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In less than two decades, Slovenia has become a market- based economy. It has integrated with world markets and has joined the EU, the European Monetary Union and the OECD. It leads central and eastern European transition countries in GDP per capita and on a range of innovation- related indicators.
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 design and implementation of STI policy
The Research and Innovation Strategy of Slovenia 2011-20 (RISS) and the National Higher Education Programme 2011-20 (NHEP) support close links between research, technology development, innovation and higher education. They also propose measures for necessary reforms of the national innovation system and measureable implementation targets. To implement these strategies, legal documents are being prepared. They include a new (or significantly amended) Research and Development Act as well as a Higher Education Act and a Smart Specialisation Strategy (SSS). Priorities set out in the strategic documents are supported by the national budget and EU Structural Funds. In 2012, the government’s budget for R&D (GBAORD) amounted to EUR 190 million, accounting for 0.54% of GDP. It remained unchanged in 2013. For 2012-13, the government also received USD 216 million (EUR 130 million) from the EU Structural and Social Funds for R&D to implement the strategies.
Improving the framework conditions for innovation (including competitiveness)
The Slovenian government endeavours to create a legislative environment conducive to innovation and to strengthen incentives for innovation, notably by implementing and supporting the protection and management of IPR. This is considered necessary for accumulating innovation capabilities in companies, promoting innovation in services and encouraging the international orientation of business R&D.
Encouraging innovation in firms and supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs
BERD as a share of GDP is above the OECD median (Panel 1d). It reached 1.99% in 2012, up from 1.83% in 2011. Overall, BERD has expanded rapidly in recent years, in spite of the recession and a slow recovery. Much of it is concentrated in a small number of firms, with two pharmaceutical firms accounting for a large share. The services sector performs less R&D than in other OECD countries (Panel 2). Triadic patents filed and trademark applications fall short of the OECD median (Panel 1f, g). Venture capital per GDP is at the bottom of the OECD middle range (Panel 1h). To foster business R&D and innovation, measures are being implemented to strengthen the leveraging effect of public funds on private R&D investments, to support the employment of researchers in the business sector, to encourage business R&D investments through generous R&D tax incentives, to support start-up and fast-growing innovative companies, and to use innovative public procurement to develop lead markets. Slovenia’s policy for SMEs and entrepreneurship was set out in the Programme of Measures to Promote Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness (2007-13). R&D carried out by SMEs increased markedly (Panel 2).
Slovenia’s Smart Specialisation Strategy (SSS) is still at the stage of public consultation and will be an important tool for the allocation of public funds. It is based on comparative advantages and takes into account previous investments in capacity and scientific excellence. Its goal is to support the further development of the public and business R&D potential in chosen areas and thus to enable Slovenia to become a technology leader in its priority fields. On the basis of comparative analyses of Slovenian competencies and potentials the following horizontal priority areas were identified: materials and technologies; electrical and electronic components and devices; tools, building blocks; and technologies for the management of process systems.<br />
Six complementary vertical priorities were identified: smart cities; smart factories; smart homes; power and energy systems; bio-med; eco-Slovenia. Priority areas are currently the subject of broad public discussions and will result in the adoption of Smart Specialisation Strategy priority areas. Slovenia will concentrate domestic and international public funds on the priority areas in order to ensure competences and advantages in the relevant fields of science and business innovation. The allocation of the majority of EU Structural Funds and part of the national budget for R&D is, and will be, linked to the SSS.
Strengthening public R&D capacity and infrastructures
Slovenia has good universities (Panel 1b) and good performance in scientific publications in high-impact journals (Panel 1c). Unlike other transition economies, Slovenia has not only maintained but strengthened its PRIs. HERD was 0.29% of GDP and GOVERD around 0.34% of GDP in 2012. In the past five years, numbers of researchers and R&D personnel have increased steadily. However, the share of tertiary-educated population is below the OECD (Panel 1t) and EU averages. Recognising the importance of developing human resources, Slovenia devoted USD 56.7 million (EUR 34 million) from the national R&D budget and USD 23.3 million (EUR 14 million) from EU Structural Funds in 2012 to support young researchers and PhD students. The Research Infrastructure Roadmap (2012-20) sets out priorities for investments in research equipment, infrastructural programmes and new buildings. Slovenia allocated USD 75 million (EUR 45 million) from the national R&D budget and USD 23.3 million (EUR 14 million) from EU Structural Funds for research infrastructures in 2012.
In the past, a multidisciplinary approach in scientific research was hindered by the discipline- oriented allocation of R&D funding. The Slovenian Research Agency therefore established the Interdisciplinary Research Council to evaluate and allocate public funds for atypical or multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary research. The Agency has earmarked some 10% of public funds for such research projects.
The Smart Specialisation Strategy will address relevant green innovations and technologies. Positive environmental impact and low carbon economy (efficient use of energy, renewable sources of energy, less use of environmentally harmful substances and emissions, recycling) are criteria in most public calls for support for research and innovation. SID Bank (Slovenska izvozna in razvojna banka) offers favourable credit lines for environmental projects and Ecofund funds initial investments in environmental technologies.
The supply of future science and innovation skills appears good, judging by the above-median scores of 15-year-olds on the science PISA test in 2012 and the share of doctoral graduates in science and engineering (Panel 1v, w). A measure to foster human resources in science and innovation, “Scientists at the beginning of a research career”, was introduced in 2013. The main objective is to connect PRIs with the business sector by co-funding post-doctoral researchers. The National Higher Education Programme 2011-20 encourages everyone who is interested and capable to enter tertiary education and provides conditions for successful completion of their studies. According to NHEP, the state should cover the expenses of an individual’s studies for the first study cycle irrespective of age, but only for four or five years full-time or for 240 or 300 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits for the duration of a study programme. Also according to NHEP, the state will finance up to 60 or 120 ECTS, depending on the length of the study programme, for the second study cycle at any time in an individual’s life if he or she has not yet obtained this level of education and if his or her study at his level has not yet been funded by the state.
There are several new mechanisms to foster knowledge flows. The centres of excellence (CoE) involve partnerships between industrial partners and academia and seek to strengthen quality and co-operation, build critical mass and link up with top centres abroad. Competence centres (CCs) link science and industry and give a strong role to industrial partners, applied research and industrial networks. USD 188 million (EUR 112.8 million) has been allocated for these two types of centres for 2010-14. For its part, the Development Centres programme supports projects that include R&D and investments in related infrastructure to promote technological development through consortia.
Slovenia’s GERD reached 2.63% of GDP in 2012. Industry contributes 62.2% of GERD and government 28.7%, with 8.6% from abroad. National targets are 1.5% of GDP for public R&D and an ambitious 3.6% of GDP for GERD by 2020. However, the central government budget for R&D decreased over 2009-13. In 2013 GBAORD was approximately the same as in 2008. In contrast, EU Structural Fund and Social Funds for R&D increased in recent years.