Slovakia was known as the ‘Tatra Tiger’ due to its rapid GDP growth and decrease in public debt between 2002 and 2007. Yet, it is currently behind the European Union average in many indicators on the European Innovation Scoreboard. In the same way, as crucial automobile companies moved their factories to the country 15-20 years ago, a new boost is needed to increase the innovation output and thus increase the quality of life and economic growth.
At the moment, the country is investing only 0.9 percent of GDP into innovations. New investments of EUR 630 million from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is to help improve post-COVID recovery and accelerate the transformation of the European Union into innovation, can, therefore, overturn the negative prognosis.
What is the strategy about?
The Research and Innovation Authority coordinates these investments and reforms at the Government Office, which former Prime Minister Eduard Heger founded. The authority has so far produced the National Strategy of Research, Development, and Innovation, where intersectional measures are suggested. In particular, the contribution of SMEs to innovations to a total of 40 percent is envisaged alongside the increase in foreign doctoral students, increase of STEM students (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), increase of research funding from the private sector, increase of highly qualified foreign workforce, growth in the number of patents per billion euro spent, and increase of those engaged in lifelong learning.
As several strategies touch on innovation, written by the ministries of finance, investment, education, or economy, the national strategy was set up to combine the existing know-how but suggest solutions that require the engagement of several ministries, as well as non-state actors, in clusters and other formations. For this reason, the making of the strategy involved surveying the current status of the research ecosystem by performing interviews and finding common policies within existing strategies. The draft was subject to proceeding between ministries and available for public consultation, from which over 700 points were considered. Overall, the strategy is executed by means of specific schemes and reforms that are to increase innovation output and reverse the negative trend of brain drain among the young population.
For those interested, it is currently possible to apply to several schemes, which include matching grants for those conducting research funded by Horizon Europe grants. Further support is available for transformation and innovation consortiums or academics, including Ph.Ds. In addition, over 100 Ukrainian researchers were supported to continue their research in Slovakia in the past from these resources.
Challenges and the future
The future of the authority depends on the political preferences and outcomes, yet many of the steps taken secure a future full of ambitious opportunities for those carrying out or interested in innovations. If implemented correctly, Slovakia may once again be seen as the economic tiger, not by the growth of the automobile industry but by innovations and research.