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The Slovak Republic is one of Europe’s most dynamic economies. The economy is projected to grow, with high export demand boosting exports and investment. However, it has so far made limited progress towards an advanced STI system.
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 governance of innovation system and policy
The governance structure of the Slovak STI system changed little over the last decade, but important reforms are under way on the procedural side, in planning, decision making, organisation, management, monitoring and control in view of the implementation of the newly adopted Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation of the Slovak Republic (RIS3 SK) (2014-20). Key changes in governance include: legislative changes, especially in the central state administration; amendments of the statue of the Government Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (GCSTI); creation of a GCSTI Standing Committee for the RIS3 SK; and creation of additional technology and research agencies. A first Action Plan to implement the RIS3 SK is being prepared by a working party chaired by the Slovak Government Office.
Encouraging innovation in firms and supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs
While the Ease of Entrepreneurship Index (Panel 1j) shows that the business environment has significantly improved, business R&D investment and innovation outputs are still among the lowest in the OECD area (Panel 1d, f, g). Competitive grants are the main public funding instrument, with USD 179 million (EUR 91 million) in 2012, a strong increase from USD 13 million in 2009 (EUR 6.6 million). Measures to encourage innovative entrepreneurship include: the JEREMIE Initiative, which provides SMEs with equity for seed, start-up and development phases as well as loan guarantees; Boosting the Innovation of Small and Medium Enterprises in Slovakia (BISMES), which provides analysis and information on funding available for SMEs; the Ministry of Economy’s (MoE) Innovative Deed of the Year and Young Designer competitions, which aim to motivate young innovators. In addition, the Operational Programme Research and Development allocated some USD 1 351 million (EUR 689 million) over 2007-13 to support knowledge transfer and the building of an innovation culture in firms. A Risk Capital Programme has been operating since 2006.
Links between science and industry are weak: the share of business- funded R&D in universities and government labs, an indicator of industry-science relations, is below the OECD median (Panel 1o). A strong policy element of the RIS3 SK aims to link academics and the business sector in university research parks. A network of national science centres will be built at the largest of these. They will focus on world-class research in biotechnology, biomedicine, IT, materials and energy. In addition, an independent National Technology Transfer Centre will serve as a central contact point for technology transfer.
Innovation to contribute to addressing social challenges (including inclusiveness)
Eco-innovation is part of the country’s innovation strategy and its strategy to address social and environmental challenges. Support for eco-innovation comes mainly from non-reimbursable grants from EU Structural Funds, which are administered by the Slovak Innovation and Energy Agency. The National Action Plan for Green Public Procurement (2011-15) aims to increase green procurement to 65% of all public procurement at the central government level and to 50% at the level of the self-governing regions and cities by 2015.
Addressing challenges of STI globalisation and increasing international cooperation
In the Phoenix Strategy the government adopted a package of measures to improve researchers’ mobility and attract and retain leading foreign researchers. Mobility centres, the National Scholarship Programme, and the EC EURAXESS portals offer opportunities to access global networks. In addition, the Slovak Republic’s Research and Development Agency (SDRA) supports various international co-operation projects. In accordance with EU regulations, the government uses investment incentives to attract FDI and MNE, including in R&D activities.
Based on a SWOT analysis and on analysis of the future development of the Slovak economy, the RIS3 SK has identified areas of specialisation in traditional and fast-growing sectors. R&D priorities are: material science and nanotechnology, ICT, biomedicine and biotech-nology; technological priorities are manufacturing technologies, sustainable energy, environment and agriculture.
Public R&D expenditures are below the OECD median at 0.48% of GDP (Panel 1a), as is scientific output (Panel 1c). Slovakian researchers are reasonably networked internationally (Panel 1q). Public research and higher education reforms will continue. Long-term institutional funding will be based on the results of periodical evaluations of universities and PRIs, expected to be modelled on the British Research Assessment Exercise. New rules for short-term institutional funding, which are subject to annual adjustment, will be specified in the revised Act on the State R&D Support Mechanism in 2014. A roadmap is being prepared to strengthen high-impact research at centres of excellence.
A Smart Strategy for the Bratislava Region was approved by the government in 2012. The RIS3 SK has been developed as a national smart specialisation in line with the EU Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisations Guideline.
In the Slovak Republic 18.6% of the adult population has tertiary education compared to 27% for the EU28, and adult performance in technology problem solving is below the OECD median (Panel 1t, u). The performance of 15-year-olds in sciences is below the OECD median (Panel 1v). One of the main priorities of the Phoenix Strategy is to popularise S&T among youth and the RIS3 SK includes measures to support mobility of human resources in science and innovation.
In spite of the economic crisis, GERD rose from 0.46% of GDP in 2007 to 0.82% of GDP in 2012, by an average annual growth of 14.5% between 2007 and 2012. Government expenditure on R&D increased from 0.16% to 0.20% of GDP between 2008 and 2012, a trend expected to continue in the coming years. Having bottomed out at 0.18% of GDP in 2007, BERD increased to 0.34% of GDP in 2012. If current growth rates are maintained, it will be possible to reach GERD of 1.2% of GDP by 2020, a target set by the RIS3 SK.