1. Intervention by the Minister of Science, Education and Sports, Mr Željko Jovanović(Republic of Croatia)Distinguished colleagues,As the minister of science, education and sports of the Republic of Croatia, I amhonored to have been invited to join you at this Ministerial Round Table and to be ableto contribute to the discussion on science, technology and innovation developmentswithin South Eastern European countries.Croatia has recognized the importance of research and innovation for the developmentof economy and we are trying to implement measures to create new institutionalcapacities in science and innovation system and strengthen those already in existence.The main challenge has been a major structural improvement of the system whichshould be implemented through efforts in reaching the following objectives: • to increase overall R&D investments, • to increase business sector expenditures on R&D, • to increase the level of commercialization of research results, • to overcome brain drain that affected Croatia’s pool of human resources, and • to improve the management of the public research system at the institutes and universities.Due to fiscal consolidation, the level of investment in research has not been increasedover the last years and remains at the level of 0,75% of GDP. When it comes totackling the aforementioned objectives, we have designed several funding schemes tocover different stages of the “innovation value chain”. Starting from mechanismsaimed at encouraging private investment in R&D, through financing joint researchbetween the private and public research organizations, and between scientists in thecountry and our scientific diaspora. The schemes were used to respond to high demandfor innovation financing in the business sector in Croatia.
2. I would like to point out a number of legislative changes and initiatives set out tofurther align the domestic science system with the principles of the European ResearchArea. Amendments to the Croatian Science Foundation Act were adopted by theParliament in July 2012 aiming at further strengthening the Croatian ScienceFoundation, and thus positioning it as the major funding body for research andscientific activity/projects in Croatia. Another round of public discussion took placeon the proposed Act on the Changes to the Act on Scientific Activity and HigherEducation, which focuses largely on introducing incremental but necessary changes tothe science system, and creating an adequate legislative framework for program-basedfunding of research institutions (in a form of 3-year contracts).The Ministry published the official Guidelines for the development of the newEducation, Science and Technology Strategy, which should replace the now expiredScience and Technology Policy 2006-2010 in directing further actions in the area ofscience and research. The Ministry is also currently working, together with theMinistry of Economy and the OECD, on drafting the National Innovation Strategy forthe period 2013-2020, as well as on designing the Western Balkans Regional Strategyon R&D for Innovation, that should set the framework for innovation, research anddevelopment at a broader, regional level.In terms of international cooperation, I am proud to point out that Croatia has been aregular participant in a number of R&D aimed EU initiatives for years now. Oursuccess rate in Seventh Framework Programme is more than encouraging: partnersfrom Croatia have so far signed 218 agreements in the amount of 53,9 million EUR,which surpasses the amount of the national contribution paid by over 17 million EUR.The donor community, and in particular the European Union, is supporting Croatia inits efforts to improve the innovation climate, and to encourage the commercializationof research results. EU assistance is channeled through a number of IPA-fundedprojects, namely, through the Regional Competitiveness Operational Programmeunder IPA IIIC Component. Ministry of Science, Education and Sports is responsible
3. for the measure “Technology transfer and support services for knowledge-based start-ups” made up of three operations: Science and Innovation Investment Fund grantscheme in the amount of over 10 million EUR which seeks to build entrepreneurialand intellectual property management skills in public higher education institutions andpublic research organisations. Building and equipping of Biosciences technologycommercialization and incubation centre, first of its kind in the region is the secondOperation. It is a major project in the amount of over 16 million EUR which seeks tosupport the creation and growth of technology and knowledge-based spin-offs,particularly for high value added sectors like biosciences and biotechnology.Furthermore, efforts are currently being put into preparation for the usage of the EUStructural Funds. Taking into account high absorption capacities and recognizedneeds, desired way of directing available funds would be through financing variousstages of innovation process, from strategic research and increase of research andinnovation capacities, through proof-of-concept activities to prototyping andcommercialization activities, at research institutes, universities and private companies.Following the successful closure in May 2011 of the Croatian Science and TechnologyProject funded through the loan of the World Bank, the Government of the Republicof Croatia signed in April 2012 an Advance Agreement for Preparation of a SecondScience and Technology Project with a focus on preparing for the absorption of EUStructural Funds. We are continuously taking measures to strengthen human resourcescapacities. In that respect, we are proud to announce that the Ministry has beengranted a 7 million EUR worth mobility-fostering project to be funded through theFP7 Marie Curie COFUND action. The project should foster career development ofyoung researchers.Taking into account the presented developments within Croatia, which clearly reflectour enforced orientation towards the European Research Area’s goals, we are certainto have a sustainable base for long-term progress in all branches of science, focusingboth on basic and applied research, and are working hard on coordinating and
4. directing available potentials towards the needs of the societal development andsustainable economy.Dear colleagues, thank you for your attention.