finance, public support for business R&D and innovation has increased in both relative and absolute terms since 2009, accounting for 58% of all public R&D and innovation expenditures in 2012.<br />
The Centres of Competence programme, launched in 2011, is a major programme aimed at increasing long-term collaboration between public R&D institutions and businesses. The GAMA Programme (2014-19), with a budget of USD 209 million (CZK 2 770 million), promotes transfer of public R&D results by funding the proof-of-concept phase. Similarly, the ALFA Programme (2011-16) seeks to fuel business innovation through collaboration with scientific research on advanced and green technologies with a total budget of USD 556.8 million (CZK 7.5 billion). Furthermore, 10 out of 14 Czech regions have introduced some kind of innovation voucher scheme to support SMEs for purchasing services from HEIs and PRIs.
Addressing challenges of STI globalisation and increasing international cooperation
The Czech Republic is linked to global science and innovation networks to varying degrees. International co-patenting is above and international co-authorship is below the OECD median (Panel 1q, r). The Interdepartmental Policy of International Co-operation in R&D (see below) will set objectives for increasing international collaboration in STI, for improving conditions for the participation of Czech researchers in international research programmes, and for increasing the effectiveness of R&D co-operation. National initiatives to foster internationalisation include COST CZ (2011-17), EUREKA CZ (2011-17), EUPRO II (2011-17), KONTAKT II (2011-17), MOBILITY (2011-18), GESHER (2010-16) and INGO II (2011-17).
The Technology Agency of the Czech Republic was established to make the governance of the public support system for applied research and development more efficient by removing overlaps. There is no comprehensive strategy for the internationalisation of STI. The Interdepartmental Policy of International Co-operation in R&D is being developed as part of the update of the NRDIP by the end of 2014.
New long-term national priorities have been prepared through the Review of National Priorities for Research, Experimental Development and Innovation, which seeks to identify future challenges, threats, needs and opportunities. The priorities reflected in the updated NRDIP (2009-15) are: competitive knowledge-based economy; sustainability of energy and material resources, environment for quality life; social and cultural challenges; healthy population and safe society. Implementation plans were approved in 2013. In line with the priorities set by the NRDIP, as well as the thematic focus of other programmes, the Omega Programme seeks to strengthen research activities in the applied social sciences to increase the competitiveness of the Czech Republic, enhance the quality of life of its citizens and balance socio-economic development. A total of USD 23.2 million (CZE 309 million) will be invested between 2012 and 2017.
The National Smart Specialisation Strategy, with 14 regional strategies (annexes), is being developed and co-ordinated by MEYS. Science and technology parks, regional innovation centres and agencies play a significant role in the regional innovation infrastructure and in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of regional strategies. The European Union and the Czech government have invested USD 7.7 million (CZK 102 million) in the establishment of these parks, e.g. Technology and Innovation Centre of the Czech Technical University in Prague, the South Moravian Innovation Centre in Brno, the Science and Technology Park of Palacky University and the University ofWest Bohemia in Plze , and the Innovation Centre of the Technical University in Ostrava.
The NRDIP (2009-15) set targets of GERD at 2.7% of GDP and public R&D expenditures at 1% of GDP by 2020. GERD increased from 1.37% of GDP in 2007 to 1.88% of GDP in 2012, averaging a 7% increase a year over 2007-12, well above the OECD average. The share of industry-funded GERD dropped from 47.2% to 36.4%, and government-funded GERD from 44.7% to 36.8%. GERD financed from abroad rose from 7.3% to 25.9%, during the period with EU funding and foreign companies (Panel 2) the main sources of the increase.