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Greece has undergone a pronounced and protracted economic recession since 2008. In response, the Greek government has embarked on deep fiscal adjustments and wide-ranging structural reforms. Improving framework conditions for innovation and overcoming serious weaknesses in the innovation system are important steps in regaining competitiveness and sustainable growth.
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)
Greece’s framework conditions for innovation are far from favourable as indicated by the lack of venture capital and the low Ease of Entrepreneurship Index, compared to the OECD median (Panel 1h, j). Improving conditions for entrepreneurship is considered critical for Greece’s economic recovery, and the government has made sustained efforts to improve framework conditions for innovation as a way to restore competitiveness, growth and job creation. Measures implemented include legislative and policy improvements address STI both directly and indirectly, development of e-infrastructure, support for alternative innovation models (including social and open innovation) and more and better metrics and indicators for STI. More specifically, structural reforms have been undertaken in the competition framework, the labour market and the tax system. The Investment Law (3908/ 2011) amended in 2012-13 puts more emphasis on young innovative entrepreneurship, on improving the climate for business investment in R&D and on green development. The Hellenic Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development (ETEAN S.A), established in 2011, provides guarantees for loans to SMEs by banks and other financial institutions (such as leasing and venture-capital companies). The national strategic plan for innovation and entrepreneurship aims at enhancing the government-owned VC Fund of Funds (TANEO SA) through new venture funds with the participation of Tier 1 global VCs as general partners. A new Framework Law on Research, Technological Development and Innovation is under preparation. It will help to improve conditions for private R&D investment.
Strengthening public R&D capacity and infrastructures
Relative to public expenditure on R&D, which is considerably below the OECD median (Panel 1a), Greece has comparatively better performance in terms of international publications and presence among the world’s top 500 universities (Panel 1b, c). However, the pressures for fiscal consolidation have imposed further cuts on public funding of research in the last two years.To cope with this, the government emphasises efficient use of limited resources. Based on Law 4051/2012, PRIs are being reorganised and merged to improve disciplinary and geographical focus, enhance scientific co-operation within research fields, and reduce cost. The 2013 Athena Plan aims to rationalise higher education. Greece has made substantial efforts to improve its national R&D e-infrastructure through EU-Greece co-funded projects for cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for the research and academic community. Open access policies regarding publications and data have been formulated, and the largest-ever programme for the documentation, grouping and re-use of over two million cultural objects is being carried out. A national strategy and a roadmap for upgrading existing research infrastructure are being drafted and will be finalised in 2014.
Greece’s public research system is largely insulated from the productive sector. PRIs and universities do not tend to commercialise their research results, as indicated by their extremely low number of patents (Panel 1p). Also, the share of industry-financed public R&D is quite low (Panel 1o), a further indication of weak links between academia and industry. In addition to supporting commercialisation by improving framework conditions for entrepreneurship, the national strategic plan for innovation and new entrepreneurship has introduced technology transfer offices (TTOs) in each university and PRI. Continuous efforts have been made to increase the protection and exploitation of IPR resulting from public research and to support alternative models of knowledge exploitation. Furthermore, open data policies will be implemented with a view to stimulating research and growth by increasing the return to and impact of public research.
Addressing challenges of STI globalisation and increasing international cooperation
Pressures on national budgets have reinforced the importance of international co-operation on STI, which is also viewed as an opportunity to tap into external funding and infrastructures and profit from internationa transfers of knowledge. Funding from abroad accounted for 15.8% of GERD in 2012, with the European Union the most important external funder of R&D activities. Over the last two years, the Greek government has focused on supporting bilateral scientific co-operation and on encouraging further participation by PRIs and business in international (especially European) programmes, such as the ERA-NET scheme.
Improving overall human resources, skills and capacity building
Although Greece’s expenditure on higher education is at the OECD median, its share of tertiary-qualified adult population is below the median (Panel 1t, v). The economic recession has also caused a loss of human resources for S&T and innovation, as austerity measures applied to pension rights have led many senior researchers to retire early, while wage cuts and recruitment freezes have driven a growing number of young scientists out of the country. The recent reform of higher education (laws 4009/2011, 4076/2012 and 4115/2013) has introduced major changes in governance and funding mechanisms to boost university autonomy and to improve the quality of teaching and services for students. The latest reforms (i.e. laws 4093/2012 and 4111/2013) have rationalised the legal framework of post-secondary education and introduced new provisions for the recognition of higher education degrees earned from other EU member states.
Micro- and nano-electronics and embedded systems have recently appeared on Greece’s R&D landscape. They are developed through domestic measures (the Corallia cluster for microelectronics, 2008-15) and through participation in international programmes: the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council and the Advanced Research and Technology for Embedded Intelligence and Systems. Four new clusters in space, gaming, life sciences and green energy are financed over 2011-15 with a total budget of around USD 38 million (EUR 27.6 million).
The government seeks to improve the alignment of environmental and energy policy with domestic technological development, mainly through joint projects under the Co-operation programme. A related initiative is the Green Island – Ai Stratis project (2010) for the development of mature renewable energy and energy-saving technologies to cover the island’s needs.
BERD is well below the OECD median (Panel 1d). Greece lacks world leading corporate R&D investors (Panel 1e), and the low values of innovation output indicators (Panel 1f, g) are the mirror image of the low innovation input of Greek firms. The tax law 4110/2013 (amending a law from 2004) provides for an annual deduction of R&D expenses from firms’ net profits at the increased rate of 30% during the fiscal year in which the cost occurred. This tax incentive will apply from 2014 to help boost business R&D expenditures. Important changes to trademark legislation (e.g. reform of trademark registration procedures) were introduced over 2012-13, and modernisation of the country’s patent system is currently under consideration.
Enterprise Europe Network- Hellas (EEN-Hellas) provides initial support to innovative Greek enterprises wishing to enter global value chains and become more export-oriented by using knowledge from third parties, transferring their knowledge to other parties and increasing the level of patenting and licensing. The new EEN programme is expected to commence in the last quarter of 2014.
Since the beginning of 2012, smart specialisation strategies have been elaborated both at the national and regional level. National innovation platforms have been set up since 2013 in the framework of the EU’s Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) for 2014-20. Formed around the priority sectors, they involve all relevant stakeholders in priority setting for the ICT, energy, environment and agro-food sectors. They address the needs of enterprises (particularly SMEs) and other private investors in order to encourage R&D in the private sector.